I am a member of the standing e-filing committee of the 18th Judicial Circuit, and former member of the ad hoc e-filing committee. The standing committee is responsible for administration and promotion of e-filing in DuPage County, while the ad hoc commitee commented on the draft rules and had a hand in selecting service providers. The e-filing initiative was spearheaded by Chief Justice Robert Thomas of the Illinois Supreme Court, himself a former DuPage Judge.
E-filing in the State Court, unlike it’s Federal Court counterpart, is permissive … which brings me to why we must offer an unfair advantage to those who choose to e-file, and why a disadvantage should be imposed on those that choose not to. Of course the Supreme Court could always make e-filing mandatory and not worry about inducing people to use the system, but that is their call. Until that decision is made, here are my top 3 reasons the Supreme Court (or at least the 18th Circuit) should institute unfair advantages for e-filers and equally unfair disadvantages for those who do not:
1. What’s Good for the Goose: The Court and Clerk have been careful to preserve the rights of non-lawyers while e-filing gets underway, but in their zeal they have made some odd choices. Case in point – why can’t e-filers take full advantage of the technology and file up through midnight on the day their pleading is due? As indicated in this post on the Appellate Law Blog of fellow DuPage County Attorney Stever Merican, e-filers still cannot take true advantage of e-filing in the State Court despite the fact that they do so regularly in Federal Court. The question is the subject of City of Chicago v. Illinois Commerce Commission, et al., No. 104361. I for one would like to see how it turns out.
2. A Chain is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Links: If premissive e-filing is to work everyone must get on board, but that is just not the case. We must acknowledge 3 classes of lawyers — those who can upgrade, those who can’t upgrade, and those who won’t upgrade. I’m not saying anyone should be barred from filing just because they can’t do it electronically (even though that is the rule in the Federal Courts), but I must point out 2 of those 3 classes of lawyers are keeping the system form working as intended and should be gently encouraged to get with the times or lose out to the competition. You remember competition don’t you; the invisible hand of the marketplace that’s kept real estate lawyers charging $350 at closings while real estate agents walk away with 20 times that much per transaction.
3. Lawyers Aren’t the Only Ones Not on Board: You knew this one was coming. Let’s talk about Judicial discretion: aside from the fact that most Judges think MySpace represents the online world, and that neurologists have proven that people simply stop learning after a certain age, the truth is that Judges do not want to change. And why should they when they are catered to at every turn? Why … that’s where the unfair disadvantage comes in. Let Judges who don’t want to go digital go it alone instead. Files will take longer for the Clerk to review, will not be delivered or processed as quickly, and ultimately will get handled last because the Clerk’s Office has to respect the mandate of the Supreme Court to promote e-filing. But for those Judges who believe e-filing is a fad, a flash in the pan, and a mere annoyance, such inconveiences are a small price to pay to stem the tide of change. It is their time, and they are welcome to spend it as they like.
Note: M. Hedayat & Associates, is looking forward to the day the firm can incorporate E-Filing in all the areas practiced.