ILLINOIS (WAND) - The Illinois Supreme Court announced Tuesday 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 COVID-19 Task Force to address the anticipated surge of evictions once the moratoria expire.

“The Court would like to thank the Task Force for its extensive work on the evictions issue,” Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said. “This was done in the true spirit of collaboration to address challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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, like 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.

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 (IDHS), Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), legal non-profit foundations, tenant and landlord attorneys, tenant associations, landlord associations, sheriff’s offices, court staff, alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) organizations, and the Winnebago County Board. 

“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.”

The second new order states 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 and reduce in-court traffic.

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” (defined as a tenant, lessee, sub-lessee, or resident of a residential property who provides to their landlord a qualifying declaration) 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.

If a plaintiff or landlord wants 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.

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