March 30, 2021
On March 26, 2021, the Illinois Supreme Court entered M.R. 3140 approving amendments to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 10-101. The amendments go into effect on July 1, 2021. Rule 10-101 vests the Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission (ATJ Commission) with the authority to develop standardized court forms for self-represented litigants and required acceptance of the forms. The amendments place certain obligations on individual courts as to the use and dissemination of the approved forms.
The changes stem from the work of the Illinois Judicial Conference ( “Conference”). The Conference is currently operating under a three-year Strategic Agenda (Agenda) that was approved by the Illinois Supreme Court in October of 2019. The Agenda ’s first strategic goal is “Accessible Justice & Equal Protection Under the Law,” and the first strategy of this strategic goal is to “ [e]stablish and expand services and resources to assist self-represented litigants and non-English speaking court users.”
To serve that goal, the Conference asked the ATJ Commission to examine Illinois Supreme Court Rule 10-101 and propose amendments to increase the use of the standardized court forms statewide. First, the ATJ Commission investigated what issues have been raised regarding the use of standardized forms and found:
- Multiple counties report specific instances of judges, clerks, law librarians, or other court staff refusing to disseminate or accept the standardized forms in favor of local forms.
- Many courts across the state do not provide the standardized forms on their website (if they have one) or in hard copy within the courthouse.
- Certain courts promote local forms that often are not drafted in plain language, are no longer legally sufficient and fail to provide litigants with additional procedural information about how to complete the legal process. Outdated forms may also require litigants to complete more steps than what is required under the current law (for example, getting a form notarized).
- Certain courts have multiple versions of the same form in circulation which can create confusion for litigants, judges, and court staff.
- Without standardization, it is challenging to design and implement statewide self-help resources. The needs for these resources is greater than ever before with the introduction of mandatory, statewide e-filing.
The ATJ Commission submitted proposed amendments to address these issues to the Conference for its approval. The Conference gave its unanimous support and submitted the proposal to the Court for its consideration.
In short, the amendments require that after a standardized court form is published, courts cannot have or use local forms for the same legal remedy. Also, all courts must promote the standardized court forms.
These amendments are intended to:
- Increase standardization in court procedures and simplify procedures for self-represented litigants.
- Reduce the confusion, inconsistency, and risk associated with the use of non-standardized forms.
- Reduce the frequency of rejections of standardized form in favor of a local or alternative form.
- Ensure legally compliant forms and associated self-help resources are available promoted and used by courts.
- Increase access to self-help resources, including technology-based resources and translated resources.
A complete list of currently published standardized court forms can be found here.