Circuit Court of Cook County

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
One of the Circuit Court's courthouses

The Circuit Court of Cook County is the largest of the 24 circuits in Illinois as well as one of the largest unified court systems in the United States — second only in size to the Superior Court of Los Angeles County since that court merged with other courts in 1998.

The Cook County Circuit Court was created through a 1964 amendment to the Illinois Constitution which reorganized the courts of Illinois.[1] The amendment effectively merged the often confusing and overlapping jurisdictions of Cook County's 161 courts into one uniform and cohesive court of general jurisdiction.

More than 2.4 million cases are filed every year. To accommodate its vast caseload, the Circuit Court of Cook County is organized into three functional departments: County, Municipal, and Juvenile Justice and Child Protection.[2]

As of December 2014, the court has 402 judges. [3] Among them, 257 of the judges are circuit judges, who are elected for six-year terms either at-large from across the entire county, or from one of the court's 15 residential subcircuits. Circuit judges must be retained by voters every six years. The Illinois Supreme Court can fill circuit judge vacancies between elections. Any court-appointed judges must go before voters at the next available primary and general election in even-numbered year.

As of December 2014, seven judges currently elected as circuit judges are instead serving as justices on the Illinois Appellate Court's First District through Supreme Court appointments. Should their term on the appellate court expire before their elected circuit court terms, they will revert to their old positions.

Another 145 judges are associate judges, elected by secret ballot among the court's circuit judges.

The circuit judges also elect among themselves a chief judge for the court, who holds the power to assign judges to various calls throughout the court. Circuit Judge Timothy C. Evans has served as chief judge since September 2001.

Dorothy Brown is the current Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County — an elected position charged with managing the court's vast amounts of documents.

County Department[edit]

The County Department is divided into the following divisions: Law, Chancery, Domestic Relations, County, Probate, Criminal, Domestic Violence, and Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies.[4] Each division is headed by a presiding judge. The types of cases heard in each division depend on the nature of the controversy.

Law Division[edit]

The Law Division hears civil suits for recovery of monetary damages in excess of $30,000 in the city of Chicago, and in excess of $100,000 in the suburban districts, as well as many types of administrative reviews. Cases heard include: personal injury/wrongful death, motor vehicle injury, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, product liability, intentional tort, construction injuries, commercial litigation, fraud, breach of contract, breach of warranty, employment security, property damage, premises liability, and miscellaneous remedies.

Chancery Division[edit]

The Chancery Division hears actions and proceedings, regardless of the amount of the claim, concerning a variety of matters. The division consists two sections: General Chancery Section and the Mortgage Foreclosure/Mechanics Lien Section. The General Chancery Section hears the following types of actions: injunctions, class actions, declaratory judgments, contract matters, creditors' rights, construction of wills and trusts, trusteeships, receiverships, dissolution of partnerships and corporations, statutory and administrative reviews, and vehicle impoundments, among others.

The Mortgage Foreclosure/Mechanics Lien Section hears actions concerning the Mechanics Lien Act,[5] liens on chattels for labor or storage, other lien remedies, and all actions and related proceedings initiated under the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law.[6]

Domestic Relations Division[edit]

The Domestic Relations Division hears matters concerning the family, including: dissolution of marriage, legal separation, invalidity of marriage, civil orders of protection, child support, child custody and visitation, parentage, and enforcement and modification of previously entered judgments in these matters. This division does not hear adoption or guardianship cases, which are heard in the County Division and Probate Division, respectively.

County Division[edit]

The County Division hears the following types of actions: adoption, marriage of minors, annexation and deannexation of land to a tax body, elections, inheritance taxes, mental health proceedings, real estate taxes, municipal organizations, and actions involving the forfeiture of seized property, name changes, and other matters the Circuit Court of Cook County has jurisdiction over but are not otherwise provided for.

Probate Division[edit]

The Probate Division hears matters concerning wills and administration of estates. Cases heard include: probate and contest of wills and testamentary instruments; claims against an estate arising in contract, tort or otherwise; administration of estates of decedents, disabled persons, minors and wards; contracts to make a will; construction of wills, and actions arising under the Illinois Power of Attorney Act.[7]

Criminal Division[edit]

The Criminal Division hears cases in which the state alleges the commission of a serious criminal act (other than those heard by the Domestic Violence Division) such as armed robbery, assault, burglary, criminal sexual assault, murder, among others. This division also hears actions regarding habeas corpus and extradition in criminal matters, and petitions to expunge records of arrest.

Domestic Violence Division[edit]

The Domestic Violence Division hears both civil and criminal actions involving issues of domestic violence. Some of the types of actions this division hears are: civil orders of protection, civil no contact orders, stalking no contact orders, and criminal actions involving relationships defined by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.[8]

Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division[edit]

The Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division hears actions and proceedings involving elderly persons. Some examples of the types of cases this division hears are: powers of attorney, cases arising under the Adult Protective Services Act,[9] domestic violence cases involving elderly persons, and certain criminal matters in which an elderly person is the victim.

Municipal Department[edit]

"The Municipal Department is divided into six geographic districts.[10] Each district is supervised by a presiding judge. The First Municipal District encompasses the City of Chicago. Municipal Districts Two through Six encompass the communities in suburban Cook County.

The Municipal Department hears civil suits for damages up to $30,000 in the First Municipal District & up to $100,000 in Municipal Districts Two through Six. This Department hears the following types of cases: housing, eviction proceedings, small claims, licenses, misdemeanor criminal proceedings and felony preliminary hearings other than domestic violence matters, ordinance and traffic enforcement, contract cases decided by alternative dispute resolution process, and cases subject to mandatory arbitration,[11][12] among others.

Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department[edit]

Cook County Juvenile Detention Facility and Courthouse

The Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department is the Circuit Court of Cook County's newest department. Prior to its creation as a full-status department by then Chief Judge Donald P. O'Connell in January 1995, the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department was originally known as the Juvenile Justice Division and functioned as a part of the County Department. The establishment of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department marked the first restructuring of the Circuit Court of Cook County in its thirty-year history.

The department is divided into two divisions: Juvenile Justice and Child Protection.[13] Each division is headed by a presiding judge.

The Juvenile Justice Division hears cases involving delinquent minors under 17 years of age. The Juvenile Justice Division also orders programs and services to rehabilitate these minors and monitors their progress through probation officers. Cases heard include: minors addicted to alcohol or other drugs, minors requiring authoritative intervention (runaways or those beyond the control of a parent, guardian or custodian), among others.

The Child Protection Division hears cases involving child abuse, child neglect, child dependency, private guardianship, and termination of parental rights.

The Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Resource Section serves as liaison to the academic, business and religious communities to identify and develop services and resources that will augment programs vital to juvenile justice. The section is supervised by an administrative presiding judge and is located in the Richard J. Daley Center.[14]

The Cook County Juvenile Court was the first juvenile court established in the U.S., in 1899. During its first quarter century, its most important person was Mary Bartelme, whose official titles were Cook County Public Guardian and then (after 1913) assistant to the judge. Bartelme devoted much of her life to child welfare and the reform of juvenile laws, and became an associate justice in 1923 and presiding judge in 1927.[15]

Analysis and criticism[edit]

Accusations have been made of corruption in the Probate Division, resulting in a three-year suspension recommendation against the accusing attorney by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]