GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 09-01 - ELECTRONIC FILING OF COURT DOCUMENTS PILOT PROJECT


IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS

GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 09-01

SUBJECT: ELECTRONIC FILING OF COURT DOCUMENTS PILOT PROJECT

Effective May 11, 2009, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Order M.R. 18368, a copy of which is attached hereto, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County will implement an Electronic Filing of Court Documents Pilot Project for cases designated as commercial litigation cases in the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The program shall run until May 3, 2011, unless extended by order of the Supreme Court.

The Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts shall have sole authority to approve the types of cases authorized for electronic filing and to change the scope of the pilot project. As new types of cases are authorized by the Administrative Director, the General Administrative Order will be amended accordingly.

1. Scope of Electronic Filing Pilot Project

A. For purposes of this pilot project, “documents” shall mean all pleadings, motions and other papers. However, documents and notices in post-judgment collection matters are specifically excluded from this pilot project and shall be filed and served in the conventional manner. An Application and Affidavit to Sue or Defend as an Indigent Person shall also be filed and served in the conventional manner. Where such petition is granted, the party will have access to the e-filing system without payment of the statutory filing fees or any fee charged by the vendor.

B. Electronic filing is limited to documents filed with the Clerk’s Office and does not apply to documents filed directly with a judge.

C. Electronic filing shall be limited to electronic line transfers including electronic transmission of court document filings and electronic service of those documents. Electronic filing does not include transfer of information by means of facsimile transmission device (fax) and has no effect on any existing statutes, Supreme Court Rules, Rules of the Circuit Court of Cook County or orders governing facsimile transmission.

D. Any new commercial litigation case in the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County filed on or after May 11, 2009, shall become an electronic filing case when a party files a document electronically. When a case becomes an electronic filing case, the Clerk of the Circuit Court shall convert documents filed in the conventional paper format to electronic format.

E. Any document that may be electronically filed under these procedures may instead be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in conventional paper format. Documents filed in this manner must be served through conventional means in accordance with all statutes, rules and orders governing such service. In electronic filing cases, documents filed in conventional paper format shall be converted to an electronic document by the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

F. Courtesy copies of documents customarily required to be provided to the court shall continue to be required in electronic filing cases, absent a court order to the contrary. Courtesy copies may not be delivered to the court via electronic transmission.

G. Sealed documents and documents filed in impounded cases or cases where access to the official court file is otherwise restricted by statute, rule or order shall not be filed electronically. A motion to have a document sealed, as well as any response to such a motion, may be filed electronically.

H. When documents become impounded or sealed, the Clerk’s Office will notify the vendor to no longer allow those documents to be viewed.

I. In situations where a commercial case is transferred to the Law Division and designated as a commercial litigation case or a case is consolidated with a pending commercial litigation case in the Law Division, the case shall be included in this pilot project under the same procedures as other commercial litigation cases provided that the case was initiated on or after the effective date of the pilot project. When an electronic filing case is transferred out of the Commercial Litigation Section of the Law Division, the case will no longer be subject to the provisions of this general administrative order.

2. Definitions

Business Hours. Business hours shall be as defined as in Circuit Court of Cook County Rule 0.3.1(b).

Electronic Filing. The transmission of documents to the Clerk’s Office via electronic means for the purposes of filing.

Electronic Filing Manager (“EFM”). The EFM is the system that processes the electronic filing and service of documents between the electronic filing website and the Clerk’s Office’s mainframe.

Electronic Filing Website (“Website”). A secure website designed to allow the electronic filing of documents from the filer to the EFM.

Electronic Service. Electronic service is the electronic transmission, via the EFM, of an original filed document to all other designated recipients.

Filer. A filer is any person, including attorneys and pro se parties, who is registered and authorized to file electronically.

Vendor. The entity with whom the Clerk’s Office contracts, in accordance with applicable Cook County practices, to provide the electronic filing website.

3. Electronic Filing Procedures

A. Attorney and pro se filers must register with the Clerk’s Office. Upon registration and validation, the Clerk’s Office will provide the filer with a username and a password. In order to register, attorneys will be required to be licensed and in good standing with the Illinois Supreme Court. It is the responsibility of the filer to keep all contact information, including the filer’s e-mail address, current on the e-filing system.

B. Once a case has been designated as an electronic filing case and the filer has registered, the Clerk’s Office will accept filings submitted electronically through the electronic filing website.

C. All electronically filed documents shall, to the extent practicable, be formatted in accordance with the applicable rules and orders governing the format of paper pleadings. All documents that are electronically filed must be in PDF format so that the documents are unalterable and able to be printed with the same content and format as if printed from its authoring program.

D. Documents are electronically filed as follows: A filer electronically files a document through the electronic filing website, which transmits the documents to the EFM. The EFM then transmits the document to the Clerk’s Office for review and acceptance or rejection of the filing.

E. Each electronically filed document shall bear a facsimile or typographical signature of the attorney or pro se party authorizing such filing. Documents containing the signatures of third parties may be filed electronically and shall bear a facsimile or typographical signature. Each filer must use only his or her identifier when electronically filing documents. In the absence of a facsimile or typographical signature, any document electronically filed with a username and password issued by the Clerk’s Office shall be deemed to have been signed by the holder of the username and password.

F. Signatures as defined in paragraph 3.E. above satisfy Supreme Court Rules and statutes regarding original signatures and give rise to the application of available sanctions when appropriate.

4. Time of Filing, Acceptance by the Clerk’s Office and Electronic Filing Stamp

A. Any document submitted electronically shall be considered filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court upon review and acceptance by the Clerk. The transmission shall be endorsed with the Clerk’s electronic file stamp setting forth both date and time. Any document submitted electronically to the Clerk’s Office on a day or at a time when the Clerk’s Office is not open for business shall, unless rejected by the Clerk, be file stamped as filed at the next period for which the Clerk’s Office is open to receive conventional filings. This file stamp shall be merged with the electronic document and shall be visible when the document is printed and viewed on-line. Electronically filed documents so endorsed shall have the same force and effect as documents file stamped in the conventional manner.

B. Where a Clerk is required to endorse a document, the typed name of the Clerk affixed by the Clerk shall be deemed to be the Clerk’s signature on the electronic document.

C. The Clerk’s Office shall e-mail the filer the notice of acceptance of the document and the date and time of acceptance. If the document is rejected, the Clerk’s Office shall inform the filer of such rejection and the reason(s) for such action(s).

D. The electronic filing of a document does not alter any applicable filing deadlines.

5. Electronic Service, Proof of Service, Effective Date of Service

A. Electronic service does not confer jurisdiction. Only documents that do not require personal service as a matter of law may be served electronically. Parties and counsel of record may consent to receive service electronically. By electronically sending a document for service, a party or counsel of record shall be deemed to have consented to receive service electronically. If the party or counsel of record has not consented to electronic service, service shall be made as otherwise provided by rule or statute.

B. Regarding electronically filed cases, the effective date of service on other parties shall be determined in the same manner as for service by facsimile transmission pursuant to paragraph (d) of Supreme Court Rule 12.

C. The electronic service of a pleading or other document shall be considered as valid and effective service on all parties and shall have the same legal effect as conventional service.

D. When a document is served electronically, proof of electronic service shall be filed with the Clerk’s Office and served on all parties. Proof of electronic service must comply with all applicable rules, orders and laws, and shall accompany the document when that document is electronically filed. The certificate of service for electronically filed and served documents shall also include the following:
i. an e-mail address and facsimile number for the filer and the recipients;
ii. the number of pages in the transmission;
iii. a statement that the document was electronically served; and
iv. the date and time of electronic service transmission.

6. Maintenance of Original Documents by Filer

A. Electronic filing does not remove the need for signed original documents. The original signed documents that have been electronically filed shall be maintained and preserved by the filing party until at least one year following the completion of the appellate process and shall be made available pursuant to order of court.

B. Anyone filing an electronic document that requires an original signature certifies by so filing that the original signed document is in his or her possession and bears his or her original signature.

7. Fees and Charges

A. The Clerk’s Office shall continue to collect all applicable statutory filing fees and charges when a document that is electronically filed requires the payment of such a statutory filing fee. Documents that require a fee shall be electronically filed in the same manner as other electronically filed documents.

B. The vendor shall act as a limited agent for the Clerk’s Office and collect such required filing fees from the filer through direct billing of that filer, unless the payment of the fee has been waived by court order or law. Any mandated filing fees collected by the vendor shall be transmitted to the Clerk’s Office at the end of each business day.

C. Fees charged to filers by the vendor for vendor services are solely the property of the vendor and are in addition to any statutory fees associated with statutory filing fees.

8. Clerk’s Office Recordkeeping

A. The Clerk’s Office shall be required to maintain a hard copy of all electronically filed documents in the official court record which resides in the hard copy files maintained by the Clerk’s Office.

B. Documents that are electronically filed shall be maintained in accordance with the Clerk’s policy on the retention and maintenance of court records.

9. Access to Electronically Filed Documents

A. The Clerk’s Office shall make available for inspection and copying printed copies of any electronically filed document as maintained in the official court record. Copies of electronically filed documents shall be made available to the public at the same cost as charged for copies of documents filed in the conventional manner.

B. Pursuant to the Illinois Supreme Court’s “Electronic Access Policy for Circuit Court Records of the Illinois Courts,” the Clerk’s Office may permit public access to the electronic forms or images of electronically filed documents only through public access computer terminals located in Clerk’s Office locations. These public access terminals do not permit the data, documents, images or information to be downloaded or exported in electronic format.

C. Unofficial versions of electronically filed documents can be accessed via the electronic filing website, subject to the following restrictions:
i. only a registered and authorized filer shall be allowed remote, electronic access to electronically filed documents; and
ii. the registered and authorized filer shall be permitted to remotely access electronically filed documents only in cases where the filer is a party representing himself or herself or is an attorney that has entered an appearance on behalf of a party.

D. The Clerk’s Office shall allow judges access to electronically filed documents via the electronic filing website.

10. Privacy

A. Pursuant to the Illinois Supreme Court’s “Electronic Access Policy for Circuit Court Records of the Illinois Courts,” filers shall exercise caution when electronically filing documents containing personal identifiers and may refrain from including or may redact where inclusion is necessary, the following personal identifiers, unless otherwise ordered by the court:
i. Social security number - If an individual’s social security number must be included in a document, only the last four digits of the number shall be used.
ii. Date of birth - If an individual’s date of birth must be included on a document, only the year shall be used.
iii. Financial account number - If a financial account number must be included in a document, only the last four digits in the number shall be used.
iv. Name of a minor child - If the name of a minor child must be included in a document, only the initials of the child shall be used.

B. Filers shall also exercise caution when filing documents that contain personal identifying numbers, medical records, employment history information, individual financial information, proprietary or trade secret information.

C. When a filer electronically files a redacted document, the filer shall serve, by conventional means, the non-redacted version of the document.

11. System or Filer Errors

A. The Circuit Court of Cook County and the Clerk’s Office shall not be liable for malfunction or errors occurring in the electronic transmission or receipt of electronically filed and/or served documents.

B. Filers should attempt, in good faith, to resolve filing and service errors based on technical failures, such as: 1) an error in the transmission of the document from the electronic filing website to the Clerk’s Office; 2) rejection by the Clerk’s Office; or, 3) an erroneous exclusion of a party from the service list. If the filers are unable to resolve the problem, the aggrieved filer may seek relief from the court. The court, in its discretion, may enter a nunc pro tunc order to resolve the filing discrepancy.

C. This order shall be liberally construed so as to avoid undue prejudice to any party who participates in this electronic filing pilot project.

Dated this 6th day of May, 2009. This order shall be spread upon the records of this Court and published.


ENTER:

Timothy C. Evans
Chief Judge
Circuit Court of Cook County

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