WOODSTOCK – Rolling suitcases full of civil documents to be filed at the McHenry County Circuit Clerk’s Office could be a thing of the past.
A test program that will allow most civil filings to be submitted completely online is about six months away for some attorneys, with the full rollout expected about two months after that, Circuit Clerk Katherine Keefe said.
Larger law firms – many located in Cook County and handling numerous mortgage filings – often send a runner with all the paperwork who spends hours at the clerk’s counter, Keefe said.
Some civil documents can be hundreds of pages long and need to be scanned and entered into the clerk’s computers. That can take a day or two. E-filing will make it all instantaneous.
Small claims and chancery cases will be eligible for e-filing to start, with divorce and child custody filings a possibility later.
Until October, only five Illinois counties, including DuPage and Will, were approved as part of a civil e-filing pilot project.
However, the Illinois Supreme Court recently announced statewide standards for e-filing and allowed all circuit court clerks to move forward with their own projects.
Rules include that the circuit clerk cannot charge an additional fee for electronic filing. The vendor can, but Keefe said she was steering away from those.
“We’re looking to make the user want to do it because that’s a benefit to us,” she said.
Most civil filing fees are $241 or less. Small claims run from $91 to $156.
Keefe hopes to keep the cost of the program under $200,000, but negotiations with vendors are ongoing. The money would come from court automation and court document storage funds, she said.
Returns now are being realized on another digital initiative that’s been around for about six or seven years: electronic citations.
Most traffic tickets now are digitally submitted directly from squad cars.
By not filling four positions as people have left, about $180,000 has been saved, Keefe said.