Illinois Constitution of 1848

Supreme Court Changes
Article V of the Illinois Constitution of 1848 established a Supreme Court of 3 judges with 2 of the 3 constituting a quorum. Election was by popular vote with 1 judge of 3 elected from each of the divisions of the state (Northern, Central and Southern) for a 9-year term. The Supreme Court had original jurisdiction in cases of revenue, mandamus, habeas corpus, and impeachment, and appellate jurisdiction in all other cases and was to convene once annually in each division.

Circuit Court Changes

The Constitution of 1848 established 9 circuits and each circuit was to elect 1 judge for a 6-year term. The Circuit Court was required to hold 2 or more sessions annually in each county. It had jurisdiction in all cases at law and in equity and all cases on appeal from inferior courts.

County Courts

The constitution and subsequent legislation established a County Court in each county with 1 County Court judge who had a 4-year term. The court had jurisdiction in all probate cases, civil cases involving not more than $100, forcible entry and detainer, and criminal cases of assaults, battery, affrays, larceny in the cases of Negroes (free or slave), and jurisdiction concurrent with the Circuit Court for sale of real estate of deceased persons.

Population Growth
The 2 decades following the enactment of the Constitution saw a great population increase in Illinois, especially in the previously sparsely settled areas of the north. Article V, Section 1 provided "that inferior local courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction may be established by the General Assembly in the cities of this state, but such courts shall have uniform organization and jurisdiction in such cities."

Consequently, in 1854 the General Assembly established the elected position of Police Magistrate for a term of 4 years in each town and city as follows: one position for 6,000 or less inhabitants; 2 positions for 6,000 to 12,000 inhabitants; and three positions for more than 12,000 inhabitants. Although Justices of the Peace Courts and Police Magistrate Courts had the same jurisdiction, they were not courts of record. Therefore, any appeals were heard as new trials in Records Courts, which were located in Chicago, Aurora, Elgin and other growing cities. These courts were known as Courts of Common Pleas and had jurisdiction concurrent to the Circuit Court.

Benefits of This Constitution

The Constitution of 1848 had established a rural judicial system, which, due to growth, quickly became inadequate. In 1868 a convention wrote an entirely new constitution for a part urban, part rural state. This new Constitution of 1870 remained the law of the State of Illinois until the adoption of the 1970 Constitution.

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