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HOW DO I SEARCH ILLINOIS COURT RECORDS?

Illinois court records are generally open to the public in accordance with the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), hence may be inspected or copied from the local court clerk who serves as the custodian to such records. Persons willing to locate or copy an Illinois court records may:

  • Visit the Clerk's office at the courthouse where the court action was filed and request paper copies
  • Use the public computer terminals at the local courthouse to view electronic information of the court case
  • Visit the online page of the local court to access electronic files of court cases (only for counties with this provision).

For courthouses without a public computer terminal, the requestor may resort to view the Clerk's ledger book or paper copies as made available. While an individual possesses the right to access Illinois court records, records of cases sealed or expunged by a court order or deemed confidential may not be accessible to the public. Juvenile and adoption court records are examples of sealed court records.

To determine the location of a local courthouse or Court Clerk, visit the local court information page on the Illinois Court's website. Note requesting copies of court records may attract some fee.

HOW TO GET ILLINOIS COURT RECORDS ONLINE FOR FREE?

Court records are generally provided at a fee, the only free version the public may get is accessing electronic copies as made available by each court on its Clerk's website. While an electronic copy may provide relevant case information, it may not suffice for legal requirements. To access electronic copies of Illinois court records:

  • Visit the webpage of the Circuit Court Clerk to search court records
  • For the Supreme Court case records, visit the Supreme Court webpage on the Illinois Court's website, and select Supreme Court Opinions
  • For the Appellate Court case records, visit the Appellate Court webpage on the Illinois Court's website, and select Appellate Court Opinions

For counties without electronic records and when a certified copy of a court record is required, visit the local courthouse/office of the County's Clerk of Court. For easy access, links to Circuit Courts with electronic records are provided below by counties.

Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
  • The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.

Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.

HOW DOES THE ILLINOIS COURT SYSTEM WORK?

The Illinois Courts System is a tripartite system established by a 1964 amendment to the state's constitution adopted in 1970. It consists of the Supreme Court, an Appellate Court in each of five districts, and circuit courts. The Circuit Courts are organized into 24 circuits within clearly defined geographical boundaries.

All trials begin at the Circuit Court level except those where the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction. Parties not contented with the decision of the Circuit Court may appeal to its district Appellate Court for a review. Consequent to the Appellate Court decision, parties to the case may seek discretionary review by the Supreme Court. As the ultimate judicial authority in the State, the decision of the Illinois Supreme Court is binding on all lower courts. Over 2.5 million court cases are filed with the Illinois State Courts every year.

WHAT ARE ILLINOIS TRIAL COURTS?

The Circuit Court is the trial level court in Illinois with general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, except for cases heard exclusively by or the Illinois Supreme Court. The original jurisdiction of the court covers matters from small claims to felonies. Trials at the Circuit Court are either by jury or judge.

The Circuit Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Supreme Court on cases relating to habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, and revenue. However, the court's authority to hear these cases is suspended where the Supreme Court chooses to exercise its jurisdiction. Illinois Circuit Courts also serve as the reviewing courts for certain state agency administrative orders.

The State of Illinois is organized into 24 Judicial Circuits, eighteen of the Judicial Circuits comprise as between two and twelve counties. Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties are single county Judicial Circuits.Consider the Illinois Circuit Courts Map for more information.Cook County is the largest of the 24 Judicial Circuits in Illinois with some 400 judges serving a population of over 5 million residents.

Some Circuit Courts in more populated areas are segregated into departments along case type to include civil, criminal, probate, traffic, domestic relations, and juvenile divisions. Also, some Circuit Courts may offer "Problem Solving Court" programs like Drug Court, Mental Health Court, and Veterans Court. These special courts are set up as alternatives to incarceration for some offenders.

The Circuit Courts have two types of judges; Circuit Judges and Associate Judges. The Circuit Judges are elected for a six-year term while the Associate Judges are appointed for a 4-year term by the Circuit Judges bases on merit. All judges may be returned for another term. Associate Judges are permitted to hear all types of cases except for feloniesunless authorized from the Supreme Court. It is required that the judges are licensed attorneys and are officials of the State of Illinois.

HOW DOES THE ILLINOIS APPELLATE COURT WORK?

Illinois Appellate Court is the intermediate appellate court in Illinois established in 1877 and divided into five Judicial Districts. Cook County makes up the entire first judicial district, while the rest of the State is divided along equal population and contiguous geography to make for the remaining four Judicial Districts. The headquarters of the Second District is in Elgin, the Third District in Ottawa, the Fourth District in Springfield, and the Fifth District in Mount Vernon. Consider the Illinois Judicial Districts Map for more information on counties within each district.

The Appellate Court hears appeals from decisions of the Circuit Courts and in turn, its decisions may be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The court does not hear new evidence but reviews the testimony and arguments presented to the Circuit Court. The Appellate Court may affirm the decision, reverse the decision in whole or in part, or remand the case to the trial court.The jurisdiction of the Appellate Court also extends to hearing administrative appeals from some state agencies, like the Industrial Commission and the State Labor Relations Board.

The Illinois Appellate Court has 54 judges serving the five Judicial Districts. Each case at the court is heard by a panel of three judges and a majority of 2 must agree to decide the case. The number of the serving judges is determined by the legislature; however, each is elected by voters for a ten-year term. Each judge has the chance of being retained for a second term. Where the tenure of a judge ends before the period for election, the Supreme Court may appoint a tentative replacement.

HOW DOES THE ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT WORK?

The Illinois Supreme Court has seven members (justices) elected in partisan elections from five districts in the state. Three of these justices represent the First Appellate Judicial District which is coterminous with Cook County. The other four Appellate Judicial Districts contribute one representative each. Each justice is elected to a ten-year term and eligible to run for retention for an additional term of ten years.

An agreement of a majority of four of these justices is required to decide a case. The Supreme Court has the authority and discretion to decide which cases it wants to hear. Yearly, it usually takes a few cases except for cases where the court has a mandatory jurisdiction. Cases are presented to the Supreme Court by way of a Petition for Leave to Appeal. Litigants must be able to convince the Supreme Court in each petition to consider the case.

As the highest court in the State of Illinois, the Supreme Court hears appealed cases from the Appellate Court, except in cases where a Circuit Court has ordered a death sentence, the law permits a direct appeal to the Supreme Court. In line with its authority as set out in Article VI of the Illinois Constitution, the Supreme Court can pass rules to allow direct appeals in other cases.

The Illinois Supreme Court also retains original and exclusive jurisdiction in matters of legislative redistricting and determining the ability of the Governor to serve in office. On matters relating to state revenue, mandamus, prohibition or habeas corpus, the Supreme Court exercises discretionary original jurisdiction.

WHAT IS THE ILLINOIS COURT OF CLAIMS?

Created by Illinois Statutes Chapter 705, Section 505, the Court of Claims is a forum of specific jurisdiction to decide on monetary claims and lawsuits against the state, with the exceptions of worker's compensation claims and federal claims.

Citizens with claims of monetary damages or personal injury against a state agency or state employee file such cases with the Illinois Court of Claims. Over 8,000 of such cases are filed against the Court of Claims annually with the Attorney General representing the State of Illinois on all cases. The authority of this court includes awards of compensation to:

  • Victims of violent crimes under the Crime Victims Compensation Act,
  • Dependents of police officers, firefighters, and National Guard members killed in the line of duty
  • Citizens owned money that has lapsed due to the close of the fiscal year

The Court of Claims has seven judges appointed by the Governor with the consent of the State Senate to serve a six-year term. The court sits at either the Chicago or Springfield courthouse monthly. Other appointees to the court include

  • Sixteen commissioners who conduct trials in various regions across the state where they reside,
  • A Clerk of the Court that maintains case files and official records among other support services to the court

HOW MANY CASES DOES THE ILLINOIS COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?

Lawyers and litigants file over 2 million cases every year in the Illinois Court System. For example, the total number of cases filed in 2014 was 2.93 million while the figure for 2017 stands at 2.37 million. Traffic cases made up some 60 percent of these caseloads year on year. Cook County that contiguous with the First Judicial District is responsible for about 40 percent of all filed cases annually.

Just about a quarter of one percent of the total number of cases filed at the Circuit Courts are appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court. This represents less than 10,000 cases annually. While between 25 to 35 percent of Appellate Court cases are further appealed to the State's Supreme Court. Which is far less than 0.1 percent of cases filed at the Circuit Courts; about 2,000 cases annually.

All Illinois Circuit Courts Caseload Statistics, 2014 -2018

2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Filed 2,168,337 2,374,185 2,627,987 2,708,414 2,930,986
Disposed 2,404,775 2,528,512 2,532,012 2,707,414 2,928,680

Data Provided by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts

All Districts of Appellate CourtCriminal and Civil Caseload Statistics, 2014 -2018

Civil Filed* Civil Disposed* Criminal Filed Criminal Disposed
2018 3,113 3,378 2,563 2,787
2017 3,410 3,490 2,812 2,810
2016 3,586 3,890 3,125 3,078
2015 4,002 4,253 3,311 3,425
2014 4,173 4,238 3,721 3,384

* Totals do not include Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission Cases

Data Provided by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts

Illinois Supreme Court Caseload, 2014 -2018

Filed Disposed
2018 2,011 2,071
2017 2,208 2,320
2016 2,244 2,379
2015 2,402 2,443
2014 2,429 2,443

Data Provided by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts

First names in Illinois