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State of Illinois

Judicial Selection in the States: Illinois

Overview

News

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Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of...

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The Illinois judiciary is composed of the supreme court, the appellate court, and the circuit court. Illinois judges are initially chosen in partisan elections. Judges run in uncontested, nonpartisan retention elections to serve additional terms. Judges of the supreme court and appellate court serve ten-year terms; circuit court judges serve six-year terms.

In 2004, Illinois saw the most expensive judicial election campaign in history, with the two candidates for a district-based seat on the supreme court raising $9.3 million--more than was raised in 18 of the 34 U.S. Senate races that year. Major contributors included trial lawyers, labor leaders, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Tort Reform Association. These groups had a vested interest in the outcome of this race. The judicial district represented by the seat includes Madison County, a jurisdiction that has become nationally known for large tort awards, and the justice who holds this seat has the authority to fill judicial vacancies that arise in the district's trial courts between elections.