Circuit Court of Cook County

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One of the Circuit Court's courthouses

The Circuit Court of Cook County is the largest of the 22 circuits in Illinois as well as one of the largest unified court systems in the world. It was created by a 1964 amendment to the Illinois Constitution which reorganized the courts of Illinois. 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.[1]

Dorothy Brown is the current Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and Timothy C. Evans is system's chief judge.

County Department[edit]

The County Department is divided into the following six divisions.[2] Each division is headed by a presiding judge. The types of cases heard in each division depend on the nature of the controversy.

Chancery Division[edit]

  • injunctions
  • class actions
  • mortgage foreclosures
  • declaratory judgments
  • contract matters
  • creditors' rights
  • liens
  • construction of wills and trusts
  • trusteeships
  • receiverships
  • dissolution of partnerships and corporations
  • statutory and administrative reviews
  • vehicle impoundment

County Division[edit]

  • adoption
  • marriage of minors
  • annexation and deannexation of land to a tax body
  • elections
  • inheritance taxes
  • mental health proceedings
  • real estate taxes
  • municipal organizations

Criminal Division[edit]

The Criminal Division hears cases in which the state alleges the commission of a serious criminal act such as:

  • armed robbery
  • assault
  • burglary
  • criminal sexual assault
  • murder

Domestic Relations Division[edit]

Domestic Relations Division hears matters concerning:

  • dissolution of marriage (formerly divorce)
  • legal separation
  • invalidity of marriage
  • civil orders of protection
  • child support
  • child custody and visitation
  • parentage
  • enforcement and modification of previously entered judgments in these matters

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
  • miscellaneous remedies

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
  • actions arising under the Illinois Power of Attorney Act "

Municipal Department[edit]

"The Municipal Department is divided into six geographic districts. 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 Districts hear cases involving:*

  • domestic violence
  • housing
  • eviction proceedings
  • small claims
  • licenses
  • misdemeanor criminal proceedings (including drug treatment court)
  • felony preliminary hearings
  • ordinance and traffic enforcement
  • contract cases decided by alternative dispute resolution process
  • civil suits for damages up to $30,000 in the First Municipal District & up to $100,000 in Municipal Districts Two through Six
  • mandatory arbitration (less formal proceeding with three-member panel deciding case) in suits with damages of $30,000 or less
  • name changes
  • marriage court
  • The following types of cases are also heard in the municipal district courthouses: felony criminal cases; domestic relations cases; and law division tort cases seeking damages in excess of $100,000. "

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. 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)

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.[3]

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.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "General Order 1.2 of the Circuit Court of Cook County (Operation)". Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "General Order 1.2, 2.1 of the Circuit Court of Cook County (County Department)". Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  3. ^ "Media". State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Burton K (2002). Mother knows best: Mary Margaret Bartelme and the Chicago juvenile reform movement (PDF). Retrieved 2009-04-11. 

External links[edit]