Electronic filing (e-file) is mandatory in all Illinois State Courts, with limited exceptions for self-represented litigants (see below). Clerks at the Daley Center and other Illinois State Courts will not accept in-person filings. In order to e-file in Cook County, all CVLS volunteers must register with an Electronic Filing Service Provider (“EFSP”).
ELECTRONIC FILING SERVICE PROVIDERS
There are many EFSP’s to choose from. CVLS uses Odyssey eFileIL for all in-house state court filing purposes. CVLS has chosen Odyssey eFileIL because it is the only fully free service that charges no service fees for its use. The Odyssey eFileIL portal can be found here and Odyssey’s training videos, webinars, and user manuals are available here.
Although Odyssey eFileIL lacks features of other EFSPs, we believe that it fully accommodates our needs.
If you are volunteering with CVLS and need assistance from CVLS staff in order to e-file, the only EFSP we can provide guidance for is Odyssey eFileIL.
You must register with Odyssey eFileIL or another EFSP of your choice before you can e-file in Cook County. To get set up with an EFSP, you may also need a five-digit Cook County Attorney Number (also called a “firm number”) to create an account. If your firm does not already have its own Cook County Attorney Number, you can find instructions for obtaining one here. The Cook County Attorney Code Request Form can be found here.
If you have already registered with an EFSP using your firm’s five-digit Cook County Attorney Number, you can still use CVLS’ Attorney Number when filing into cases you are handling as a CVLS volunteer. Please reach out to the supervising attorney for your CVLS case to obtain our Attorney Number, and then use it as your “Cook County Attorney/Self-Represented Litigant Code” under the “Case Cross Reference Number” field when filing with Odyssey eFileIL (as pictured below).
FILING FEES & FEE WAIVERS
As the largest provider of pro bono civil legal representation in Cook County, CVLS clients and their attorneys can get most court costs waived under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 298, without the need for a hearing regarding that client’s financial situation. In order to accomplish this, you need to file form called a “Rule 298 Certification for Waiver of Fees – Representation by Civil Legal Services Provider,” otherwise known as a CLSP. The previously e-file system automatically generated a CLSP, but that is no longer the case and CVLS volunteers must draft and file their own CLSP for each CVLS client.
CVLS has a template CLSP in Microsoft Word Format that is available upon request for CVLS volunteer attorneys. Alternatively, the Clerk of the Circuit Court has its own, fillable PDF template, available here. If that direct link is broken, you can also find the form, along with instructions for use, in the Clerk’s forms bank under “CCG N642.” If you are working on a CVLS case, we believe that you should include a CLSP with any filing that would normally require a fee in order to show the Clerk that those fees should be waived. Your filing may be rejected (or fees may be assessed) if you don’t include a CLSP. If the filing does not require a fee, you do not need to file a CLSP with the free filing.
To file with a CLSP, you will need to follow these steps (instructions applicable for Odyssey eFileIL):
- Create a new Payment Account and select “Waiver” as your method of payment. You will be prompted to name the account.
- Follow the steps for e-filing a document.
- Upload your primary document as the “Lead Document” and select the appropriate Filing Code. Save your changes.
- Select “Add another filing” and upload a completed CLSP as a separate document. In the Filing Code drop down menu, select “Cert. Of Representation By Civil Legal Serv. Provider Fld.” in order for the Clerks to properly process the form. See below for an example. Note: If you select “waiver filed” or another option, the Clerks may reject your filing or set the matter for hearing on the fee waiver. You will need to contact the Clerks to remedy the issue.
- Select your named “Waiver” account as the payment method.
Additional Notes on CVLS & CLSPs:
- CVLS cannot reimburse volunteers for fees that are eligible to be waived using a CLSP. Therefore, it is imperative that you follow the instructions on this page for those fees to be properly waived, including setting up a “Waiver” payment account and using it anytime you are filing for a CLSP-eligible client.
- CVLS cannot reimburse for third party vendor fees, and a CLSP does not waive third party e-filing vendor fees. Therefore, we urge you to use a free e-filing vendor such as Odyssey eFileIL.
- If the case is not a CLSP case and client is paying filing fees you may set up and use a “Pay at Counter” payment account and CVLS staff can pay filing fees from the client’s trust account after you e-file.
- For instructions on how to get the costs of publication waived for Decedent’s Estate matters with CVLS, we encourage you to watch the following CLE: Decedent’s Estate Training / PCAP (MCLE credit for Illinois Attorneys available upon completion).
OTHER ELECTRONIC FILING TIPS
- If you mark your filing as “confidential,” you may need to include a court order to that effect or your filing could be rejected.
- The Cook County Sheriff’s Department has also developed its own e-file portal for issuance of summons. CVLS has its own account for issuing summons through this portal, and you should contact CVLS’ Director of Operations and Training, Peter Ashmore, for account information and additional instructions on using this portal.
PRO SE GOOD CAUSE EXEMPTION FROM E-FILING
COVID-19 UPDATE (as of September 16, 2020): Most court services in Cook County, including Courtroom access and the e-filing assistance mentioned here are operating at reduced capacity or have gone completely remote as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. You can find additional information on the availability of services by visiting the Clerk of Court’s homepage or by calling the statewide Court Information Helpline at (872) 529-1093 (available M-F, 9am-4pm).
All self-represented (pro se) litigants at the Daley Center who need e-filing assistance should be directed to LL-12 (Lower Level). The Clerk’s office has established a large e-filing self-help center with many computers and scanners available at no cost. Please be aware that the computers in LL-12 may not be hooked up to printers and may not have Adobe or Microsoft Office installed. Without that hardware/software, it may be challenging for self-represented litigants to create new documents or fill out online forms. To avoid delays, we encourage self-represented litigants to fill out forms ahead of time and to bring paper copies with them to LL-12 where they can be scanned at no cost. Printers are available for use in the Law Library on the 29th floor for a fee. If you encounter self-represented litigants who may struggle to use and access the technology necessary to e-file, consider sharing information about the E-Filing Exemption Certificate.
The Illinois Supreme Court has approved new language clarifying the scope of Rule 9(c)(4) which permits a good cause exemption from e-filing. A self-represented litigant may be exempted from e-filing if he or she falls into one of the following categories:
- No computer or Internet access in the home and travel presents a hardship (financial or otherwise)
- Disability (as defined by the ADA) that prevents e-filing
- Low literacy
- Limited English proficiency
- Sensitive filing (e.g. Order of Protection)
A self-represented litigant can claim the exemption by attaching a certificate (signed under penalty of perjury) with the filing. The Access to Justice Commission’s Forms Committee has drafted a Circuit Court Certificate and an Appellate Court Certificate for use by self-represented litigants.
Judges will retain discretion to grant an e-filing waiver on their own (sua sponte) should they determine good cause exists, even without the filing of a certificate. Judges will also retain discretion to order a litigant to begin e-filing at any point should they determine that good cause was not adequately shown.
IN-DEPTH GUIDES FOR SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS
- The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts has prepared how-to guides and videos for self-represented litigants. These instructions are specifically for Odyssey eFileIL, the same EFSP that CVLS uses for e-filing.
- Illinois Legal Aid Online has assembled its own instruction materials for self-represented litigants who need assistance with e-filing.