Judicial Court Divisions
The Circuit Court of Lake County is organized into three divisions as designated by the Chief Judge. Case types and matters fall into one of the three categories listed below:
In some civil cases, the plaintiff seeks money (also known as damages) from the defendant as compensation for injuries allegedly caused by the defendant. Some common examples are cases involving car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and contract disputes.
In other cases, the plaintiff seeks the court to command the defendant to do (or not do) a specific action. Some common examples of these types of cases are where a plaintiff is seeking an injunction, specific performance, enforcement of property rights, and testamentary or administrative matters such as trusts and wills.
The Civil Division routinely hears the following types of cases:
Arbitration (AR): Arbitration is a mandatory program for dispute resolution. A court-appointed arbitration panel reviews the case to decide a just resolution and award. Arbitration is intended to lower court costs for litigants and allow the Court to utilize judicial resources more effectively. If a party rejects the arbitration panel’s findings, the case will proceed to trial in one of the other divisions.
Chancery (CH): Chancery handles all cases where the resolution does not involve monetary damages. Such a case might involve exchanges and/or returns of property, as well as injunctions.
Eminent Domain (ED): Eminent domain cases involve the taking of private land for public projects such as schools, roads, bridges, etc.
Law (L), Law Magistrate (LM), Small Claims (SC): Law, Law Magistrate, and Small Claims courts hear cases where monetary damages are involved. The division depends on the amount of the award sought. Awards seeking damages over $50,000 are heard in the Law division, awards seeking damages between $50,000 and $10,000 are heard in the Law Magistrate division, and awards seeking damages under $10,000 are heard in Small Claims Court.
Mediation (selected L and CH cases): Cases that select a neutral third party (the mediator) to help facilitate a settlement.
Municipal Corporation (MC): Municipal Corporation cases are routine administrative matters that require court approval. These include organizational matters, appointment of officers, approval of bonds, and routine orders confirming annexation.
Miscellaneous Remedy (MR): Many interactions with municipal, county, and state agencies initially take place as administrative hearings before that government office or agency. These offices may make rulings on matters, which can be appealed. After all administrative appeals have been exhausted, the appealer can ask for a Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions. The Miscellaneous Remedy division hears these appeals (except for tax cases). Other MR cases include change of name and extradition matters.
Probate (P): Probate court handles will disputes, disputes over estates when there is no will, and guardianships for minors and disabled adults.
Tax (TX): Tax cases first take place as administrative hearings before a government office or agency, such as the Property Tax Appeals Board. After all administrative appeals have been exhausted, the taxpayer can ask for a Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions. The tax court performs the judicial reviews of those administrative decisions.
Consolidated Family Division
The Consolidated Family Division encompasses many aspects of family life. The Division handles cases involving disputes between spouses or domestic partners, children, or the mental competency of people. It manages cases involving minors who are charged with a crime or whose health and safety are at risk. The Consolidated Family Division also handles adoption matters where a person legally and permanently assumes all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents.
To ease the tensions that can often be found in family cases, the traditional taxonomy of Plaintiff and Defendant have been replaced by the less confrontational appellations of Petitioner and Respondent. Additionally, cases are not designated as husband versus wife, but as “In re the marriage of” or “In re the parentage of”.
The driving philosophy behind juvenile justice in Illinois is restorative justice. The philosophy of restorative justice holds that, along with the rehabilitation of the offender, the offender will work to "restore" the balance that existed in the community before the offense was committed. Common methods of restoration include compensating victims for their losses and public service for the offender. To protect the privacy of children, juvenile cases are not open to the public.
The Consolidated Family Division routinely hears the following types of cases:
Adoption (AD): Adoptions can take the form of related adoptions or unrelated adoptions. In related adoptions, generally a stepparent adopts the natural child of his or her spouse. Unrelated adoptions involve adoption of a child that is not biologically related to either parent.
Dissolution (D): Dissolution of marriage is the legal term for divorce. Dissolution cases also include annulments, separations, and separate maintenance cases.
Family (F): Family cases cover a variety of matters centered around paternity. Most common are cases to establish parent-child relations, notice to putative fathers, and certain actions concerning child support.
Family (F-Confidential Intermediary Cases): The Confidential Intermediary cases are matters where an individual acts on behalf of either an adoptive parent, a birth parent or an adopted child, to attempt to make contact with other members of the adoption triangle, whose identity cannot otherwise be legally established or determined. The confidential intermediary makes contact with the other party or parties in the adoption triangle, with court or other legal approval, and determines the willingness of that party to agree to a full or partial waiver of the confidentiality provisions that would otherwise apply to the adoption.
Juvenile (J): Juvenile cases are all cases that are covered by the Juvenile Court Act except those that are covered by the JA and JD designations. Actions covered by the J classification are sometimes known as “pre-delinquent” behaviors, or actions which are wrongful, but not criminal violations. Examples of pre-delinquent behaviors include truancy and running away from home.
Juvenile Abuse and Neglect (JA): In abuse and neglect cases, the juvenile is the victim of wrongful behavior committed by parents or caregivers.
Juvenile Delinquency (JD): Delinquency cases occur when any minor, prior to his or her 17th birthday, violates, or attempts to violate, any federal law, state law, county ordinance, or municipal ordinance.
Criminal DivisionThe Criminal Division handles all criminal offenses. These include felony, misdemeanor, traffic, ordinance violations, conservation violations, orders of protection and mental health.
A felony offense is an offense for which a sentence of death or to a term of imprisonment in a penitentiary for one year or more is provided. Fines for felony offenses may also be imposed which are limited to $25,000 or the amount specified in the offense, whichever is greater.
Some common examples of these types of cases are crimes against individuals such as murder, kidnapping, sex offenses, and aggravated assault. However, felonies may also involve property such as robbery, burglary, arson, and possession of stolen goods.
Also included in the Criminal Division is the Bond Court. The law requires that a defendant who is arrested must appear before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. To comply with this law, individuals arrested in Lake County will appear in Bond Court within 48 hours of their initial arrest. In addition to the initial appearances, the Bond Court also does preliminary hearings. The Bond Court operates 5 full days per week and is open for limited hours on weekends and holidays.
A misdemeanor offense is an offense for which a sentence of imprisonment in a facility other than a penitentiary for less than one year may be imposed. Fines not to exceed $2,500 or the amount specified in the offense, whichever is greater, may also be imposed.
Penalties for traffic offenses and ordinance violations are generally limited to fines and, in some cases, revocation of the driver’s license. Some common examples of these type of cases include petty theft, disorderly conduct, drunk driving, speeding, and illegal parking.
The Criminal Division routinely hears the following types of cases:
Miscellaneous Remedy (MR): In the criminal division, the three most common miscellaneous remedy cases are eavesdropping, fugitive from justice, and criminal forfeiture cases. Eavesdropping cases are those where a law enforcement agency asks the court for permission to monitor or record the conversation of a party without the party’s knowledge. Fugitive from justice cases involve the extradition of persons in or out of the State of Illinois. Forfeiture cases involve the forfeiture of property used in committing a crime, such as an airplane, boat, or motor vehicle used to transport drugs.
Conservation Violation (CV): A conservation case designation shall be assigned to cases defined by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 501(c). Examples include fish and game violations, boating violations, snowmobile violations, and other ordinances adopted by park and forest preserve districts with the authority to legislate rules.
Contempt of Court (CC): The most common contempt cases are those where a defendant or trial participant fails to maintain the proper decorum in the courtroom. Contempt citations also occur where an individual refuses or fails to act as directed by the court.
Criminal Felony (CF): As outlined above, felony cases are those criminal violations that can result in a sentence of death or to a term of imprisonment in a penitentiary for one year or more.
Criminal Misdemeanor (CM): As detailed above, a misdemeanor violation is one where the punishment for the offense would be a sentence of imprisonment in a facility other than a penitentiary for less than one year. Generally this location would be the county jail.
Driving Under the Influence (DT): DUI cases involve the violation of statutes, ordinances, or regulations governing driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination thereof.
Mental Health (MH): Mental health cases deal with matters of involuntary commitment of those with mental illnesses. Mental health cases also deal with discharge from the commitment and restoration of legal status.
Ordinance Violation (OV): Counties and municipalities have the power to pass laws, or ordinances, regulating behavior in their boundaries. These ordinances include licensing of businesses, parking, nuisance behaviors, and the like. Violations of these ordinances are heard in this court.
Order of Protection (OP): An Order of Protection is a document issued by a court to help protect an individual from harassment or abuse. In an Order of Protection, a judge can set limits on another person’s behavior and contact with the party protected by the order.
Traffic Violation (TR): Traffic violations are violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code. These include both equipment and moving violations. The most common offense connected with traffic cases is speeding.