As the new year approaches with a requirement that all civil litigation documents be electronically filed at the circuit court level, the Illinois Supreme Court announced a change for self-represented, or pro se, litigants.

Those who can show they don’t have an in-home computer or Internet access and travel represents a hardship; or those with a disability, language barrier or low literacy – as in difficulty reading, writing, or speaking English – can be exempted from e-filing.  

“As the Illinois Courts approach the deadline for statewide mandatory e-filing in civil cases, it is important to ensure access to justice for our most vulnerable self-represented litigants," said Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, who serves as liaison to the Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission.

"The Illinois Supreme Court is committed to ensuring access to justice for all and this good cause exemption to e-filing will allow these litigants to continue filing documents successfully."

Electronic filing for civil cases at the appellate and supreme court levels became mandatory July 1, and will be mandatory for circuit court filings on Jan. 1, 2018.

According to a Dec. 13 press release from the Illinois Supreme Court, the amended rule created a “good cause exemption” and is effective immediately for appellate courts and the supreme court.

The good cause exemption is a certification which is to be filed before or with an initial pleading which, if properly filed, exempts the party from the e-filing requirement. Certificates are available at the Illinois Supreme Court website.

Good cause also exists if the pleading is of a sensitive nature, such as a petition for an order of protection or civil no contact/stalking order, the release states. Judges can also use their discretion to determine whether good cause is shown. They also have discretion to determine whether, under particular circumstances, good cause exists without the filing of a certificate, and the court would enter an order to that effect.

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