Resources for Self-Represented Litigants in Civil Appeals

PLEASE NOTE: The Illinois Supreme Court has issued extensions for deadlines in the Appellate Court and Supreme Court. Please see the Illinois Courts website for information about your local courthouse or contact the clerk in your county or appellate district.

NOTA IMPORTANTE: La Corte Suprema de Illinois ha concedido extensiones de tiempo para los trámites en el Tribunal de Apelaciones y la Corte Suprema. Sírvase visitar al sitio de Internet de Illinois para información acerca del juzgado de su localidad o comuníquese con el actuario de su condado o distrito de apelaciones.

These resources may help in answering questions about a civil appeal.  This page includes links to rules, forms, guides, videos, and other materials that may help in understanding what is required to file and complete an appeal.

General Case Information 

There are five appellate districts in Illinois.  Use this map to locate the district in which an appeal should be filed.

Questions concerning a pending appeal, deadlines for an appeal, issues or concerns about e-filing, and specific local appellate district rules can be directed to the Appellate Clerk’s office in which your appeal has or will be filed. Contact information is available here:  Appellate Court Clerk’s Office.

Legal Information

Information about Illinois laws and legal procedure can be found at the Illinois Compiled Statutes and the Illinois Supreme Court Rules.  Civil appeals are governed by Illinois Supreme Court Rules 301-384.

Each appellate district has local rules that must be followed.  You can find rules for each appellate district under the “Local Rules” section on the Illinois Courts’ website.

Legal Assistance

If you are representing yourself and have a question about your civil appeal, you can now submit your question to the Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals website and have it answered by a pro bono lawyer. You must meet income qualifications to use the program. More information about how to use the program can be found in this postcard or flyer. Here are some tips on using the program:

1. If available, please attach a copy of the order or judgment you are appealing along with the question you submit via the website. This will help in getting an answer more quickly.
2. Questions are answered as received and you can typically expect an answer within 5-7 days of submitting it. If you have an immediate deadline, you will have the option to enter that deadline along with your question, so that it is flagged for a quicker response.
3. You should regularly check the email address you provided to register for the program. All communication will be done via email (no in-person meetings or telephone calls) and if you do not respond to the pro bono lawyer within 10 days, your question will be marked as “closed” and no further communication can occur between you and the pro bono lawyer.
4. DISCLAIMER: This program does not provide legal representation for litigants. A pro bono lawyer cannot represent you in court, make calls on your behalf, or conduct legal research for you. The program also cannot assist you in a federal or criminal appeal.

For help finding a lawyer who specializes in appeals and who can represent you for a fee, please contact the Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (in Chicago) or the Illinois State Bar Association LawyerFinder (outside Chicago). If you are looking for a lawyer outside of Illinois, please visit the American Bar Association’s Find Legal Help.

If you are a self-represented litigant seeking help with a federal case, please see the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois’ Information for People without Lawyers (Pro Se) page. Appeals from the Northern District of Illinois are filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Seventh Circuit Bar Association publishes videos that provide an overview of the steps involved in the federal appellate process.

Frequently Asked Questions about Civil Appeals

The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) provides a guide of frequently asked questions relating to civil appeals in the Illinois Appellate Court (it does not cover criminal appeals). It is intended to assist self-represented litigants with understanding the steps necessary to file a civil appeal by addressing commonly asked questions about the process.
You may view individual sections below:

Guides and General Overviews

The AOIC’s Guide for Appeals to the Illinois Appellate Court for Self-Represented Litigants provides detailed information about civil appeals. The guide provides a detailed overview of the civil appeals process, including rules, deadlines, frequently asked questions, and a checklist for filing in the appellate courts.

The AOIC publishes a one-page overview of a civil appeal from a final order or judgment.

The AOIC publishes an overview explaining how to file common Motions to request more time for your civil appeal.

The Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court publishes a Guide to Bringing an Appeal, which highlights the steps necessary to file an appeal.

The Appellate Lawyers Association publishes A Guide to Illinois Civil Appellate Procedure, which provides a comprehensive overview of civil appeals. The guide includes timelines, tips on conducting research to write briefs, and sample forms, which includes a sample appellant’s brief, appellee’s brief, and appellant’s reply brief (all with citations) for your review.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Civil Appeals Division’s website has an FAQ section and forms available for use (for appeals within the First Appellate District only).

ILAO publishes an article on the civil appellate process  

Resources for Conducting Legal Research to Write an Appellate Brief

The Illinois Supreme Court Library publishes research guides that provide a starting point for conducting research in certain areas of law for civil appeals. The guides provide general definitions of terms you may encounter and references specific books and websites that a self-represented litigant may wish to consult when writing an appellate brief.

The University of Illinois Law Library publishes a Self-Representation Guide intended to assist self-represented litigants with conducting basic legal research. It provides an overview of available legal resources and materials for conducting legal research in federal and state courts.

The Chicago Association of Law Libraries publishes Finding Illinois Law: A Librarian’s Guide for Non-Lawyerswhich is a guide aimed at assisting non-lawyers with understanding the legal system, conducting legal research, and locating resources. 

E-filing Information

If you have questions about e-filing, please contact your local Appellate Clerk’s Office for further assistance.  The AOIC also offers some guides on how to e-file.  Please note, all appeals must be e-filed.  There are a few exceptions per below:

You must electronically file (e-file) all court documents in civil cases in Illinois unless:

(1) you are an inmate in a prison or jail and you do not have a lawyer;
(2) you are filing a will;
(3) you are filing into a juvenile court case;
(4) you have a disability that prevents you from e-filing; or
(5) for good cause. The first four exemptions are automatic and you do not need to submit additional paperwork.
The fifth exemption (good cause) requires you to fill out and file a Certification for Exemption from E-Filing (found here: www.illinoiscourts.gov/Forms/approved/default.asp), and to check off one of the following reasons to be exempt from e-filing:
(a) I am representing myself and do not have the Internet or a computer in my home. My only access is through a public terminal at a courthouse, library, or other location. This poses a financial or other hardship.
(b) I am representing myself and have trouble reading, writing, or speaking in English.
(c) I am filing a document in a sensitive case, such as a petition for an order of protection or a civil no contact/stalking order.
For a general overview of e-filing, please review this flyer.  For information about how to successfully e-file in Odyssey eFileIL, please see the following step-by-step guides.
1. Prepare Your Documents (Appeals)
2. Register to E-File (Appeals)
3. Sign-In to Your Account (Appeals)
4. Create a New Password if You Forgot It (Appeals)
5. Add a Payment Account (Appeals)
6. Enter Case Information (Appeals)
7. Upload Your Documents in the Filings Section (Appeals)
8. Add Service Contacts (Appeals)
9. Pay Fees (Appeals)
10. Review the Summary & Submit Your E-filing (Appeals)
The Second Appellate District also publishes guides to assist litigants with e-filing  – Guide for Filers Filing Documents on EFileIL and How to Receive Records via Odyssey EfileIL.
If you are filing an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, the Court publishes an Electronic Filing Procedures and User Manual for the Supreme Court of Illinois.