One of the main missions of this blog is to make the courts a better place for the attorneys and public. We want free and open courts, we want to access court documents efficiently and for a reasonable cost.
Unfortunately, right now the cost is 25 to 50 cents per page or more, and you have to go to the court, click on a fairly complicated outdated system to pull up the very nice WYSIWYG system (for many people the system is fairly confounding, even the clerks who use it all the time don’t know how many zeros to put in before the court number and if you have to use P or CH or L in the middle, etc)
Pacer was implemented in 2000 in the federal courts and it is a very simple but efficient system. Attorneys and others who sign up and pay 8 cents per page can get all sorts of online information in seconds.
I have no idea why in 2000 when the federal courts went Pacer, the Cook County Courts did not, but I think that was a very bad decision by the powers that be–mostly politicians and staff no longer in that decision making role at the court system.
So see below and PLMK if you have any questions you would like this blog to ask, or if you have submitted a FOIA or know more than this blog.
Information is power and efficiency in life.
Dear Help desk;
Question 1: Efiling and Paper copies
One of the things I have noted about efiling is that the paper copies never seem to get in the paper file. One of the clerks on the 18th floor told me there is a drop box for efiled pleadings or we are supposed to mail them in so copies get in the file.
Most of the time this is not an issue because pleadings are written for a particular court date, and I bring an extra copy for the judge and for the file.
I assume this is only a temporary problem because eventually, all will be like Pacer in federal court which was started in 2000 where the judges work off the computer or they have staff print out paper copies if they need them. The judges also frequently email parties, many of them.
Question 2: Cost for Paper copies
When the system is complete and pleadings are online and public, can the charge for copies be dropped to 8 cents each like Pacer in federal court. If not, how will the Clerk justify charging 25 cents per page or more, which is what they do now. How does the court justify charging so much more than Pacer even now?
Question 3: Orders of Protection and efiling:
Recently, I was directed by one of the clerks to Room 802 to DV counter to get forms for an Order of Protection (OOP). The clerk there handed me forms, but did not have all of them. I looked online and found some at http://www.illinoislegalaid.com which is a tremendous resource for the public and attorneys alike but only was able to find a Regular Petition for Order of Protection. The Summons was automatically prepared for me online and that was fine. The judge did not like the regular Petition for Order of Protection, she wanted an Emergency one which I could not find online, so she put the case over 1.5 weeks (good thing the Respondent behaved himself during that time period), and we held a hearing on the Petition.
At the end of it, one of the Probate Clerks said I had to use the court’s 6 part colored forms, so I took those back to the office to type them up on a Selectric II, an item which most law offices have not seen for about 10 to 15 years, but I have an 85 year old CPA in my office.
Question: Why is it that Petitions for Orders of Protection are not given the highest priority for efiling and instructions on the clerk’s website. I mean, most of the stuff us attorneys file is not an Emergency, is just arguing over something happening long in the past for which money damages will suffice. But Orders of Protection should be given top priority because they immediately protect women, children, the elderly and disableds from serious harm or injury.
I would think they can be done online soon after a violent event or threat takes place in the attorney’s office, typed in Adobe Pro, uploaded and served on all parties by email and their counsel, so a hearing can be held the next morning on an emergency basis.
If the court or Clerk really clings to 6 colors of paper (now that everything’s electronic, I don’t see how that helps), most attorneys DO have those six colors of paper: white, yellow, pink, light blue, light green and gold any way in their offices, or the court can simply hand out packets of blank colored papers for printing, which is certainly much, much cheaper than printed 6 part forms.
Also, this was a proceeding for Probate court and the Judge and the probate clerk said “things are different” in Probate than on Harrison street DV court. Why is that? Would it not be simpler if the system were uniform?
Even if the system were not uniform, each of the Judges in probate and else where have their own webpages. Children build and update their webpages all the time now, and many grammar schools require this as projects for kids. But the Judges don’t seem to put any unique information, forms they like to use, or anything particular to their courtroom on their webpages, which I think is a shame. This would help the attorneys and public greatly to know what to expect when they get to court, what forms and how to fill them out the way the judge likes them. This could save many, many trips to court. I see no reason if a judge likes a particular form, they do not put it on their website or a link to the form they like.
Question 5: Why can’t you file for an OOP online, and why if you do this, does the e-clerk system send you a notice saying “form title does not match item submitted” and it should attach the proper forms to that return email and direct the attorney on how to file on paper.
Question 6: In probate from March 2011 and later, all documents have been scanned in and I can’t thank you all enough for that and tell you what a godsend that is to all the attorneys and public out there. Best thing since sliced bread. However, I was trying to file a Notice of Appeal to appeal all the accountings and inventories, but the old microfiched orders are not part of the online system, right, but they are in fact digitized, so one would think that this can be done easily with the appropriate data dumps and linkages. Will those old orders in “microfiche” be put online with the rest of the case files soon, or are you just waiting for anything prior to 2011 to become obsolete?
I am now on my 4th trip to court over this OOP, and I have to be in Rockford on Monday, but I hope to get it done Tuesday.
This last OOP was to protect an elderly 72 year old stroke victim in a wheel chair. I would think he would get top priority and not a 4 day to enter an order run around over paperwork not found and submittable online.
thank you for listening to me.
I do want to make the courts better for attorneys and the public, I really do.
and her blog http://www.marygsykes.com, an attorney blog.
PS– a response by email is preferred.
PPS–Kathie is a skilled computer programer and systems person. Kathie, would it be such a big deal to link old microfiche data which is dititized to the new computerized court records? I would not think so, but they have not done it yet.
JoAnne Denison, Executive Director Justice 4 Every1, NFP