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ISBA Board to High Court: Consider Impact of E-Filing on Pro Se Litigants

The ISBA Board of Governors voted at its July 21 meeting to ask the Illinois Supreme Court not to require self-represented litigants to use the e-filing system that launches in January until the impact of mandatory e-filing on nonlawyers can be studied and addressed. Speaking on behalf of the proposal, Board member Angelica Wawrzynek of Mattoon noted that no other mandatory e-filing state requires pro se litigants to file cases electronically and that two-thirds of civil cases filed outside Cook County in 2015 included at least one self-represented litigant.

In other action, the Board

● agreed to join the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in filing an amicus brief in In re the Marriage of Goesel, 2017 IL App (3d) 150101. The ISBA/AAML brief will support the court’s ruling that earned and paid legal fees are not available for disgorgement as part of an interim fee award under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act;

● approved an ethics opinion stating that an in-house lawyer may provide legal services to multiple subsidiaries of the same corporate parent as long as doing so doesn’t otherwise violate the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

● voted to support an ABA resolution that urges states and units of local government to adopt a policy of trapping, neutering, vaccinating, and returning stray cats to the community;

● elected Alton lawyer and Illinois Bar Foundation President Perry Browder to fill out the remaining year of Dennis Orsey’s Board term (Orsey was elected ISBA Third Vice President in May); elected Chicago lawyer Bridget Duignan ISBA Treasurer and Lake County Judge Elizabeth Rochford ISBA Secretary; and elected Chicago lawyers Jill O’Brien and Evan Schanerberger to the ISBA Assembly for two- and one-year terms, respectively.

Posted on July 28, 2017 by Mark S. Mathewson
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Member Comments (2)

A pro se litigant such as plaintiff here is not entitled to more lenient treatment than attorneys. In Illinois, parties choosing to represent themselves without a lawyer must comply with the same rules and are held to the same standards as licensed attorneys. People v. Richardson, 2011 IL App (4th) 100358, ¶ 12 ("Finally, where a defendant elects to proceed pro se, he is responsible for his representation and is held to the same standards as an attorney."); In re Estate of Pellico, 394 Ill. App. 3d 1052, 1067, 916 N.E.2d 45, 334 Ill. Dec. 12 (2009) ("Further, we note that pro se litigants are presumed to have full knowledge of applicable court rules and procedures and must comply with the same rules and procedures as would be required of litigants represented by attorneys."). Illinois courts have strictly adhered to this principle, noting a "pro se litigant must comply with the rules of procedure required of attorneys, and a court will not apply a more lenient standard to pro se litigants." People v. Fowler, 222 Ill. App. 3d 157, 163, 583 N.E.2d 686, 164 Ill. Dec. 770 (1991); see also Steinbrecher v. Steinbrecher, 197 Ill. 2d 514, 528, 759 N.E.2d 509, 259 Ill. Dec. 729 (2001); People v. Vilces, 321 Ill. App. 3d 937, 939, 748 N.E.2d 1219, 255 Ill. Dec. 149 (2001).

Holzrichter v. Yorath, 2013 IL App (1st) 110287, ¶ 78.

Nearly every county seat has a public library. Perhaps the court could set up some way to inspect such places to see if they have scanners which could be used to convert documents to PDF and file them that way. Also it seems that there should be some procedure to electronically request leave to file as a poor person; perhaps that's already possible but if so there needs to be clear instructions available on the internet as to how that is to be accomplished.