April 20, 2012

Real Estate Broker’s Appeal Dismissed For Lack Of Compliance With Local E-Filing Rules

While their divorce case was pending, Robert and Cindy Andrews signed a listing agreement to sell their house. The real estate broker, VC&M, found a buyer. But the Andrewses rejected the offer, which was for less than their asking price. Instead, Cindy decided to stay in the house, so she agreed to purchase Robert’s half. As part of their marital settlement agreement, Robert transferred his interest to Cindy.

VC&M wanted a commission for introducing the prospective buyer, but the Andrewses refused to pay. So VC&M sued for breach of contract. The Andrewses asked the trial court to dismiss the complaint. VC&M filed an opposition memorandum electronically. Before VC&M’s e-filing, the parties had not stipulated to allow e-filings.

The trial court agreed that VC&M did not state a claim, so the complaint was dismissed. Thirty days later, in another electronic filing, VC&M asked the trial court to reconsider the dismissal. Another month later, VC&M filed a paper copy of its reconsideration request. Another month after that, VC&M e-filed a notice of appeal.

The Andrewses asked the appellate court to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. They argued that the court could not consider the appeal because VC&M had not complied with the local appellate rules for e-filing. The Second District Illinois Appellate Court agreed, and dismissed VC&M’s appeal. This is how the appellate court explained it:

The trial court dismissed with prejudice the amended complaint on February 23, 2011. The record shows that plaintiff [VC&M] e-filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal 30 days later on March 25, 2011. However, as the case was not properly designated an e-filing case, the e-filing of the motion to reconsider violated Local Rule 5.03 and was a nullity. Pursuant to [Illinois Supreme Court] Rule 303, the time to file a postjudgment motion or a notice of appeal elapsed on March 25, 2011 … The hard copy of the motion to reconsider did not extend the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Because the action was not properly designated for e-filing from the beginning, the e-filed postjudgment motion was meaningless and the hard-copy postjudgment motion was filed late.

LocalRule 5.03(d) further dictates that, even in a case properly designated for e-filing, all appellate documents shall be filed in the “conventional manner.” … The conventional manner of filing in the circuit court is in the form of paper documents submitted to the clerk of the court as is done in cases that are not e-filing cases …

Despite Local Rule 5.03’s express prohibition of e-filing appellate documents, plaintiff e-filed the notice of appeal. Plaintiff never filed a paper copy of the notice of appeal. Several months have elapsed since the trial court dismissed the amended complaint and denied the motion to reconsider, the appeal must be dismissed because the e-filed notice of appeal violated Local Rule 5.03 and was also untimely under Rule 303.

This court considered a notice of appeal as an appellate document that has to be filed in the “conventional” manner. A notice of appeal is filed in the trial court. So why not allow it to be filed it electronically? (For that matter, what is the justification for not allowing “post-judgment enforcement proceeding documents and notices” to be e-filed?) The rules should make it easier, and thus less costly to litigants, to file papers with the court. The extra layers of regulation in these local e-filing rules serve just the opposite purpose.

Read the whole opinion, VC&M, Ltd. v. Andrews, 2012 IL App (2d) 110523 (4/16/12), by clicking here.

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May 19, 2010

Incorrectly Coded Notice Of Appeal Sufficient To Give Federal Appellate Court Jurisdiction

Summary judgment was entered against Scot Vince in his civil rights action against Rock County, Wisconsin. Using the court’s mandatory electronic filing system, Vince’s lawyer filed a notice of appeal on the last day allowed by the rule. The system requires an event code for each document filed. Vince’s lawyer identified the notice of appeal with the wrong code.

Three days later, the clerk of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals discovered the mistake and notified Vince’s lawyer. He was directed to file the document again with the correct code. He did so three days later.

So the issue was whether the notice of appeal was timely filed. If the court would accept the first notice, incorrectly coded, then jurisdiction would be established and the appeal could go forward. If only the re-filed notice, correctly coded but filed six days after the deadline, were accepted, then the appellate court would be deprived of jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

The federal appellate court accepted the first notice of appeal because the coding mistake “was an error of form.” The filing was not “so riddled with errors that it cannot fairly be considered a notice of appeal.”

Read the whole case, Vince v. Rock County, Wisconsin, No. 10-1659 (5/3/10), by clicking here.

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November 28, 2008

After-Hours Electronic Filing In Illinois Commerce Commission Acceptable

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that an e-filing in the Illinois Commerce Commission on the final deadline date, but after the close of business, was a timely filing. We first reported on this case when the supreme court agreed to take the appeal from the Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court, which reached an opposite conclusion.

The supreme court ruled that the Commission’s regulation that allowed electronic filing was ambiguous because it “contains no indication whether filing requires actual physical acceptance by a human being in the chief clerk’s office.” The court’s decision thus turned on the Commission’s policy of encouraging electronic filing.

“The entirety of the Commission’s enactment seeks to expand, rather than limit, the ability of parties to make use of the e-docket system. Insisting on a deadline of 5 p.m. would have the opposite effect, limiting the use of e-filing. When faced with a tight deadline, a 5 p.m. rule would encourage attorneys to print, and mail, large documents rather than use the efficient and economical method of electronic filing that the Commission’s rules promote.”

Don’t get too excited, though. The case does not make a broad rule that e-filing after usual business hours always will be acceptable. A jurisdiction is free under this opinion to place a business-hours deadline on an e-filing. “Indeed, the extent to which other jurisdictions have enacted business hours deadlines also serves to underscore the Commission’s own decision not to issue an explicit rule.”

Read the whole opinion, People v. Illinois Commerce Commission, No. 105131 (11/20/08), by clicking here

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March 27, 2007

Illinois Supreme Court Asked To Review After-Hours Electronic Filing

If you’re filing electronically, and it’s after 4:30 p.m., what is the official date of the filing? Is it the actual date, albeit after the clerk’s office is closed, or is it the next day? The answer can make a big difference. Either you’re late or you’re on time. Either you invoke jurisdiction or you don’t. Maybe the court reads your filing or it doesn’t.

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required) yesterday reported that the Illinois Supreme Court has been asked to review this question in City of Chicago v. Illinois Commerce Commission, et al., No. 104361. The question in that case was whether an electronic filing for rehearing of the the ICC's decision preserved jurisdiction.

In the Northern District of Illinois, the federal court allows electronic filings till midnight to count on the day filed. In the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois, where e-filing still is voluntary, an after-hours filing is considered filed the following day. The idea there is that parties who do not have access to e-filing should not be placed at a disadvantage.

The DuPage rule is deference to an age when there were no options to physically filing paper in the clerk’s office. Non-e-filers are not at a disadvantage. They simply have to recognize that the office closes at 4:30 p.m., and act accordingly – the same as always.

The only people who may have some trouble e-filing are non-lawyers who have small claims cases. Some mechanism can be worked out to give these folks an option to file paper.

But virtually all lawyers have access to a broadband connection, and thus to e-filing. Any lawyer who doesn’t have that option should get it immediately. It’s the cost — hopefully a declining one — of doing business.

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