By: Kathryn Hensley, Supervising Senior Program Manager, ATJ Division
The statewide standardized forms initiative has been a cornerstone of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ATJ Commission) since its inception. Forms are a necessary and integral access point to the court system. As such, nearly a decade ago, the ATJ Commission established a Forms Committee to oversee the development of plain language forms aimed to assist self-represented litigants and other vulnerable groups. Statewide standardized forms are governed by Supreme Court Rule 10-101
and M.R. 25401, are free, and must be accepted in all courts in Illinois.
The ATJ Commission’s Forms Committee is the approving body for all statewide standardized forms, and it is chaired by the Honorable Michael Fiello and Honorable Catherine Schneider. Forms Committee and its 13 drafting subcommittee have published 56 form sets with over 350 individual forms. The project is staffed by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Court’s Access to Justice Division (ATJ Division) who work to identify and develop new forms and instructions, oversee annual review of published forms based on submitted comments from the public and court stakeholders, and collaborates with organizations, such as Illinois Legal Aid Online, to create guided interviews and accompanying resources.
In 2021, the ATJ Commission and ATJ Division hired a consultant, Bold Duck Studio, to assist in studying the development process for the creation of standardized forms. The overarching aim of this business process analysis (BPA) was to streamline procedures and to shorten the development time while sustaining the quality and legal sufficiency of the forms.
A Working Group was established to conduct the review, which included representatives from the Forms Committee, drafting subcommittees, and ATJ Division staff. The Working Group outlined existing processes, assessed friction points, and developed workable solutions to improve the development of statewide forms. They also interviewed Illinois court partners involved in the drafting of statewide forms, as well as individuals from other jurisdictions with knowledge of their states’ forms development and workflow processes. They further engaged in exercises to identify key contributors to the delays in finalizing forms, diagnose inefficiencies in the current process, and to flesh out ideas for improvements.
The Working Group then issued recommendations to improve workflow processes, increase the volume of new approved form sets, review forms annually on a systematic basis, utilize technology to manage forms, and create accurate, more user-friendly forms for the public to utilize as an access point to the court system. A report was issued and approved by the Illinois Supreme Court in June 2023 with amendments made to M.R. 25401. ATJ Division staff are now working to implement the BPA recommendations and restructure the drafting process for statewide forms.
The Commission is currently accepting applications for two volunteer positions opening on the Forms Committee in January 2024. You can read more in the Supreme Court’s press release and in the ISBA’s Bar News article. If you are interested, you can apply here.
If you have suggestions or comments regarding statewide forms, please submit them via the Suggestions? buttons on the statewide standardized forms website.