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Cook County e-filing expands to Civil Division, suburban districts

Friday, June 07, 2013
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by Mary Kate Malone

The gradual expansion of Cook County Circuit Court's electronic-filing system reached the Civil Division and the suburban courthouses last week, finishing the largest piece of the rollout.

The division handles 13 different case types that all seek less than $30,000 — from housing issues to small claims to contract disputes.

The division also has many pro se litigants, said Cook County Circuit ClerkDorothy A. Brown. "To me, this is access to justice at its best," Brown said.

E-filing officially launched in the division and suburban courthouses on May 29.

The Law and Chancery divisions began offering e-filing in the spring. The system is scheduled to expand into the Domestic Relations Division on June 17, the Probate Division (excluding wills) on July 15 and the County Division on Aug. 12.

Standard paper filing is still allowed in all courthouses and divisions.

E-filing allows people to file lawsuits, motions and pleadings from any computer with Internet access. They can pay the filing fee and associated costs online — a $2.95 convenience fee, a $1 credit card fee and 3.9 percent of the filing fee — and receive back the file-stamped document electronically.

Michael Rothmann, a member of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association who co-chairs its Civil Litigation Committee, said the group's many members who practice in suburban courthouses have only made positive remarks to him about e-filing.

"Sometimes when you file, you have to stand in line and wait when you can instead be doing work at the office or doing other important things," said Rothmann, an associate at the Law Office of Martin L. Glink. "Here, you get to file electronically from the convenience of your office."

Brown said she wants to see more people using e-filing. Last year, more than 317,400 cases were filed across all the civil divisions, Brown said, with about 171,000 in the Civil Division.

So far in 2013, there have been about 2,020 electronic filings across all the divisions and more than 12,390 people are registered users of the system. "This is starting small, but I really feel that it's going to catch on as we really get the word out," Brown said.

Tammy L. Wendt, a past president of the Southwest Bar Association and owner of Tammy L. Wendt P.C., said she expects the group's members to utilize e-filing to save time in the suburban courthouses.

"We do have a lot of members that practice civil (law), so I know they're going to be excited to use it as a tool," she said.

While e-filing may save lawyers a trip to the courthouse, the clerk's office is spending additional money to print out paper copies of all the e-filed documents, Brown said.

The Illinois Supreme Court still requires that Cook County's official court record be a paper document.

In order for the high court to permit Cook County to use electronic documents as its official court record, the county needs to improve the technology available to the public, attorneys and judges at the courthouses, Brown said.

"The standard (of the high court) says I must make sure all these different groups actually have access to the electronic record," she said.

Brown said e-filing is still easier for clerk staff than paper filing, which requires staff to scan documents into the county's computer system. "I want to urge attorneys and self-represented litigants to take advantage of this new technology and to go in and register," she said.

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