A trial electronic filing (e-filing) program that has been under way in Madison County for about two weeks now, is being used with increased frequency, according to deputy circuit clerk Judy Nelson.

The program, as authorized by the Illinois Supreme Court, went into effect April 6 for Law and Arbitration cases.

One of the reasons the circuit clerk's office applied for e-filing was to help manage the county's heavy asbestos caseload, Nelson said.

With a finite amount of shelf and storage space, handling thousands of files that can span up to six feet of shelf space, creates a squeeze, she said.

"We push a lot of paper," Nelson said.

Asbestos cases have been on the rise in Madison County. The peak came in 2003 with 953 cases, and then it dropped off for a few years. Last year there were 639 asbestos cases filed.

A plan for e-filing had been in the works for five years, Nelson said, spurred on by a heavy volume of cases. The pilot program is one of two in the state. The other is in DuPage County near Chicago.

The Madison County system was developed over the course of a year. The system vendor, Lexis Nexis, worked with the county's software provider, Jano Justice. However, Nelson said, now the county is seeking more vendors.

Nelson said that some attorneys have objected to e-filing fees. The county charges $7 for every document filed and $8 for service per document. It was a concern, Nelson said, which is why the program remains optional.

With the system online less than a full two weeks, the clerk's office is still working out some bugs, but is optimistic about the program.

"This is new, there are a lot of bugs," Nelson said. "But we've worked a lot out."

To take advantage of e-file, attorneys must send a signed statement to Circuit Clerk-E-filing, 155 North Main St., Edwardsville 62025 stating an agreement to submission by electronic filing on all cases pending as of the start date.

For the rules and for answers to questions about e-filing, visit the Madison County Circuit Clerk's office at http://www.co.madison.il.gov under the "Circuit Clerk's Office" page found under the "Departments" section.

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