E-Filing 101

Post authored by Tisha Delgado, brought to you by CourtFiling.net

In July 2018, E-filing was made mandatory in Illinois courts.  As a result, any paperwork that needs to be filed with the court must now be submitted electronically. If you have not e-filed anything yet and do not know how to get started, this article will help you get up to speed and provide instructions specific to Cook County.

Registration. Before you can e-file any paperwork, you will need to set up an account. You can register through any Electronic Filing Service Provider (“EFSP”), such as CourtFiling.net. In order to register, you will need an email address so the court can send you notifications; your ARDC number; and a payment method, such as a credit card. If you have an assistant, paralegal or docket clerk, they can also register and e-file on your behalf.

The EFSP connects you to the statewide e-filing system, similar to how an internet service provider connects you to the internet. A list of authorized EFSPs can be found in the E-Business section on the Illinois Supreme Court’s website. Note that you are never required to use only one EFSP. Instead, you can change your EFSP whenever you like, based on your own needs. The following comparison chart provides an overview of EFSPs and their services, features, and costs. In addition, each EFSP has general training videos or webinars that walks you through the e-filing process step-by-step.

PDF software. Any paperwork being e-filed must be submitted in PDF format.  Fortunately, some EFSPs will automatically convert documents to PDFs. If your EFSP does not, then look for a software program that will give you the most bang for your buck. In addition to converting your documents to PDF format, the software should also redact personal and confidential information from your documents, add a “confidential” designation when needed, make your documents searchable, and add Bates numbers to your documents.

Review the court’s local rules on e-filing.  Some courts have dedicated pages or sections on their websites that cover their specific e-filing rules, procedures, or frequently asked questions. Check your EFSP to see if they offer any specific Cook County e-filing guides or local court rules. Reviewing these procedures before you e-file will ensure your paperwork does not get rejected.

E-filing is a straightforward process. In order to successfully e-file a document, you will log into the system using an EFSP, follow the prompts to upload the paperwork, submit it, and wait for the clerk’s approval.

The clerk will then review the paperwork and either accept or reject the filing. The filer (the person who logged into the e-filing system and completed the e-filing) will then be notified, usually through email, that the filing was submitted, accepted, rejected, or erroneous.

Insider Tip: Only the filer will receive any rejection notification. This is important to know because receiving a rejection notice means that the paperwork was not correctly submitted or not filed. As a result, further action is needed. The paperwork will be considered officially filed once the filer has received notice from the court clerk that it paperwork was accepted.

Special instructions when filing in Cook County

Case Numbers. You must enter your case number in the correct format in order to ensure you file your paperwork in the correct case. The case number format is the following: the year (with 4 digits), capital letters for the case division, and the full case number, with no spaces or dashes. Example case listings can be found below:

Chancery Division (CH) – 5-digit case numbers (2018CH00123)

Law Division (L) – 6-digit case numbers (2019L001234)

Probate Division (P) – 6-digit case numbers (2019P001234)

The exception to this rule is a Municipal Court case number. The court case number consists of the four-digit year, the Municipal District Code, and the six-digit case number. Summed up, an example Municipal Court case number is 2018 M1 000123.  However, when you enter the case number for e-filing, you need to drop the “M” when inputting the case number. For example, if your case number is 2018 M1 000123, you need to not input the M and instead enter the case number as only a string of numbers, such as 20181000123. If you have fewer than six digits, include leading zeros.

Attorney Firm Code. You must add your attorney firm ID number to the “Case Cross Reference Number” section in every filing. Otherwise, it will be rejected.

Filing motions and setting up hearing dates.  In Cook County, when you file a motion in your case, you usually need to schedule a hearing date as well. The process of scheduling a hearing date is called “spindling.” The statewide eFileIL system forces the filer to choose a hearing date after the paperwork is submitted. To work around this anomaly, submit your motion first, pick a hearing date from the hearing calendar, and then file your notice of motion. Please note that there is an extra step to take when spindling motions in the Chancery, Domestic Relations, or Probate Divisions.

About the Author:

Tisha DelgadoTisha Delgado is a senior litigation paralegal and e-discovery specialist at Golan Christie Taglia, where she maintains complex databases and assists clients in collecting and exporting electronically stored information and social media. An educator, trainer, and thought leader, Tisha is frequently called on to speak at paralegal schools and legal education conferences. She currently advises legal professionals on e-filing rules and procedures, and how to create successful workflows to accommodate an evolving e-filing system in the Illinois state courts. Tisha is a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the Illinois Paralegal Association, presently serving as its Vice President and Litigation Section Chair.

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