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Verella’s Round-Up: E-Filing and Evictions

 

verella osborne

The State of Illinois mandated consolidated electronic filing of all legal documents via the state database, effective January 1, 2018. Several counties, including Cook and Du Page, received extensions to the mandate: January 1, 2019 for DuPage, and July 1, 2018 for Cook.

With July 2018 now firmly in the rear view mirror, all Cook County eviction lawsuits must be filed electronically through the state e-filing system by using third party “e-filing service providers.” The first 60 days following this transition was a nightmare, with several database fields breaking down on a regular basis, significantly delaying efficient filing. Tyler Technologies, the company contracted by the state to program and manage this database, has corrected many of the initial programming problems, but the “return date” and “motion hearing” fields still routinely freeze and seem to be overwhelmed by volume.

Cook County initially made no distinction between the filing of a personal injury lawsuit and an eviction lawsuit. As a result, during the first few weeks of filing, it took days to receive an “accepted” filed suit, often too late to have the Sheriff serve the summons before the trial date. Tyler Technologies has corrected this problem after many complaints. Now, eviction lawsuits are given priority review by the court clerks.

Under the new e-filing system, Cook County attorneys or property owners can no longer just “file the case.” Evictions must follow the new e-filing procedures. Once filed, lawsuits receive a receipt number. A court clerk physically reviews documents and issues an “Acceptance” or “Rejection” notice from the court. File-stamped documents must then be printed and physically taken to the Sheriff to serve on the defendants. Your eviction attorneys are no longer allowed to have the court clerk forward the documents to the Sheriff for a fee.

How has this new filing procedure impacted prosecution of eviction lawsuits?

  1. The primary impact is timing – it is taking longer to prepare and file evictions. Eviction filings are returned relatively quickly from the court now, depending on volume. Filers must still allow extra time to ensure the Sheriff has time to serve. In addition, documents must be downloaded and separate alias summons must be prepared for each defendant (instead of one alias summons naming all defendants). Summons forms are now four pages long instead of one, etc. The whole process involves more paperwork and more time.
  2. Suits must now be physically taken to the Sheriff office to serve. Because Cook County no longer allows filers to pay the Clerk’s office to serve, lines at the Sheriff’s office are considerably longer than they were before the new e-filing system went into effect. As a result, wait times are longer.
  3. Trial dates are being scheduled further in advance: Daley Center evictions are usually set three weeks out and you now must choose available dates from a court list; you may no longer set any date. Suburban evictions are set three to four weeks out, depending on the district (e.g., Skokie only hears evictions once a week, so trial dates may be scheduled four weeks out or longer.)
  4. Court filing fees are higher: The court now charges a “court convenience fee” for checks and credit cards. The state also requires all filings to be via third party service providers, who charge a small portal fee. All such fees are deemed to be “court costs” per the Illinois Supreme Court order. This results in higher total filing costs.

Is this a better system? Perhaps when document imaging is enabled in the future and the programming glitches are repaired. But the process will still require more paperwork and more time to complete.

FYI, Legal Document Management, Inc. is one of the few local certified E-Filing Service Providers and will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

 

 

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