Cook County's courts have been given an additional six months to bring their civil case filing systems into alignment with a statewide electronic case filing system required by the Illinois Supreme Court.
On Dec. 22, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order giving Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown and the vendor with whom her office is working until June 30, 2018, to complete the migration of her office’s “standalone e-filing system” to compatibility with eFileIL, the system preferred by the state’s high court, which oversees all county circuit court systems in Illinois.
The Supreme Court’s order comes two days after Brown and Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Tim Evans submitted a petition asking the justices to give the county another full year, until Jan. 1, 2019, to bring their system into compliance with a Supreme Court order that had originally set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2018.
The Supreme Court order says the high court justices acquiesced in part to Brown’s request “given the late submission of this petition, filed by the Supreme Court Clerk on December 20, 2017, 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”.
The order also instructs Brown to “commit all necessary resources to meet the extended deadline,” including working with vendor Tyler Technologies “on thorough testing of the essential functionality that the Circuit Clerk has identified is necessary to maintain the integrity of its business processes.”
Further, the order said a representative of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts would now attend “implementation meetings with the Circuit Clerk’s office and Tyler Technologies to monitor the progress and otherwise assist with timely implementation of mandatory e-filing throughout this extended period.”
An announcement posted to the Circuit Clerk's website within minutes of the release of the order said the additional time was needed to "complete the complex and critical programming that will ensure a smooth transition to eFileIL in Cook County and provide an effective, efficient and fully functional eFile system at a level of excellence for its users."
Brown’s request for the additional time came only weeks after published reports quoted her assuring the public her office’s case filing systems, which even this year had remained heavily reliant on traditional paper files, would be ready for the deadline.
In the wake of Brown’s concession on Dec. 20 that the Circuit Clerk’s office evidently remained much farther from the goal than had been publicly indicated, influential Cook County Board Commissioner Larry Suffredin had indicated in other published reports he believed the Supreme Court should consider appointing a monitor to oversee progress and help to ensure no further delays in compliance with the court’s order.
Suffredin did not reply to requests for further comment from The Cook County Record.
At the same time, Brown’s office continues to face a federal lawsuit brought by the Courthouse News Service, asking a judge to order her office to tweak the efiling system to permit immediate access to all filed lawsuits. Presently, CNS’ lawsuit alleges, Brown’s office can take days or even weeks to make available ostensibly public court documents, simply because they have been filed electronically.
On Nov. 28, Brown’s office responded to that lawsuit with a filing declaring it has no obligation under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to grant any member of the public “immediate access to electronically submitted complaints before they are accepted for filing.” The Circuit Clerk said electronically filed cases must be reviewed before being released to the public under a standing order issued by Judge Evans to ensure they “do not include items from 13 different categories of documents.”
“Those rules and order justify any delays that occur when the Circuit Clerk processes the filing of electronically submitted complaints,” wrote Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, in the motion filed on behalf of Brown’s office.
That case remains pending.