Judicial Court Divisions
The Circuit Court of Lake County is organized into four divisions as designated by the Chief Judge. Case types and matters fall into one of the four 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): Mandatory Arbitration program is an alternative dispute resolution process for civil suits seeking money damages exceeding $10,000 but less than $50,000. 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 effective. If a party rejects the arbitration panel's findings, the case may proceed to trial.
Chancery (CH): Chancery handles all cases where the resolution does not involve monetary damages. Examples of chancery cases include injunctions, mortgage foreclosures and mechanics lien.
Eminent Domain (ED): Eminent Domain cases involve the taking of private land for public projects such as schools, roads, bridges, etc.
Law (L): Law cases involve civil suits for recovery or monetary damages in excess of $50,000. Typical examples of cases would include personal injury, contract disputes and malpractice suits.
Law Magistrate (LM): Law Magistrate cases include Forcible Entry and Detainer (more commonly known as Eviction) proceedings, and other equitable matters including replevin and detinue.
Municipal Corporation (MC): Municipal Corporation cases are routinely 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.
Smalls Claims (SC): Small Claim cases are tort or contract cases where the amount sought is less than $10,000.
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.
Probate (P): Probate court handles will disputes, disputes over estates when there is no will, and guardianships for minor and disabled adults.
The Family Division encompasses many aspects of family life. The Family Division handles cases involving disputes between spouses or domestic partners, children, or the mental competency of people.
To ease the tensions that can often be found in family cases, the traditional classification of Plaintiff and Defendant have been replaced by the less confrontational titles of Petitioner and Respondent. Additionally, cases are not designated as husband versus wife, but as "In re the marriage of."
The Family Division also handles cases involving minors who are charged with a crime or whose health and safety are at risk. Some common examples of these types of cases are truancy, termination of parental rights, child abuse, and felony or misdemeanor offenses where the minor is charged with committing a crime. To protect the privacy of children, juvenile cases are not open to the public.
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.
The 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.
Family (F – Confidential Intermediary Cases): Confidential Intermediary cases are cases in which a person seeks contact with about a biological parent or for the purpose of exchanging medical information with one or more mutually consenting biological relatives.
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 and any minor who prior to his or her 18th birthday has violated or attempted to violate, regardless of where the act occurred, any federal, State, county or municipal law or ordinance classified as a misdemeanor offense.
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 and actions concerning child support.
The Felony Division handles the most serious criminal offenses. A felony offense is an offense for which 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.
The party bringing the complaint is the State of Illinois as represented by an attorney called the prosecutor. The individual charged with the crime is called the defendant. The role of the prosecutor is to prove that the defendant committed the crime.
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 Felony 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 five full days per week and is open for limited hours on weekends and holidays.
The Felony Division routinely hears the following types of cases:
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.
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.
Miscellaneous Remedy (MR): In the felony 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. Asset forfeiture cases involve the forfeiture of property used in committing a crime, such as an airplane, boat, or motor vehicle used to transport drugs.
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.
The Misdemeanor/Traffic Division handles criminal offenses as well as traffic and ordinance violations. 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 cases heard by this Division include petty theft, disorderly conduct, drunk driving, speeding, and illegal parking.
The Misdemeanor/Traffic Division routinely hears the following types of cases:
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.
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.
Driving Under the Influence (DT): DUI cases involve the violation of statutes, ordinances, or regulations governing driving under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription medication, and the combined influence of alcohol and 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.
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 by the traffic division.
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.