E-filing now available in Cook County
Monday, May 11, 2009
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by Pat Milhizer
The Cook County circuit clerk's
office launched a program Monday that will save commercial litigation
lawyers from making a trip to the Daley Center when they're ready to
The program lets lawyers file
lawsuits online at any time, and for now, it's limited to the Law
Division's Individual Commercial Calendar Section.
The circuit court is the largest court system in the world to offer
electronic filing, and plans for the project started about four years
ago when Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans gave Circuit Clerk Dorothy A. Brown the go-ahead to file an application with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.
''This is a win-win-win for Cook County,'' Brown said at a news
conference Monday morning. ''It will save millions of dollars in time,
taxpayer dollars, private dollars and best of all, it will help to
contribute to the preservation of energy as well as our natural
resources.… In short, it was the right thing to do.''
Registered users will be able to visit www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org
to file documents, pay the associated fees, receive file-stamped copies
of documents and serve opposing parties. Along with the usual filing
fees, the service will cost $4.95 per case, plus an additional 4
percent credit card charge of the total cost of the filing.
The system accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and checking account
payments, as long as the lawyer's Attorney Registration &
Disciplinary Commission number reflects that the attorney is in good
For first-time users, the Web site offers several video seminars to provide guidance on how to use the system.
In addition, the system will soon let litigants file draft court orders
for submission to judges. Judges would then be able to edit, sign and
electronically return the signed orders. There is no timetable for that
process to begin, Evans said.
While the e-filing program is voluntary, Brown expects that demand for
the service is high given that about 1,200 attorneys and legal
assistants attended an e-filing seminar in March.
The clerk's office also conducted training sessions over a five-week period that attracted more than 500 people.
And by Monday morning, 25 lawyers had already registered for the service.
After about six months, Evans said the circuit will know if the program
is working well. Courthouse officials can then discuss expanding the
program to other divisions, with the County Division likely being next,
''Yes, we start with the Commercial Section of the Law Division, but I
want all here to know … that it is my thrust that we can expand this
e-filing to the whole system in Cook County, so that there will be
savings throughout the system,'' Evans said at the news conference.
County officials chose to start the program with commercial litigators
because many of them already use e-filing in federal court, Evans said.
''We thought we'd start there because we thought the comfort level would be there,'' Evans said.
Brown said that the program isn't supported by tax dollars, and the
service provider and training company will both be paid through the
$4.95 per-case fees.
The e-filing program offers several features that the county won't
charge for, including registration; converting documents to portable
document formats, or PDFs; attaching an unlimited number of documents
to a single filing; serving the opposing party; and viewing, printing
or saving documents from the system.
E-filing is not totally new to Illinois, and a similar program is offered in DuPage County. Associate Judge Kenneth A. Abraham of the 18th Judicial Circuit said the system has proven convenient so far.
''I think the rules that were adopted, while not perfect, have provided
a good basis for operations,'' Abraham said, saying the system allowed
easy preservation of original documents and verification of complaints.
With multiple vendors providing access to the e-filing system in DuPage
County, litigants have a variety of options for filing, including the
traditional way, Abraham said. He added that there are issues to
consider, however — namely whether e-filing should be mandatory and
whether there should be a single vendor for quality control purposes.
Cook County's program has just one vendor, and as Cook County rolls out
its e-filing system this week, Abraham advised that the county should
keep an open mind to what the users have to say about the program.
''Our experience has been that when a court system is open to
suggestions and modifications, it provides the best means for public
access and the most efficient means to get into the system and get it
done,'' Abraham said.
— Patrick Yeagle contributed to this report.