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Illinois Courts

The Illinois Supreme Court

Article VI, the Judicial Article of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, provides for a unified, three-tiered judiciary -- Circuit Court, Appellate Court and Supreme Court. The Illinois Supreme Court is the highest court in the State. Cases are normally channeled to the Supreme Court from the Appellate Court, but in cases where a Circuit Court has imposed a death sentence, the law allows direct appeal to the Supreme Court, bypassing the Appellate Court. The Supreme Court can pass rules to allow direct appeals in other cases. The Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction in matters that involve legislative redistricting and determining the ability of the Governor to serve in office. The Supreme Court also has discretionary original jurisdiction in cases relating to State revenue and writs of mandamus, prohibition or habeas corpus. The Illinois State Supreme Court is comprised of seven Justices; three represent the First Appellate Judicial District (Cook County) and one each represents the remaining four Appellate Judicial Districts. A majority vote of four is required to decide a case.

The Illinois Appellate Court

The Illinois Appellate Court is divided into five Judicial Districts. Cook County comprises the entire First Judicial District, with the rest of the State being divided into the remaining four judicial districts of "substantially equal population, each of which shall be compact and composed of contiguous counties." Eighteenth is in the Third District Appellate Court is located in Ottawa and hears cases appealed from trial courts in 7 counties (Bureau, DuPage, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, LaSalle and Will). View a map of the Illinois Appellate Judicial Districts. Any party has a right to appeal a decision of the Circuit Court to the Appellate Court, except the State's Attorney, who cannot appeal a verdict of not guilty. Attorneys present arguments to the Appellate Court about whether the trial court made an error in applying the law. They do not re-litigate the facts of the original trial. Three judges hear an appellate case and a majority vote of two is required to decide the case.

The Appellate Court affirms the trial court decision if it finds there has been no error committed in the application of the law, or if the error was so minimal that it made little difference in the outcome of the trial. The Appellate Court may reverse the trial court decision or remand the case for a new trial if there has been a substantive error in the application of the law. In this instance the case is normally sent back to the Circuit Court for further action.

The Illinois Circuit Courts

The State of Illinois is divided into 24 Judicial Circuits. Each Judicial Circuit is comprised of one or more contiguous counties. Circuit Courts, also known as trial courts, are established within each judicial circuit. The Circuit Court is a court of general jurisdiction, which means it has original jurisdiction in all matters except those limited cases in which the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction. The trial courts hear a wide variety of civil and criminal cases, ranging from small claim actions to domestic relations to criminal felonies. View a map of the Illinois Judicial Circuits. There are two types of judges in the Circuit Court: Circuit Judges and Associate Judges. All judges must be licensed attorneys and are officials of the State of Illinois. Circuit Judges are initially elected for a six-year term, either on a circuit-wide basis or from their county of residence. Thereafter, every six years they must run circuit-wide for retention. The Circuit Judges elect a Chief Judge using guidelines established by local court rules; the Chief Judge provides administrative guidance to the entire circuit. Associate Judges are appointed on a merit basis by the Circuit Judges for a four-year term. hereafter, they are considered for retention by the Circuit Judges every four years. Associate Judges may hear all types of cases except felony matters, for which they must receive authorization from the Supreme Court. The Circuit Court is part of the judicial branch of government. Financing is provided from three sources: (1) State funds which finance the Mandatory Arbitration Program, as well as salaries and benefits of judges and court reporters; (2) State funds which provide reimbursement to the counties to offset the costs of several positions in Court Services (Probation); and (3) county revenues. In order to maintain a productive organization, the judges and their staff work closely with the County Board and County Administrator's Office in the areas of automation, personnel management, budgeting, purchasing and building maintenance.

Illinois Courts

In 1964, the Illinois Constitution was amended by the voters to consolidate the court system in the state. As a result of this consolidation, there are three levels of courts: Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and Circuit Court. The Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the State of Illinois. It has seven justices who are elected from the respective judicial districts for a term of ten years. The Supreme Court has general administration and supervisory authority over all the courts in the State of Illinois. The Appellate Court hears appeals from the Circuit Court. There are five appellate Court districts in Illinois. Cook County comprises the first district. The remaining 101 counties in the state are divided into four districts. DuPage County is in the 3rd District, and the appellate court is located in Ottawa, Illinois. Judges of the Appellate Courts are elected from their respective districts for a term of ten years. The Unified Trial Court is the Circuit Court. Circuit Judges are elected from their respective circuits for a term of six years. Associate Judges serve in the circuit and are appointed by the Circuit Judges for a term of four years. One Circuit Judge is elected by vote of all the Circuit Judges to serve a three year term as Chief Judge. The Chief Judge has general administrative authority in the circuit, subject to the overall authority of the Supreme Court. Circuit Judges may hear any type of case assigned to them. Associate Judges may hear any matter assigned to them, except the trial of a criminal case in which the defendant is charged with an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Associate Judges may be given special permission from the Supreme Court to hear these cases. The Circuit Court Clerk is the keeper of the records and files of the Circuit Court and is elected by the voters of DuPage County for a term of four years. DuPage, Cook and Will Counties are single circuit counties which means that the boundaries of the circuit are the same as the county.

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