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Illinois Bar Journal

Illinois has become a center of biometric privacy litigation. The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act is the only one in the nation that allows private parties to sue and has a fee-shifting provision allowing plaintiffs to recover attorney fees.

And biometric privacy lawsuits are in the news - there has been a spike in litigation against employers over fingerprints and other biometric data. Biometric data is a measurement or copy of a unique physical characteristic of an individual. It can be a fingerprint, retina or iris scan, voiceprints, hand scans, or facial geometry.

In March 2016, Google faced a class-action lawsuit alleging violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (see "Class action suit alleges Google is violating Illinoisans' 'biometric' privacy," May 2016 LawPulse, at http://bit.ly/2zE4FRQ). As of November 11, 2017, the case is still in the discovery phase.

Most new lawsuits in Illinois are based on employers and retail businesses that allegedly fail to obtain written authorization before collecting fingerprint scans ("Spike in IL lawsuits vs employers over fingerprints, other biometric data may be just the beginning," Cook County Record, at http://bit.ly/2jqsTc0).

Find out more in the December Illinois Bar Journal.

In a veto session conducted under the shadow of sexual harassment allegations by female lobbyists and others, the Illinois General Assembly overrode Governor Rauner's vetoes of many bills. Among the new laws:

Illinois Student Loan Servicing Rights Act. Legislators overrode the veto of Senate Bill 1351, which was championed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Also known as the Illinois Student Loan Servicing Rights Act, the Act introduces licensing requirements for servicing student loans in Illinois.

It also establishes a "Student Loan Bill of Rights," which prohibits certain servicing practices, imposing various requirements upon student loan servicers. The Act allows the Attorney General to enforce violations under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Criminal justice reform. The General Assembly made more strides towards criminal justice reform during the veto session. In particular, HB 184 has been amended to reduce some burdens placed on parolees and to give courts more latitude in determining sentencing.

Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefit Act. The legislature overrode Governor Rauner's amendatory veto of SB 302, which amends the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefit Act. The bill expanded the Act's scope to include lapsed and terminated life insurance policies. It also requires insurers to compare policies, annuity contracts, and retained asset files to the full Death Master File to determine whether there are unclaimed benefits.

Find out more in the December Illinois Bar Journal.

The preparation for "E-Day" - January 1, 2018, the first day civil circuit court cases across Illinois must be filed electronically - was arguably the most momentous development for the Illinois legal system in 2017, unless something bigger emerges in the final month.

But there were plenty of other significant stories, from the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case arising out of Illinois that could have a major impact on labor law, to an Illinois Supreme Court case on the ability to tax charitable hospitals, to county lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies related to opioid abuse.

For example, starting in 2018, Illinois attorneys and firms that do not carry malpractice insurance will be required to complete a four-hour, interactive, online assessments of their firms' ethics and business practices under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(e), as amended in January 2017.

Also, the interdisciplinary model of conflict resolution known as collaborative law will be formally codified here through the Illinois Collaborative Process Act, which takes effect January 1. 

And the Illinois legislature took a step aimed at ensuring that the formula to determine child support payments is fair and equitable when it passed Public Act 99-764, an amendment to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

Find out more about these and other 2017 developments in the December Illinois Bar Journal.

On September 22, 2017, HB 2537 became Public Act 100-0520. It makes changes to the Code of Civil Procedure and the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which has been the subject of a major overhaul in the past few years. The law takes effect June 1, 2018.

One major change during the Act's first overhaul was to make it gender-neutral to better include same-sex marriages within the language of the statute. Some portions of the new law seem geared towards cleaning up remaining language that wasn't gender neutral. It also streamlines the process for name changes, rewrites the calculation for the duration of spousal maintenance, and raises the combined income ceiling for couples to whom the maintenance guidelines apply from $250,000 to $500,000.

Perhaps the biggest change in the new law appears in 750 ILCS 5/504, which involves the calculation of spousal maintenance and its duration. It also increases the gross-income ceiling for cases to which the guidelines apply from $250,000 per year to $500,000 per year.

Under the current math, the duration of maintenance is calculated based on five-year chunks of time. For instance, a marriage that lasted five years or less receives different treatment than one that lasted more than five but less than 10 years. Under the new law, calculating the duration of maintenance takes a more granular approach that seems more logical. For instance, it seems arbitrary that a one-day difference in filing for divorce can result in a doubling of the modifier used to determine how long a spouse will receive maintenance.

Find out more about P.A. 100-0520 in the November Illinois Bar Journal


Mandatory e-filing goes into effect across Illinois on January 1 (you knew that, right?), and one task that belongs at the top of every law firm's to-do list is choosing from among the "electronic filing service providers" who are the pathways to the e-filing system. No service provider, no e-filing. It is not a DIY project.

The service providers, also known as EFSPs, offer a myriad of features that lawyers will need to compare and contrast in making their decision: prices and payment options, support features like call center hours and web browsers served, and additional services like document conversion, extended document storage, detailed or simpler reporting, and proof of service to other parties.

By mid-September, the vast majority of those in Illinois who had signed up, about 93 percent, had chosen Odyssey eFileIL, a free service provided by Tyler Technologies, the vendor hired by the Illinois courts to implement e-filing statewide.That sign-up pattern is typical of other states in which Tyler Technologies has worked, at least at the outset, says Terry Derrick, senior director of e-solutions for the Texas-based company. He notes that in Texas, where Tyler has provided services for a few years, 79 percent of filers currently use Odyssey.

"The majority of the filing community will start with a free solution to see if that will meet their needs," he says. "If it doesn't…they will venture out and look at value-added services offered by the other EFSPs."

Divorcing clients have a range of estate planning needs, but some issues arise for nearly everyone whose marriage is ending, notes Chicago lawyer and ISBA member Lauren Evans DeJong. So be prepared to counsel your divorcing client about the following five estate-planning tasks.

Changing beneficiary designations. These include removing the soon-to-be ex as beneficiary "of [the client's] life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts, land trusts, and annuities," DeJong writes. Also review "transfer on death or payable on death bank or brokerage accounts, land conveyed by transfer on death deeds, and employee benefits."

Controlling access to online accounts. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, 755 ILCS 70/1 et seq., which took effect last year, "provides a priority system for individuals to specifically control disclosure of digital assets and content of electronic communications" on social media, email, and the like.

"Many clients will not want their…ex to have access to their e-mails, Facebook or Instagram accounts, financial or banking information, diaries, or other personal information," DeJong writes.

"Individuals can use online tools established by providers [e.g., Google's Inactive Account Manager and Facebook's Legacy Contact] to direct disclosure of digital assets," she writes. "[A]n online tool…takes precedence over any other method of directing disclosure." Another option is to draft a statement directing disclosure, which can be included in a client's will, trust, or POA.


Most home purchases, unless they are cash deals, involve a mortgage loan. Since the real estate market crashed in 2008, a lesser-used path towards home ownership has been on the rise - owner financing. Also known as an installment contract, owner financing allows a buyer to live in a home while paying the seller the purchase price over time.

However, the practice is ripe for abuse because the purchaser doesn't actually own the home until the balance is paid in full. That means the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law - and its protections for homeowners - doesn't apply in the event of a default. A simple eviction action is all it takes to divest the would-be purchaser of what may be a significant financial investment. On August 25, 2017, Governor Rauner approved Public Act 100-0416, also known as the Installment Sales Contract Act, which is designed to provide protection for purchasers.

According to a March 2017 report by The Chicago Reader (http://bit.ly/2ulgc2X), installment sales contracts are seeing a resurgence in Cook County, particularly in poorer communities that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. According to the Reader, Illinois law doesn't require that these contracts be recorded or otherwise registered with the state, which makes it difficult to know just how many exist.


It may come as a surprise to more than a few lawyers, but as of July 1, 2017, faxing documents is no longer a proper method for serving them. What's more, attorneys must include an email address at which they can be served with documents on their appearances and pleadings.

Why? Because the Illinois Supreme Court revised Illinois Supreme Court Rule 11 to mandate email service of documents filed with the court. It also eliminates facsimile service entirely. The changes were announced June 22.

The effective date of the rule amendments coincides with the day the supreme and appellate court were required to switch to the new e-filing system (circuit courts make the switch on January 1). The supreme court has made its intention clear - modernizing Illinois' court system is a priority.

According to new Rule 11(c), documents must be served via email unless certain exceptions apply. Documents may be attached to the email, or the serving party can include a link in the body of the email that will allow the recipient to download documents from a reliable service provider. If an email is rejected or otherwise returned as undelivered, the emailing party is responsible for ensuring that the document is actually delivered.


It's not unusual to hear judges and lawyers - mostly judges - talk about how many pro se litigants they encounter these days. And the eye-popping statistics more than bear out the anecdotal evidence.

Data from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts ("AOIC") show that in 2015, nearly two-thirds of total civil cases outside Cook County - 65.2 percent - had at least one self-represented litigant. For certain types of cases, this figure rises as high as 80 percent. In addition, the court system is facing the facts that one out of five Illinois residents speaks a language other than English at home according to U.S. Census data, the number of Illinois residents below the poverty line has grown, and the number of pro bono attorneys has not kept pace.

"People are self-represented for a whole host of reasons," says Danielle Hirsch, assistant director of the AOIC's Civil Justice Division. "Some can't afford representation, some don't know where to find it, and some are do-it-yourselfers who want the sport of trying it on their own. It would be hard to treat them as a monolith." Hirsch adds that in practice areas like small claims or family, "the default is self-representation." And defendants overall are about two-thirds pro se, she says.

In June, three New Jersey Supreme Court committees jointly barred the state's lawyers from using Avvo's client-linking service. State regulators found that the "marketing fee" taken by Avvo from the payment consumers make to lawyers for flat-fee services via its referral system is improper fee-splitting with nonlawyers and an unethical lawyer-referral payment (Avvo argues that it does not violate ethical rules (http://bit.ly/2i2xgsK)). New Jersey regulators also found that LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer operate legal service plans that were not registered with the State of New Jersey. (Both entities have since registered.)

What does this opinion mean for Illinois attorneys? As a preliminary matter, not very much. New Jersey regulates its attorneys, just like Illinois regulates its own, says Tim Moran, the chair of the ISBA's Standing Committee on the Future of Legal Services and immediate past chair of the ISBA Unauthorized Practice of Law Task Force. The New Jersey rulings don't have any effect on Illinois attorneys. However, the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct also prohibit fee-sharing with nonlawyers. And ISBA General Counsel Charles Northrup notes that ethics opinions in South Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have also found the Avvo marketing fee to constitute improper fee-sharing and referral fees.

Find out more in the September Illinois Bar Journal.