Articles Posted in E-Filing

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.

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 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.”

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.

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