The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. The current United States Attorney is John R. Lausch Jr. since November 22, 2017.
The Northern District itself was created by a statute passed on February 13, 1855, 10 Stat.606, which subdivided the District of Illinois into the Northern and the Southern Districts. The boundaries of the District and the seats of the courts were set forth in the statute:
The counties of Hancock, McDonough, Peoria, Woodford, Livingston, and Iroquois, and all the counties in the said State north of them, shall compose one district, to be called the northern district of Illinois, and courts shall be held for the said district at the city of Chicago; and the residue of the counties of the said State shall compose another district, to be called the southern district of Illinois, and courts shall be held for the same at the city of Springfield.
The district has since been re-organized several times. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Illinois was created on March 3, 1905, by 33 Stat.992, by splitting counties out of the Northern and Southern Districts. It was later eliminated in a reorganization on October 2, 1978, which replaced it with a Central District, 92 Stat.883, formed primarily from parts of the Southern District, and returning some counties to the Northern District.
The Northern District of Illinois, which contains the entire Chicago metropolitan area, accounts for 1531 of the 1828 public corruption convictions in the state between 1976 and 2012, almost 84%, also making it the federal district with the most public corruption convictions in the nation between 1976 and 2012.
Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their district court. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the district court judges. To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position.
When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire on what has since 1958 been known as senior status or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.