February 22, 2021
The 2021 Federal Poverty Level guidelines were released by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services last month. The Access to Justice Commission has updated the FPL annual and monthly charts and the Judicial Bench Card to reflect those changes. Please discard any previous FPL charts and bench cards regarding waivers and use this updated information.
Additionally, Illinois Supreme Court Order M.R. 30370 originally issued on August 27, 2020 and amended February 20, 2021 provides temporary guidance for civil fee and criminal assessment waiver processing to reduce unnecessary in-person court appearances.
First, the M.R. clarifies that Applications for Waiver of Court Fees and Applications for Waiver of Criminal Court Assessments do not need to be filed in-person, but can be e-filed, mailed, or filed through other means permitted by local court. However it is filed, clerks shall transmit the Application to the judge assigned to rule on it.
At that point, the M.R. indicates that the court shall enter a ruling on the Application based on the information in the Application, without conducting a hearing, unless the court determines the Application gives rise to a factual issue. This clarifies what was already in SCR 298 and 404 to emphasize that rulings can be made on the sworn Applications. Avoiding hearings unless there is a factual issue certainly reduces traffic in the courthouse, but also increases efficiency and decreases processing time for judges and clerks.
If the court determines there is a factual issue, the court shall enter an order
- stating the nature of the issue,
- scheduling a hearing on the Application by telephone or video conference, and
- specifying any documents to be submitted in support of the Application.
Hearings on civil fee waiver Applications shall be scheduled promptly, with due regard for the need to provide reasonable notice to the applicant. Hearings on criminal assessment waiver Applications should be held within 5 to 10 business days unless the defense asks for or agrees to a longer delay.
In accordance with SCR 298 and 404, the court may allow the applicant to defer payment, make installment payments, or make payments upon reasonable terms and conditions to avoid any undue hardship. Clerks shall serve the applicant with a copy of all orders regarding their waiver application by email or mail.
If your court would like additional information, training, or hard copies of any ATJ resources, please contact us at AccessToJustice@illinoiscourts.gov.