How the Illinois Circuit Courts Are Structured

Judge Megan Goldish
1 min readMar 12, 2024

In Illinois, circuit courts are the state’s primary courts and are allocated one for each of the state’s 25 judicial circuits. Seven of the circuits each cover a single county, while the remainder cover between two and a dozen counties. They handle nearly every type of case and are the starting point for cases that are subsequently appealed in the state appellate or supreme court.

As the court of original jurisdiction for most Illinois cases, the circuit court cedes jurisdiction only when the Supreme Court elects to hear a specific case. It not only handles civil and criminal matters, but also serves as the reviewing court for state agency administrative orders.

Two distinct types of judges preside over the circuit court: associate judges and circuit judges. Circuit judges appoint associate judges to 4-year terms and are able to hear any case that a designated circuit judge or chief judge (who is elected to their position by circuit judges) deems suitable. The chief circuit judge is subject to the state supreme court’s overall administrative authority, but holds general administrative authority across the circuit.

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Judge Megan Goldish
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Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Megan Goldish