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Ill. Supreme Court approves temporary orders for eviction cases, electronic signatures

Courts are directed to resources and sample materials to develop their own eviction early resolution programs.
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Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 4:30 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Illinois Supreme Court announced two new temporary orders and one amended order regarding eviction cases and electronic signatures in Illinois courts.

The orders were first proposed by the Illinois Judicial Conference Court Operations during a COVID-19 Task Force meeting to address the anticipated surge of evictions once the moratoria expire and improve access to justice for self-represented litigants.

The orders are available on the court website by clicking here.

The first new order authorizes and encourages every Illinois judicial circuit to establish early resolution programs to allow for alternative dispute resolution of eviction cases, such as mediation and online dispute resolution. The circuits may choose to make such programs voluntary or it may require mandatory participation by litigants as a prerequisite to hearing.

“When the State and Federal eviction moratoriums come to an end, we anticipate a surge of pent up eviction filings,” Chief Judge Doherty said. “Our committee felt that it was important to encourage circuits to consider alternative dispute resolution programs as a way to help deal with the surge and to help landlords and tenants connect to the financial assistance that is available to them,” according to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In response to the court’s request for ideas to address the eviction crisis, the task force convened a subcommittee made up of representatives from all areas of the state and from the following groups: judges, legal aid organizations, bar associations, Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois Housing Development Authority, legal non-profit foundations, tenant and landlord attorneys, tenant associations, landlord associations, sheriff’s offices, court staff, alternative dispute resolution organizations and the Winnebago County Board. The subcommittee was chaired by 17th Circuit Chief Judge Eugene G. Doherty.

Courts are directed to resources and sample materials to develop their own eviction early resolution programs, available here. This site will be continually updated.

The second new order states that all courts shall accept all electronically and conventionally filed documents — as defined in the Supreme Court of Illinois Electronic Signature Standards — that are electronically or digitally signed, provided the signature and document comply with M.R. 18368.

This order is intended to promote remote pro bono and self-help services as well as reduce in court traffic and achieve uniformity in the state with regards to documents that are filed bearing the electronic signature “/s/ Name,” according to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The third order amends the order approved in May 2020, “In re: Illinois Courts Response to COVID-19 Emergency.” The amendment states that eviction cannot commence against a “covered person.” A covered person is defined as a tenant, lessee, sub-lessee, or resident of a residential property who provides to their landlord a qualifying declaration, and who does not owe rent unless that person poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants or an immediate and severe risk to property, according to the court.

If a plaintiff or landlord wishes to challenge the accuracy of a declaration of a “covered person,” they need to file a motion with the court requesting a hearing on that issue at the time when a complaint and certification form are filed, according to the court.

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