News Releases - Crime/Courts
Written by Tammy R. Wilson   
Thursday, 15 March 2012 07:02
March 5, 2012

Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride and Rock Island County Circuit Clerk Lisa Bierman announced Monday that Rock Island County joins three other Illinois counties in a pilot project to allow e-filing of an electronic trial record on appeal.

The Illinois Supreme Court Order authorized the Illinois Appellate Court in the Third Judicial District to begin a pilot project that will allow attorneys, parties and appellate justices to view, access and work from the official record of cases on appeal from Rock Island County.

Circuit Clerk Bierman said that utilizing the electronic transfer of record in Rock Island County will assist greatly in streamlining the workload in the clerk's office.

"I am very excited as we begin this project together with the Third District Appellate Court," Ms. Bierman said. "Being accepted as a part of this project for electronic transmission of appeals is going to be a way for the Rock Island County Circuit Clerk’s Office to save expenses, improve our time worked on appeals and introduce more technology into our office.

"We have always worked together with our Appellate Court and will continue to do so. I thank the Supreme Court Justices for giving us this opportunity."

Rock Island joins Adams County in the Fourth Judicial District along with DuPage and Ogle Counties in the Second Judicial District to electronically transfer and make electronically accessible the official court record of cases on appeal.

In addition, the Court announced earlier this year a pilot project for the electronic filing of motions, briefs and related documents with the Illinois Supreme Court Clerk's office. That project involves the Illinois Attorney General, the State Appellate Defender's Office and the Office of the Illinois State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.

Chief Justice Kilbride has said making the records on appeal available electronically will bring the courts closer to eventually making e-business universal throughout the Illinois court system. Since he became Chief Justice in October 2010, Justice Kilbride has pledged to move to make Illinois court operations more economical, more efficient and more user friendly by implementing improvements in technology.

"I am delighted that Rock Island County joins others in developing a process to make appeals more efficient and more e-friendly," Chief Justice Kilbride said. "I and my colleagues on the Supreme Court have been encouraging the use of e-business in all of our courts as much as is feasible. This is another step in that direction."

The pilot project is effective immediately in the Third District. It is a joint effort between the Appellate Court under Presiding Appellate Justice Daniel L. Schmidt, Clerk Gist Fleshman of the Third Judicial District, and Circuit Clerk Bierman.

Presiding Appellate Justice Schmidt praised the announcement as an improvement in how the record is obtained, utilized and transmitted. "Well, we're certainly excited about it here," Appellate Justice Schmidt said. "This project will make the record accessible by the touch of a key on the computer. It's an improvement that will make life easier for all involved. With records instantaneously accessible to judges and lawyers, it's going to help expedite the handling of cases on appeal."

"This is a win-win for everyone."

Appellate Justice Tom Lytton from Moline said the Court's announcement paves the way to increased efficiency in handling cases on appeal. "I think this is a wonderful idea that will make for much more efficient work in the Appellate Court," Appellate Justice Lytton said. "To have the record here with little delay will help to get cases ready earlier."

Mr. Fleshman believes e-filing will bring a savings of time and resources to users across the board. "Every single appellate justice gets to view the electronic copy, potentially simultaneously, while with the paper record only one appellate justice can review it at one time. As well, attorneys will not have to wait; they can immediately work on their briefs. Authorized parties will have access to the same record all of the time.

"This is going to be a huge improvement for us, the court, the practicing attorneys and for the public."

The pilot program allows attorneys, parties and appellate justices to electronically view, access and work from the official record of cases on appeal from Rock Island County. However, the paper record will continue to be available to parties who would rather use it.

The accessible electronic record will include transcripts of the trial and associated hearings, motions, other pleadings and documents. It will exclude exhibits: i.e. photos and physical evidence such as weapons, clothing and the like.

Currently, once a notice of appeal is filed, the official record of the case is physically transported to the attorney of record on one side of the case. When that attorney concludes the filing of the necessary motions and briefs, the record is then physically transported to the attorney on the other side of the case. If additional briefs are required, the record is transported back and forth between the attorneys. After the case is argued in the Appellate Court, the record resides with the appellate justice assigned to write the opinion.

The two other appellate justices hearing the case may request the record as well, but it must be physically transported from the justice in possession to the justice who requests possession.

The pilot projects make the physical transfer of the record unnecessary, and removes the cost of repeatedly transporting the record back and forth from the District clerk's office. They provide a stream of efficiency in preparing and working on appeals that benefit not only the lawyers and the court, but the clients being served and taxpayers who fund the courts.

Under the Third District pilot project, a paper record pursuant to Supreme Court rules will remain with the Clerk and be accessible from the Clerk, but a mirror record will be produced electronically with identical pagination.

Attorneys and pro-se litigants who file appearances in the case will receive a password providing access to the record, as well as the justices in the Third District.

Attorneys for the parties, approved court personnel and justices of the Third District will have the ability to search, bookmark and make notes on their individual copy of the electronic record. Any markings or notations made by a user on the electronic record are secure and are unique to that user's copy. No user will be able to view or access another user's copy. The Third District Clerk will retain an unmodified copy of the electronic record at all times.

The electronic record will be in a format that supports searchable text, both word and phrase. Once a mandate is issued in an appellate case from Rock Island County, access to the electronic record will be terminated.