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Illinois Supreme Court grants Dorothy Brown’s request to delay e-filing in Cook County

Friday, December 22, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Steve Schmadeke

Days after announcing her office couldn’t meet a statewide deadline to end paper filings in lawsuits and other civil cases, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown on Friday won a reprieve from the state’s highest court.

The Illinois Supreme Court didn’t directly address Brown’s request to push back the Jan. 1 deadline an entire year, to January 2019, but said her office could continue to use its current system until June 30. Brown’s office said on Friday afternoon it “greatly appreciates” the extension and that the June date is the new deadline for its transition to mandatory electronic filing.

Brown told the Tribune last month there may be some growing pains but that her office was ready to make an on-time transition from filing lawsuits in person at the downtown Chicago and suburban courthouses to filing — from anywhere — legal paperwork digitally.

Nearly 62 percent of the county’s roughly 178,000 civil filings so far this year have been on paper.

But in a letter earlier this month to the state’s highest court, which oversees circuit court operations, Brown asked for a deadline extension on the statewide requirement calling for almost all new civil cases to be filed electronically. Brown wrote in the letter that the county’s new vendor, Tyler Technologies, told her Nov. 21 that it couldn’t fully meet the state’s Jan. 1 deadline.

The state Supreme Court wrote in its order delivered Friday, ahead of the long holiday weekend, that “given the late submission of this petition … and in light of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s assertion that the existing e-filing system is not able to accept e-filing of all civil cases,” it would allow the circuit clerk to use its current system through June 30.

Nearly two years ago, the state Supreme Court ordered the shift to electronic filing, instructing all 102 circuit courts in the state to move to a system called eFileIL run by Texas-based Tyler Technologies. Fifteen counties including Cook and DuPage that already had their own electronic filing system were given an extra seven months to completely shift their old systems to eFileIL.

In its Friday response, Supreme Court also ordered Brown’s office to give users the ability to file any civil case type under the eFileIL system by May 1, but it did not give her office a deadline to fully make the switch. A court spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

DuPage County has asked for an extension until 2021 to make that transition.

Brown’s office, which the Tribune reported last year was under federal investigation for its hiring practices, does not exactly have a reputation for efficiency. Cook County Board members this year cited their lack of trust in her staff when they approved a $1 million contract for Tyler Technologies, the vendor also handling the e-filing transition, to oversee the rollout of a nearly $37 million case management system — a digital library system of sorts for the county’s massive trove of court filings — to replace the outdated mainframe system. The clerk’s office is also facing a federal lawsuit alleging that it takes days or even weeks for electronically filed lawsuits to become public, even though paper filings are available the day they’re filed.

Twitter @SteveSchmadeke

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