Illinois Circuit Court
The Illinois Circuit Court is the court of original jurisdiction in the State of Illinois.
There are twenty-three circuits in the state, five of which are single county circuits (Cook, Will/12th, DuPage/18th, Lake/19th, and McHenry/22nd). The remaining eighteen circuits contain two to twelve counties per circuit. The circuit court can decide, with few exceptions, any kind of case. The exceptions are redistricting of the general assembly and the ability of the governor to serve or resume office. The Circuit Court also shares jurisdiction with the Supreme Court to hear cases relating to revenue, mandamus, prohibition, and habeas corpus. However, if the Supreme Court chooses to exercise its jurisdiction over these cases, the circuit court may not decide them. Finally, the circuit court also reviews administrative orders from certain state agencies.
There are two kinds of judges in the circuit court: circuit judges and associate judges. Circuit judges are elected for six years, may be retained by voters for additional six year terms, and can hear any kind of case. Circuit judges are elected on a circuit-wide basis or from the county where they reside. In Cook County, circuit judges are elected from the entire county or as resident judges from each of the fifteen subcircuits within the county. Associate judges are appointed by circuit judges, under supreme court rules, for four-year terms. An associate judge can hear any case, except criminal cases punishable by a prison term of one year or more, unless the associate judge has received approval from the supreme court to hear other criminal cases.
Circuit judges in a circuit elect one of their members to serve as chief circuit court judge. Cases may be assigned to general or specialized divisions by the chief judge who has general administrative authority in the circuit, subject to the overall administrative authority of the supreme court.
Circuit Court Administrative Matters
Conference of Chief Circuit Judges
The Conference meets regularly to discuss issues related to the administration of justice in the circuit courts and other matters referred to the Conference by the supreme court. The Conference of Chief Circuit Judges is composed of the chief circuit judges from the twenty three Illinois judicial circuits. Judge S. Gene Schwarm, Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, serves as chairperson of the Conference; Judge Stephen D. White, Chief Judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, is vicechairperson. The Administrative Office serves as secretary to the Conference.
The committees of the Conference include the Article V Committee, Committee on Forms, Committee to Revise the Chief Circuit Judges' Manual, Domestic Relations Committee, Jury Panel Representation Committee, Juvenile Committee, Long-Range Planning Committee, Orientation Committee, Prison Committee, Probation Committee, Speciality Courts Committee and several ad hoc committees convened to study specific, short-term subject matter.
Activities during 2006 included the establishment of the Jury Panel Representation Committee, which was convened to study jury practices in Illinois and make recommendations on improving minority representation on jury panels. The Long Range Planning Committee hosted three seminars in 2006 on case management, courthouse and judicial security, and fair jury representation. The Article V Committee received authorization from the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges to convene a sub-committee on Bonds, Fines and Court Appearances. That sub-committee is charged with making a recommendation on what traffic violations should have a required court appearance and to study the bonding procedures of the Article V Rules. The Conference created an ad hoc committee on new Supreme Court child custody rules. It was established to study the mediation aspects and implications of the 900 Series Rules of the Supreme Court on the trial courts. This committee was also charged with developing a model set of rules for approval by the Conference and adoption by local circuit courts.
During 2006, the Article V Committee, Domestic Relations Committee, Committee on Forms, Juvenile Committee, Prison Committee, Speciality Courts Committee, and Probation Committee continued to monitor and analyze new legislation and Supreme Court Rules relevant to their particular subject matter. As necessary, related forms, policy, orders, etc. were modified in accordance with the new provisions.