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Problems Persist with Cook County E-Filing

Cook County

Pursuant to an order of the Illinois Supreme Court issued January 22, 2016, all counties in Illinois were required to implement and require mandatory e-filing in all civil cases filed in Circuit Court by January 1, 2018. At the time of that order, 15 counties (Clinton, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kendall, Lake, Madison, Marion, McHenry, Montgomery, Moultrie, Sangamon, St. Clair and Will) had already adopted their own standalone e-filing systems as an option for filers, although paper filings were still being accepted. The Court also ordered those 15 counties to migrate from their own standalone e-filing systems to the state's contracted Electronic Filing Manager (EFM), eFileIL, provided by Tyler Technologies by July 1, 2018. All circuit courts were also ordered to make their case documents and information available to the statewide remote access system known as re:SearchIL by July 1, 2018.

Extensions Granted in Cook, DuPage & Winnebago

On December 20, 2017, the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk, Dorothy Brown, petitioned the Court to extend the January 1, 2018 deadline for mandatory e-filing statewide and allow the county to continue to accept paper filings in civil cases for one year. The petition also asked the Court to extend the date by which Cook County must migrate from their current USCourts.com e-filing standalone system to the eFileIL e-filing system from July 1, 2018 to January 1, 2019. The Court denied the request to postpone migration beyond the July 1, 2018 deadline, but did push back the mandatory e-filing date in civil cases filed in Cook County six additional months to July 1, 2018. In its order granting Cook County six additional months to begin mandatory e-filing, the Court acknowledged that the county's current standalone e-filing system, USCourts.com, charges a per transaction fee for e-filing documents while the eFileIL system they are migrating to does not, and ordered that filers must continue to have the option to paper file if they want to avoid that fee. Once Cook County makes filing with eFileIL available, paper filings will no longer be accepted.

Winnebago County was the only other county that petitioned the Court to extend the mandatory e-filing date from January 1 to July 1, 2018, which the court granted. DeKalb, Madison, McHenry and Winnebago counties petitioned the Court for an extension of the July 1, 2018 migration deadline, but all were denied. DuPage County was the only county to receive an extension of the migration date, although the Court only gave them until July 1, 2019 instead of the January 1, 2021 date they requested. The reason that extension was granted for DuPage, but not Cook County may be related to the difference in the counties' e-filing rates. In DuPage County, 98% of all civil cases were already being e-filed compared to Cook County, where only about 40% of the county’s 2017 civil case filings were filed on paper rather than e-filed. Also supporting the Circuit Clerk Chris Kachiroubas' request for additional time is his assertion that DuPage only needs the extension because it's current standalone e-filing system, i2File, is technologically ahead of eFileIL. "DuPage's system is so far ahead that we may have to go backward to go forward," said Kachiroubas. For this reason, according to Kachiroubas, time and probably more money will be needed to complete migration.

Cook Circuit Clerk Sued over Processing Delays in E-Filed Cases

Besides reducing paper consumption and file storage, e-filing allows attorneys and self-represented filers to file documents from anywhere, at any time, with immediate access to case filings—at least that's how it's supposed to work. However, the Cook County Circuit Clerk has recently come under fire for requiring additional processing time for all newly e-filed cases. In November, the Courthouse News Service (CNS) filed a suit against Cook County in Federal District Court alleging that Dorothy Brown's office was violating their civil rights by not making documents e-filed there available immediately. The complaint alleges that the county takes days and in at least one instance, nearly a month, to make newly e-filed cases available to the public, while paper filings are made available the day they are filed.

According to CNS, when e-filing began in Cook County in 2009, the clerk’s office printed a hard copy as soon as a case was filed that was available for review by the public, namely the press, but starting in January 2015, the clerk’s office began delaying making newly e-filed complaints available to reporters until documents have been processed and accepted by their office. CNS alleges that this processing results in almost 40% of new e-filed cases being withheld from the public for at least a day as compared to immediate access to new paper filings. On January 8th, a federal judge granted CNS' request for an injunction and ordered Brown's office to devise a system to provide public access to newly e-filed cases within 30 days. However, on February 1, Brown filed an appeal in the 7th Circuit appeals court. Her office has until March 13 to file a brief.

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