EDWARDSVILLE – In spite of its request to extend a deadline for making court documents available through the state's new centralized E-File Manager (EFM) being denied, Madison County Circuit Clerk Mark von Nida says he hopes his office will done by early spring, well ahead of a mandatory July 1 deadline.

In January 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court issued Order M.R. 18368 requiring mandatory civil cases e-filing for itself and the state's appeals and circuit courts through a centralized electronic filing manager EFM, eFileIL. The deadline for the state Supreme Court and appeals courts was July of last year while the deadline for circuit courts initially was the first of this year, according to M.R. 18368.

All courts have until this coming July 1 to make their case documents and information available on the statewide remote access system re:SearchIL, according to a state Supreme Court press release issued last May.

"We are working with a project manager from Tyler Technologies to interface with the state-wide EFM (E-File Manager), aka 'eFileIL'," von Nida said in an email interview. "We have a projected go live date of April 23."

Existing e-file vendors that currently work with Madison County will continue until July 1, von Nida said.

"File and Serve Express is already an EFSP (E Filing Service Provider) with eFileIL so users already familiar with that vendor will have an option to continue using them," he said.

"Lawyers who wish to explore other options will have more choices after April 23. For those users that prefer Pohlman MyDocServe, they may continue to use it until July 1. Pohlman has been working to become certified as an EFSP in the near future. That situation will be evaluated by the Administrative Office along with Tyler Technologies."

It'll be a bit tight, considering the county had asked for - and didn't get - a five-year deadline extension from the state Supreme Court. However, if it can be done, von Nida and his office can do it, Madison County Chief Judge David Hylla, chair of the state Supreme Court's E-Business Policy Advisory Board, said.

"He and his office are going to have to make this work," Hylla said. "And I have every confidence that he and his office will make it work."

That was the deadline Madison County, along with three other Illinois counties, hoped could be extended. DeKalb and McHenry counties asked for an extension until Jan 1, 2019, while Dupage County asked for an extension until Jan. 1, 2021 and Madison County asked for an extension until July 1, 2023.

Of those extension requests, only Dupage County's request received any favorable response from the state's high court but was granted only one year, rather than the three years request, to transition to the new electronic filing system. The state Supreme Court issued separate orders last month in response to those requests.

The 2023 extension would have provided some comfort, von Nida said, but Madison County was already working toward this July's deadline.. 

"Given that Madison County was already planning to implement the state-wide EFM as soon as possible, 2023 would have been a worst-case scenario," he said.

"If it became necessary to change to new Court Management Software, a five-year implementation would be realistic and it would not have been necessary to ask for further extensions."

Technology isn't really an issue in Madison County, Hylla said. 

"We've had eFiling going on in Madison County for going on 10 years at a permissive level," he said, noting that Madison County has been e-filing in civil division for quite some time.

Hylla, who recently has been teaching judicial education classes for judges about electronic courtrooms, said a nagging issue across the state has been adapting from what a given county has been doing to what the state will have them do.

"People don't always like change," Hylla said. "They like their system the way they've been doing it. They're comfortable with what they've been used to doing for a long time."

There also has been some concern for members of the public, especially pro se litigants, who may find eFiling very overwhelming but provisions are being made for them, Hylla said. 

"No one's access to the courts will be denied," he said. "If they can't e-file, they don't have to."

Meanwhile, there is some wiggle room that should help in meeting this summer's deadline, von Nida said.

"The Supreme Court left some room in the last paragraph of the order for the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts to report if more time is needed after July 1," he said. "That should suffice without the necessity of formally requesting extensions during the process of implementation. The order makes it clear that implementation of the State-wide initiative should proceed without delay. That was always our intention anyway."

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