What’s in a Name?

Many know the CBF works with the courts, the legal community, and pro bono and legal aid organizations to ensure that the courts are user-friendly, accessible, and fair for the increasing number of people navigating the legal system without lawyers. What is less known, however, is that work sometimes takes us to Springfield to advocate for changes in the laws that have made the court system unduly complicated in the first place.

While many changes can be implemented at the court level, others are embedded in the fabric of our laws. Several years ago, the CBF recognized that there was a unique opportunity for us to include these kinds of simplification efforts in our annual advocacy plan. But where to start?

The initial target was an easy one to choose: Forcible Entry and Detainer. Used for years by our partners as one of the greatest examples of legalese gone awry, it seemed a natural first target for our plain language efforts.

The bill, sponsored by then Rep. Elgie Sims and Sen. Michael Hastings, was simple in concept: change all statutory references from forcible entry and detainer to eviction, including the title of the Act; and change the similarly confusing name of the order used for evictions from order of possession to eviction order. The bill also required the use of a standardized, plain-language form order to help ensure those changes caught on at the ground level.

Thanks to the efforts of our legislative sponsors, as well as a coalition of supporters, the bill passed with a wide margin of bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Rauner almost exactly one year ago today. Thanks to Public Act 100-0173, and the statewide, standardized form made available by the Illinois Supreme Court (through its Commission on Access to Justice), the eviction process is now more user-friendly and understandable for tenants and landlords alike, a great start on what is now a longer-term priority for the CBF.