County Courts (Illinois)

State: Illinois

In 1845, the Illinois General Assembly created the Cook County Court and the Jo Daviess County Court. The county courts had the same jurisdiction as the circuit courts within those counties in all matters civil and criminal. The General Assembly appointed the county court judges, who held four terms of court each year. Dissatisfied litigants could appeal their cases directly to the Illinois Supreme Court. After the Illinois Constitution of 1848 provided for a new and different county court, the General Assembly changed the name of the Cook County Court to the Cook County Court of Common Pleas and the Jo Daviess County Court terminated and transferred its cases to the Jo Daviess Circuit Court. In 1855, the General Assembly created the Court of Common Pleas of the City of Cairo, which had jurisdiction within the city equal to that of the circuit court. In 1859, the General Assembly changed the name of the Cook County Court of Common Pleas to the Superior Court of Chicago, which consisted of three justices who met monthly.

In 1848, the new constitution provided for the creation of county courts, which were different from the county courts that the legislature created in 1845. In 1849, the General Assembly created the county courts to replace the county commissioners' courts. The county judge held court with two justices of the peace for the transaction of county business. The county judge had the power of a justice of the peace. County courts also had jurisdiction in probate matters and in criminal cases in which punishment by fine did not exceed $100. Dissatisfied litigants could appeal decisions to the circuit court. During the 1850s, the General Assembly gave some county courts concurrent jurisdiction with circuit courts.

“Court Structure,” in Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), html files/Court Structure.html.