Illinois Judicial System
From the Constitution of the State of Illinois
SECTION 1. COURTS
The judicial power is vested in a Supreme Court, an
Appellate Court and Circuit Courts.
SECTION 2. JUDICIAL DISTRICTS
The State is divided into five Judicial Districts for the
selection of Supreme and Appellate Court Judges. The First
Judicial District consists of Cook County. The remainder of
the State shall be divided by law into four Judicial
Districts of substantially equal population, each of which
shall be compact and composed of contiguous counties.
SECTION 3. SUPREME COURT - ORGANIZATION
The Supreme Court shall consist of seven Judges. Three
shall be selected from the First Judicial District and one
from each of the other Judicial Districts. Four Judges
constitute a quorum and the concurrence of four is necessary
for a decision. Supreme Court Judges shall select a Chief
Justice from their number to serve for a term of three years.
SECTION 4. SUPREME COURT - JURISDICTION
(a) The Supreme Court may exercise original jurisdiction
in cases relating to revenue, mandamus, prohibition or habeas
corpus and as may be necessary to the complete determination
of any case on review.
(b) Appeals from judgments of Circuit Courts imposing a
sentence of death shall be directly to the Supreme Court as a
matter of right. The Supreme Court shall provide by rule for
direct appeal in other cases.
(c) Appeals from the Appellate Court to the Supreme
Court are a matter of right if a question under the
Constitution of the United States or of this State arises for
the first time in and as a result of the action of the
Appellate Court, or if a division of the Appellate Court
certifies that a case decided by it involves a question of
such importance that the case should be decided by the
Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may provide by rule for
appeals from the Appellate Court in other cases.
SECTION 5. APPELLATE COURT - ORGANIZATION
The number of Appellate Judges to be selected from each
Judicial District shall be provided by law. The Supreme Court
shall prescribe by rule the number of Appellate divisions in
each Judicial District. Each Appellate division shall have at
least three Judges. Assignments to divisions shall be made by
the Supreme Court. A majority of a division constitutes a
quorum and the concurrence of a majority of the division is
necessary for a decision. There shall be at least one
division in each Judicial District and each division shall
sit at times and places prescribed by rules of the Supreme
SECTION 6. APPELLATE COURT - JURISDICTION
Appeals from final judgments of a Circuit Court are a
matter of right to the Appellate Court in the Judicial
District in which the Circuit Court is located except in
cases appealable directly to the Supreme Court and except
that after a trial on the merits in a criminal case, there
shall be no appeal from a judgment of acquittal. The Supreme
Court may provide by rule for appeals to the Appellate Court
from other than final judgments of Circuit Courts. The
Appellate Court may exercise original jurisdiction when
necessary to the complete determination of any case on
review. The Appellate Court shall have such powers of direct
review of administrative action as provided by law.
SECTION 7. JUDICIAL CIRCUITS
(a) The State shall be divided into Judicial Circuits
consisting of one or more counties. The First Judicial
District shall constitute a Judicial Circuit. The Judicial
Circuits within the other Judicial Districts shall be as
provided by law. Circuits composed of more than one county
shall be compact and of contiguous counties. The General
Assembly by law may provide for the division of a circuit for
the purpose of selection of Circuit Judges and for the
selection of Circuit Judges from the circuit at large.
(b) Each Judicial Circuit shall have one Circuit Court
with such number of Circuit Judges as provided by law. Unless
otherwise provided by law, there shall be at least one
Circuit Judge from each county. In the First Judicial
District, unless otherwise provided by law, Cook County,
Chicago, and the area outside Chicago shall be separate units
for the selection of Circuit Judges, with at least twelve
chosen at large from the area outside Chicago and at least
thirty-six chosen at large from Chicago.
(c) Circuit Judges in each circuit shall select by
secret ballot a Chief Judge from their number to serve at
their pleasure. Subject to the authority of the Supreme
Court, the Chief Judge shall have general administrative
authority over his court, including authority to provide for
divisions, general or specialized, and for appropriate times
and places of holding court.
SECTION 8. ASSOCIATE JUDGES
Each Circuit Court shall have such number of Associate
Judges as provided by law. Associate Judges shall be
appointed by the Circuit Judges in each circuit as the
Supreme Court shall provide by rule. In the First Judicial
District, unless otherwise provided by law, at least
one-fourth of the Associate Judges shall be appointed from,
and reside, outside Chicago. The Supreme Court shall provide
by rule for matters to be assigned to Associate Judges.
SECTION 9. CIRCUIT COURTS - JURISDICTION
Circuit Courts shall have original jurisdiction of all
justiciable matters except when the Supreme Court has
original and exclusive jurisdiction relating to redistricting
of the General Assembly and to the ability of the Governor to
serve or resume office. Circuit Courts shall have such power
to review administrative action as provided by law.
SECTION 10. TERMS OF OFFICE
The terms of office of Supreme and Appellate Court Judges
shall be ten years; of Circuit Judges, six years; and of
Associate Judges, four years.
SECTION 11. ELIGIBILITY FOR OFFICE
No person shall be eligible to be a Judge or Associate
Judge unless he is a United States citizen, a licensed
attorney-at-law of this State, and a resident of the unit
which selects him. No change in the boundaries of a unit
shall affect the tenure in office of a Judge or Associate
Judge incumbent at the time of such change.
SECTION 12. ELECTION AND RETENTION
(a) Supreme, Appellate and Circuit Judges shall be
nominated at primary elections or by petition. Judges shall
be elected at general or judicial elections as the General
Assembly shall provide by law. A person eligible for the
office of Judge may cause his name to appear on the ballot as
a candidate for Judge at the primary and at the general or
judicial elections by submitting petitions. The General
Assembly shall prescribe by law the requirements for
(b) The office of a Judge shall be vacant upon his
death, resignation, retirement, removal, or upon the
conclusion of his term without retention in office. Whenever
an additional Appellate or Circuit Judge is authorized by
law, the office shall be filled in the manner provided for
filling a vacancy in that office.
(c) A vacancy occurring in the office of Supreme,
Appellate or Circuit Judge shall be filled as the General
Assembly may provide by law. In the absence of a law,
vacancies may be filled by appointment by the Supreme Court.
A person appointed to fill a vacancy 60 or more days prior to
the next primary election to nominate Judges shall serve
until the vacancy is filled for a term at the next general or
judicial election. A person appointed to fill a vacancy less
than 60 days prior to the next primary election to nominate
Judges shall serve until the vacancy is filled at the second
general or judicial election following such appointment.
(d) Not less than six months before the general election
preceding the expiration of his term of office, a Supreme,
Appellate or Circuit Judge who has been elected to that
office may file in the office of the Secretary of State a
declaration of candidacy to succeed himself. The Secretary of
State, not less than 63 days before the election, shall
certify the Judge's candidacy to the proper election
officials. The names of Judges seeking retention shall be
submitted to the electors, separately and without party
designation, on the sole question whether each Judge shall be
retained in office for another term. The retention elections
shall be conducted at general elections in the appropriate
Judicial District, for Supreme and Appellate Judges, and in
the circuit for Circuit Judges. The affirmative vote of
three-fifths of the electors voting on the question shall
elect the Judge to the office for a term commencing on the
first Monday in December following his election.
(e) A law reducing the number of Appellate or Circuit
Judges shall be without prejudice to the right of the Judges
affected to seek retention in office. A reduction shall
become effective when a vacancy occurs in the affected unit.
SECTION 13. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES
(a) The Supreme Court shall adopt rules of conduct for
Judges and Associate Judges.
(b) Judges and Associate Judges shall devote full time
to judicial duties. They shall not practice law, hold a
position of profit, hold office under the United States or
this State or unit of local government or school district or
in a political party. Service in the State militia or armed
forces of the United States for periods of time permitted by
rule of the Supreme Court shall not disqualify a person from
serving as a Judge or Associate Judge.
SECTION 14. JUDICIAL SALARIES AND EXPENSES - FEE OFFICERS
Judges shall receive salaries provided by law which shall
not be diminished to take effect during their terms of
office. All salaries and such expenses as may be provided by
law shall be paid by the State, except that Appellate,
Circuit and Associate Judges shall receive such additional
compensation from counties within their district or circuit
as may be provided by law. There shall be no fee officers in
the judicial system.
SECTION 15. RETIREMENT - DISCIPLINE
(a) The General Assembly may provide by law for the
retirement of Judges and Associate Judges at a prescribed
age. Any retired Judge or Associate Judge, with his or
her consent, may be assigned by the Supreme Court to
judicial service for which he or she shall receive the
applicable compensation in lieu of retirement benefits.
A retired Associate Judge may be assigned only as an
(b) A Judicial Inquiry Board is created. The Supreme
Court shall select two Circuit Judges as members and the
Governor shall appoint four persons who are not lawyers and
three lawyers as members of the Board. No more than two of
the lawyers and two of the non-lawyers appointed by the
Governor shall be members of the same political party. The
terms of Board members shall be four years. A vacancy on the
Board shall be filled for a full term in the manner the
original appointment was made. No member may serve on the
Board more than eight years.
(c) The Board shall be convened permanently, with
authority to conduct investigations, receive or initiate
complaints concerning a Judge or Associate Judge, and file
complaints with the Courts Commission. The Board shall not
file a complaint unless five members believe that a
reasonable basis exists (1) to charge the Judge or Associate
Judge with willful misconduct in office, persistent failure
to perform his duties, or other conduct that is prejudicial
to the administration of justice or that brings the judicial
office into disrepute, or (2) to charge that the Judge or
Associate Judge is physically or mentally unable to perform
his duties. All proceedings of the Board shall be
confidential except the filing of a complaint with the Courts
Commission. The Board shall prosecute the complaint.
(d) The Board shall adopt rules governing its
procedures. It shall have subpoena power and authority to
appoint and direct its staff. Members of the Board who are
not Judges shall receive per diem compensation and necessary
expenses; members who are Judges shall receive necessary
expenses only. The General Assembly by law shall appropriate
funds for the operation of the Board.
(e) An independent Courts Commission is created
consisting of one Supreme Court Judge selected by that Court
as a member and one as an alternate, two Appellate Court
Judges selected by that Court as members and three as
alternates, two Circuit Judges selected by the Supreme Court
as members and three as alternates, and two citizens selected
by the Governor as members and two as alternates. Members and
alternates who are Appellate Court Judges must each be from a
different Judicial District. Members and alternates who are
Circuit Judges must each be from a different Judicial
District. Members and alternates of the Commission shall not
be members of the Judicial Inquiry Board. The members of the
Commission shall select a chairperson to serve a two-year
The Commission shall be convened permanently to hear
complaints filed by the Judicial Inquiry Board. The
Commission shall have authority after notice and public
(1) to remove from office, suspend without pay,
censure or reprimand a Judge or Associate Judge for willful
misconduct in office, persistent failure to perform his or
her duties, or other conduct that is prejudicial to the
administration of justice or that brings the judicial office
into disrepute, or
(2) to suspend, with or without pay, or
retire a Judge or Associate Judge who is physically or
mentally unable to perform his or her duties.
(f) The concurrence of four members of the Commission
shall be necessary for a decision. The decision of the
Commission shall be final.
(g) The Commission shall adopt comprehensive rules to
ensure that its procedures are fair and appropriate. These
rules and any amendments shall be public and filed with the
Secretary of State at least 30 days before becoming effective.
(h) A member of the Commission shall disqualify himself
or herself, or the other members of the Commission shall
disqualify a member, with respect to any proceeding in which
disqualification or recusal would be required of a Judge
under rules of the Supreme Court, under rules of the
Commission, or by law.
If a Supreme Court Judge is the subject of a proceeding,
then there shall be no Supreme Court Judge sitting as a
member of the Commission with respect to that proceeding.
Instead, an alternate Appellate Court Judge not from the same
Judicial District as the subject Supreme Court Judge shall
replace the subject Supreme Court Judge. If a member who is
an Appellate Court Judge is the subject of a proceeding, then
an alternate Appellate Court Judge shall replace the subject
Appellate Court Judge. If an Appellate Court Judge who is not
a member is the subject of a proceeding and an Appellate
Court Judge from the same Judicial District is a member, then
an alternate Appellate Court Judge shall replace that member.
If a member who is a Circuit Judge is the subject of a
proceeding, then an alternate Circuit Judge shall replace the
subject Circuit Judge. If a Circuit Judge who is not a member
is the subject of a proceeding and a Circuit Judge from the
same Judicial District is a member, then an alternate Circuit
Judge shall replace that member.
If a member of the Commission is disqualified under this
Section with respect to any proceeding, that member shall be
replaced by an alternate on a rotating basis in a manner
provided by rule of the Commission. The alternate shall act
as member of the Commission with respect to that proceeding
(i) The Commission shall have power to issue subpoenas.
(j) Members and alternates of the Commission who are not
Judges shall receive per diem compensation and necessary
expenses; members and alternates who are Judges shall receive
necessary expenses only. The General Assembly shall provide
by law for the expenses and compensation of the Commission.
(Source: Amendment adopted at general election November 3,
SECTION 16. ADMINISTRATION
General administrative and supervisory authority over all
courts is vested in the Supreme Court and shall be exercised
by the Chief Justice in accordance with its rules. The
Supreme Court shall appoint an administrative director and
staff, who shall serve at its pleasure, to assist the Chief
Justice in his duties. The Supreme Court may assign a Judge
temporarily to any court and an Associate Judge to serve
temporarily as an Associate Judge on any Circuit Court. The
Supreme Court shall provide by rule for expeditious and
SECTION 17. JUDICIAL CONFERENCE
The Supreme Court shall provide by rule for an annual
judicial conference to consider the work of the courts and to
suggest improvements in the administration of justice and
shall report thereon annually in writing to the General
Assembly not later than January 31.
SECTION 18. CLERKS OF COURTS
(a) The Supreme Court and the Appellate Court Judges of
each Judicial District, respectively, shall appoint a clerk
and other non-judicial officers for their Court or District.
(b) The General Assembly shall provide by law for the
election, or for the appointment by Circuit Judges, of clerks
and other non-judicial officers of the Circuit Courts and for
their terms of office and removal for cause.
(c) The salaries of clerks and other non-judicial
officers shall be as provided by law.
SECTION 19. STATE'S ATTORNEYS - SELECTION, SALARY
A State's Attorney shall be elected in each county in
1972 and every fourth year thereafter for a four year term.
One State's Attorney may be elected to serve two or more
counties if the governing boards of such counties so provide
and a majority of the electors of each county voting on the
issue approve. A person shall not be eligible for the office
of State's Attorney unless he is a United States citizen and
a licensed attorney-at-law of this State. His salary shall be
provided by law.
(Source: Illinois Constitution.)