Electronic filing of documents in civil cases was required in the Illinois Supreme Court and five districts of the Appellate Court effective July 1, 2017, and in all circuit courts effective January 1, 2018, with a small number of counties granted extensions. The requirement impacts lawyers as well as self-represented litigants. The Illinois Supreme Court recently announced a good cause exemption for self-represented litigants under certain circumstances. Many groups focused on access to justice, including PILI, argues that the mandatory e-filing rules would have negatively impacted self-represented litigants who are low-income.
A self-represented litigant can still file by paper if:
- no computer or Internet access in the home and travel represents a hardship;
- they have a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, that prevents e-filing; or
- there is a language barrier or low literacy (difficulty reading, writing or speaking in English).
Good cause also exists if the pleading is of a sensitive nature, such as a petition for an order of protection or civil no contact/stalking order. Judges can determine if good cause is shown to exempt a self-represented litigant from e-filing.
In a press release sent out by the Illinois Supreme Court regarding the rules change, Justice Thomas L. Kilbride said, “As the Illinois Courts approach the deadline for statewide mandatory e-filing in civil cases, it is important to ensure access to justice for our most vulnerable self-represented litigants. The Illinois Supreme Court is committed to ensuring access to justice for all and this good cause exemption to e-filing will allow these litigants to continue filing documents successfully.”