E-filing comes to Illinois

Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law, and his associate, Karen Munoz, represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness” appears in Chicago Lawyer magazine and her column appears regularly in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. This week’s blog is written by Karen Munoz.

E-filing came into effect in Illinois on Jan. 1 following a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision on the matter. E-filing had been on a pilot program in Cook, DuPage, Madison, St. Clair and Will counties since 2003.

The October decision will now open up this process to all counties, while the counties who were operating under the pilot program can continue to do so provided that their systems comply with the rules handed down by the Supreme Court. The rules address system security issues, electronic access to court records and identity verification.

Lawyers who do not practice in the above-mentioned counties will have to wait before they will see the benefits of e-filing. It is expected that the pilot-program counties will proceed with full e-filing while other counties will wait and see how the system develops in those counties.

When the system comes into effect, lawyers can put their days of running down to court to file papers behind them. With e-filing, lawyers will be able to submit their filing online where it will be distributed to all other parties.

This will mean that lawyers will no longer have to mail or courier copies of filings to all the parties involved in a suit which will have considerable financial and time benefits. Another benefit of the system is that when a document is filed at 11:59 p.m., it will be regarded as being filed on that day.

Therefore, lawyers will no longer have to get their documents submitted before a courthouse closes its doors. This will also mean that a lawyer can be anywhere in the world when this process occurs, giving lawyers a greater degree of flexibility. Lawyers should then receive a document back confirming that the paper has been filed.

One of the most important features of the new system is that lawyers and parties can now serve documents via e-mail. Attorneys and parties in civil cases in Illinois must include an e-mail address for service of documents on appearances and all pleadings filed in court.

There are also practical benefits for the courts. By moving to an electronic system, courts will make significant cost savings. According to official documents, Cook County spent $16 million on circuit court storage in 2011.

Instead of cavernous warehouses, courts will now be able to rely on efficient server farms. However, we are a long way away from the day when attorneys will only have to visit the courthouse to appear for a hearing or status as matters such as cost, security and standardizing each counties software will all have to be addressed before the system comes into full force.

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