Illinois Supreme Court
|Illinois Supreme Court|
|Method:||Partisan election of judges|
The Illinois Supreme Court is the highest court in Illinois. The court includes seven justices who are elected to ten-year terms in partisan elections. The court hears appeals from the lower courts and has limited original jurisdiction. It also serves as the administrative head of the state's court system. It convenes in Springfield, Illinois, on the second Monday in the following months: September, November, January, March and May. Between sessions, the justices review legal documents and prepare opinions.
JusticesThe current justices of the court are:
|Justice Robert Thomas||2000-2020||Republican|
|Justice Lloyd Karmeier||2004-12/1/2024||Republican|
|Justice Charles Freeman||1990-2020||Democratic|
|Chief Justice Rita Garman||2001-2022||Republican|
|Justice Thomas Kilbride||2000-2020||Democratic|
|Justice Mary Jane Theis||2010-2022||Democratic|
|Justice Anne M. Burke||2006-2018||Democratic|
- Main article: Illinois Supreme Court elections
Justices on the court are elected to ten-year terms in partisan elections. Each justice represents one of the five judicial districts in Illinois. The First District, which consists of Cook County and the City of Chicago, elects three of the justices; the remaining four choose one each. To be re-elected, the justice must run in an uncontested, non-partisan retention election in which at least 60 percent of votes must be in favor of retention.
If a vacancy on the court occurs, the court itself appoints a new justice. The Illinois Supreme Court is the only court in the nation that fills its own vacancies.After the appointment, that justice must run for a full term in the next general election that is more than 60 days after the appointment.
The chief justice is elected by the justices of the supreme court for a three-year term.
Illinois judges must meet the following qualifications:
- United States citizen
- Licensed attorney of Illinois
- Resident of the district which elects them
The mandatory retirement age for judges of all courts in Illinois used to be 75, as defined by the Compulsory Retirement of Judges Act. However, the state supreme court deemed this law unconstitutional in 2009.
The court has limited original jurisdiction, hears appeals of right in cases where the constitutionality of laws has been called into question, and has a docket of discretionary appeal from the Illinois Appellate Court. Along with the state legislature, the court sets rules for the state judiciary. The court has general administrative and supervisory authority over all courts in the state. This authority is exercised by the chief justice with the assistance of the Administrative Director and staff appointed by the supreme court. The supreme court hears appeals from lower courts and may exercise original jurisdiction in cases relating to revenue, mandamus, prohibition or habeas corpus. Its members also have the authority to appoint trial judges to the appellate court on a temporary basis.
- See also: Illinois judicial elections, 2012
|Candidate||Incumbency||Party||Predecessor||Primary Vote||Election Vote|
|Aurelia Marie Pucinski||No||Democratic||Vacancy of Thomas Fitzgerald||21%|
|James G. Riley||No||Republican||Vacancy of Thomas Fitzgerald||25.3%|
|Joy Cunningham||No||Democratic||Vacancy of Thomas Fitzgerald||23%|
|Mary Jane Theis||Yes||Democratic||Vacancy of Thomas Fitzgerald||48%||74.7%|
|Thomas W. Flannigan||No||Democratic||Vacancy of Thomas Fitzgerald||7%|
- See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections
| Illinois Supreme Court |
2010 General election results
|Charles Freeman (D)||n/a||78%|
| Illinois Supreme Court |
2010 General election results
|Robert Thomas (R)||n/a||81%|
| Illinois Supreme Court |
2010 General election results
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Illinois was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Illinois received a score of -0.31. Based on the justices selected, Illinois was the 15th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
Rules of practice and procedure in Illinois courts
The Illinois Supreme Court sets the rules of practice and procedure for the state's judicial system. The court has adopted the following rules:
- General Rules
- Rules on Civil Proceedings in the Trial Court
- Civil Appeals Rules
- Rules on Criminal Proceedings in the Trial Court
- Rules on Trial Court Proceedings in Traffic & Conservation Offenses, Ordinance Offenses, Petty Offenses, and Certain Misdemeanors--Bail Schedules
- Appeals in Criminal Cases, Post-Conviction Cases, & Juvenile Court Proceedings
- Rules on Admission & Discipline of Attorneys
- Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct of 2010
- Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct - Repealed January 1, 2010
- Child Custody Proceedings
- Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice
Sessions of the court
Most cases before the supreme court are allotted a total of 50 minutes for oral arguments--20 minutes for opening arguments, 20 minutes for replies and 10 minutes for rebuttals.
The Supreme Court Building was completed in 1908 and cost $450,500.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Illinois earned a grade of D in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
Removal of justices
The Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board is responsible for filing any necessary complaints against a justice with the Illinois Courts Commission. After a hearing, the commission may take various disciplinary actions against the justice, which can include removal from the bench.
In the years since the convention of 1970, there have been multiple attempts to reform the court, and specifically to change the method of judicial selection. Proponents have included the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association and the League of Women Voters of Illinois. None of those efforts were successful.
Reappointments in Cook County
The supreme court has been found to be using its recall power to put a number of Cook County Circuit Court judges back in office, contrary to voters' decisions at the polls. In 1993, the court promised to stop this practice. However, a review by the Chicago Tribune found that, since 2000, the supreme court had reappointed 18 judges to the Cook County Circuit Court who had been ousted by voters. David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said that this practice, which has gone on for a long time, violates the will of the voters. In August of 2011, a court spokesman said that the justices decided to end the practice earlier that year.
| • Eavesdropping law struck by court (2014)||Click for summary→|
|In People v. Melongo, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the 1961 Illinois Eavesdropping Act on March 20, 2014, declaring that the law which made it a felony to record a person's conversation without their consent was too broad. The law had made it a crime to record events such as an argument on the street or fans at a sports event. Chief Justice Rita Garman wrote:
| • Illinois Supreme Court closes tax loophole for Chicago businesses (2013)||Click for summary→|
|See also: Courtroom Weekly: Kids and the courts
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on November 21, 2013 that state law does not allow businesses to create “sales offices” in towns with lower tax rates in order to avoid higher local tax rates in Chicago. Since faulty tax-collection regulations established by the Department of Revenue allowed the practice, businesses who had spotted and utilized this loophole did not violate tax laws. This supreme court ruling, in regards to a dispute between Hartney Fuel Oil Co. and the Department of Revenue, will have wide-reaching consequences for businesses using similar tax strategies.
Starting in 2003, Hartney Fuel Oil Co. began renting an office and phone line in the small town of Mark, Illinois. This move enabled Hartney to claim Mark as the point of sale for fuel purchases. Since local sales tax rates vary in Illinois, towns often compete with tax incentives to bring in business. Putnam County, where the town of Mark is located, has no local sales tax. This makes Mark’s tax rate the same as the state’s 6.25 percent. Chicago’s tax rate by comparison is 9.25 percent. With this arrangement, Hartney avoided paying sales taxes to the village of Forest View, Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority.
The dispute with the state began in 2008, when the Department of Revenue billed Hartney $23 million for tax, interest and penalty after conducting an audit of January 1, 2005 through June 30, 2007. The audit determined that the company’s operations were subject to the tax rates of the Chicago suburb Forest View rather than Mark. The state accused Hartney of benefitting from the Chicago-area business incentives while avoiding the high taxes by paying the cheaper rates downstate. Hartney paid the assessment and in 2011 sued for a refund in Tenth Circuit Court.
In court, the Department of Revenue argued that determining the location of taxation is based on "a totality of the circumstances." Since Hartney maintained inventory, marketed, set pricing and cultivated sales relationships in Forest View, the company should have to pay taxes to that locality.In turn, Hartney argued that tax agents had pulled their analysis “out of thin air” and had ignored previous audits showing Hartney’s sales were in Mark. Unfortunately for the state, some past audits were lost or destroyed and therefore unavailable to the court. Tenth Circuit Court Judge Scott A. Shore sided with Hartney and Mark in his decision. In 2012, the Department of Revenue appealed the ruling in the Illinois Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa, where the justices upheld Shore’s ruling 2-1. The Department of Revenue then took the case to the Illinois Supreme Court for appeal.
On November 21, 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court partially affirmed the lower court rulings. Chief Justice Rita Garman noted in her opinion that Hartney’s tax scheme was debatable, but it was consistent with state law and policy in effect at that time. The justices noted that the General Assembly did not intend for the legislation to function in that way, since the purpose of collecting taxes is to pay for government services provided to those who live or do business within the taxing venue.
In light of this, the supreme court ordered the Department of Revenue to refund Hartney the $23 million as well as rewrite the regulations to close the loophole. The court noted that tax collection, according to the legislation, is based on multiple factors rather than just the location of the purchase order. The court did not specify what the tax policy should be, as Garman wrote, “these are arguments well suited for the General Assembly.”Both parties appeared to welcome the judgment. Mark Village President Frank Niewinski stated, “Everything appears to have gone in favor of the Village of Mark, Putnam County and Hartney Fuel Oil. We’re pleased with the decision to uphold Judge Shore’s ruling and the appellate court ruling” The Department of Revenue also viewed the ruling as a win, stating, “The Illinois Supreme Court’s decision (Thursday) gets to the result that the Department of Revenue has been trying to achieve for years: It clarifies that sales taxes must be paid in the community where the bulk of the business activities occur and that the Department of Revenue complies with state law by allocating sales tax revenues to the communities housing core business functions."
| • People v. Aguilar||Click for summary→|
|In the case of The People of the State of Illinois v. Alberto Aguilar, the state supreme court held that Illinois' ban on carrying firearms outside of the home was unconstitutional.|
| • Mandatory retirement law struck (2013)||Click for summary→|
|In 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a law that required judges in the state to retire at the age of 75. Former circuit judge William Maddux was the plaintiff. The court found that the law was unfair because it applied only to sitting judges; persons older than 75 who were not former judges could run for election to judgeships. The court stated:
| • Certification of Burris appointment (2009)||Click for summary→|
|The temporary appointment of Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate caused a stir in the Illinois court system.
A lawsuit sought to compel Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the certification papers of Burris to the U.S. Senate. The issue was contentious due to the fact that Burris had been appointed by Rod Blagojevich to fill President-elect Barack Obama's seat in the Senate. Blagojevich had previously been charged with soliciting bribes for the seat. When Burris asked White to sign his certification of appointment, White refused, pointing to the allegations of corruption surrounding the seat. Burris was refused admittance to the Senate due to the missing signature and filed suit to require White to sign the paperwork.
On January 9, 2009 the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled that White was not required to sign the certification of appointment. In issuing the ruling, Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote:
| • Blagojevich suit (2008)||Click for summary→|
|In December of 2008, three citizens filed suit in the case of Bambenek et al v. Milorad R. Blagojevich, concerning the ability of Governor Rod Blagojevich to continue serving in office after his arrest on corruption charges. The court was asked to consider ruling Blagojevich unfit to serve pursuant to the "other disability" clause of the Illinois Constitution, Article V, Section 6(b). On December 17, 2008, the court denied, without comment, hearing this suit as well as an identical suit filed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The text of the brief can be viewed here.|
On December 3, 1818, President Monroe signed legislature to allow Illinois to enter the Union as a state. The Illinois Constitution provided for the judicial system in Article IV. The first supreme court had four justices who were to be appointed by the General Assembly. The court had appellate jurisdiction in all cases other than cases involving revenue, mandamus, habeas corpus and impeachment, in which it had original jurisdiction.
The first supreme court justices served until 1824, at which point the General Assembly appointed new justices, who had life tenure during good behavior.
In 1841, after being legislated in and out of existence, all circuit courts were dissolved with legislation. To uphold the caseload, five new supreme court justices were appointed, creating a total of nine. This system remained until 1848 when the second Illinois Constitution was adopted.
Constitution of 1848
In 1848, the Illinois Constitution was amended, and Article V established a supreme court with only three justices. These justices were to be elected by popular vote for nine-year terms. The court convened only one time annually in each division. The justices were elected for nine-year terms by popular vote, and represented each of the three divisions of the state. The court's jurisdiction remained the same--original jurisdiction in cases of revenue, mandamus, habeas corpus, and impeachment, and appellate jurisdiction in all other cases.
Constitution of 1870
As the urban areas of Illinois grew (specifically around Chicago), a new constitution was required to handle the needs of a state that was part rural and part urban. The Constitution of 1870 provided seven justices with seven districts for the supreme court. A quorum consisted of four justices and the agreement of at least four justices was necessary for a decision. The jurisdiction and term lengths remained the same.
The court was required to hold annual terms in each of the three divisions created by the Constitution of 1848. At least one of those terms had to be held in Chicago. This was changed in 1879, when legislation was passed to require the court to hold terms only in Springfield. Additionally, the law gave the court authority to make rules for the rest of the state's judicial system.
The Judicial Article of 1964
The Judicial Article of 1964 amended Article VI of the Constitution of 1870, particularly to address issues in Chicago's judicial system. It simplified the state's court structure into a supreme court, an appellate court and circuit courts. The supreme court was allotted seven justices. These justices were elected from five districts; three were elected from the First Judicial District, which included Cook County and the City of Chicago, and the other four districts each elected one judge. Term lengths were increased to ten years.
The supreme court was also given administrative authority over the state judicial system. This authority was tasked to a chief justice, who served a three-year term and was selected by his or her fellow justices.
The act also required that all justices in Illinois be citizens, licensed attorneys in the state, and a resident of the area from which he or she was elected.
Constitution of 1970
The Article VI of the 1970 Constitution, as part of the most-recent revision to the state's constitution, defines how the judicial system operates today.
First, it decreased the supreme court's mandatory appellate jurisdiction so that only cases involving the death penalty are sent directly from a circuit court to the supreme court, bypassing the intermediate appellate court. Also, the article stated that automatic appeals, or appeals of constitutional right, from the appellate court to the supreme court were to be made in only two instances: 1) if a new constitutional question is presented as a result of an action of the appellate court or 2) if the appellate court itself determines that the case should be determined by the supreme court. This decreased the court's mandatory case load and allowed it more time for its administrative tasks.
The new article also set up the current system of partisan elections of judges through primaries. It also created the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, a disciplinary agency for the courts which files and prosecutes complaints before the Illinois Courts Commission. The Courts Commission was originally established by the Judicial Article of 1964, but its authority was slightly redefined in 1970. It is in charge of hearing complaints against judges and disciplining them as needed.
- The late Justice Mary Ann McMorrow was the first woman to join the court (1992) and its first female chief justice (2002-2006). As chief justice, she also held the distinction of being the first woman in Illinois to head one of the three branches of government.
- The first African-American to join the court was Charles Freeman. He also served as chief justice from 1997 to 2000.
Previous chief justices and the dates they served in that role:
|All former justices of the Illinois Supreme Court:||click for list →|
|Thomas R. Fitzgerald||2000-2010|
|Phillip J. Rarick||2002-2004|
|S. Louis Rathje||1999-2000|
|John L. Nickels||1992-1998|
|Mary Ann G. McMorrow||1992-2006|
|Moses W. Harrison II||1992-2002|
|Joseph F. Cunningham||1991-1992|
|James D. Heiple||1990-2000|
|Michael A. Bilandic||1990-2000|
|Horace L. Calvo||1988-1991|
|John J. Stamos||1988-1990|
|Joseph F. Cunningham||1987-1988|
|Benjamin K. Miller||1984-2001|
|Thomas E. Kluczynski||1978-1980|
|Thomas J. Moran||1976-1992|
|James A. Dooley||1976-1978|
|William G. Clark||1976-1992|
|Caswell J. Crebs||1975-1976|
|Howard C. Ryan||1970-1990|
|Joseph H. Goldenhersh||1970-1987|
|Charles H. Davis||1970-1975|
|Marvin F. Burt||1969-1970|
|Caswell J. Crebs||1969-1970|
|John T. Culbertson, Jr.||1969-1970|
|Daniel P. Ward||1966-1990|
|Thomas E. Kluczynski||1966-1976|
|Robert C. Underwood||1962-1984|
|Roy J. Solfisburg, Jr.||1960-1969|
|Byron O. House||1957-1969|
|Charles H. Davis||1955-1960|
|Ray I. Klingbiel||1953-1969|
|Harry B. Hershey||1951-1966|
|Ralph L. Maxwell||1951-1956|
|George W. Bristow||1951-1961|
|Walter V. Schaefer||1951-1976|
|Albert M. Crampton||1948-1953|
|Joseph E. Daily||1948-1963|
|Jessie L. Simpson||1947-1951|
|William J. Fulton||1942-1954|
|Charles H. Thompson||1942-1951|
|June C. Smith||1941-1947|
|Loren E. Murphy||1939-1948|
|Walter T. Gunn||1938-1951|
|Francis S. Wilson||1935-1951|
|Elwyn R. Shaw||1933-1942|
|Lott R. Herrick||1933-1937|
|Norman L. Jones||1931-1940|
|Warren H. Orr||1930-1939|
|Frederic R. DeYoung||1924-1934|
|Oscar E. Heard||1924-1933|
|Floyd E. Thompson||1919-1928|
|Clyde E. Stone||1918-1948|
|Warren W. Duncan||1915-1933|
|Charles C. Craig||1913-1918|
|George A. Cooke||1909-1919|
|Frank K. Dunn||1907-1933|
|Orrin N. Carter||1906-1924|
|Alonzo K. Vickers||1906-1915|
|William M. Farmer||1906-1931|
|Guy C. Scott||1903-1909|
|James B. Ricks||1901-1906|
|John P. Hand||1900-1913|
|Carroll C. Boggs||1897-1906|
|Joseph N. Carter||1894-1903|
|James H. Cartwright||1895-1924|
|Jesse J. Phillips||1893-1901|
|Joseph M. Bailey||1888-1895|
|Jacob W. Wilkin||1888-1907|
|Benjamin D. Magruder||1885-1906|
|Simeon P. Shope||1885-1894|
|Damon G. Tunnicliff||1885-1885|
|David J. Baker||1888-1897|
|John H. Mulkey||1879-1888|
|David J. Baker||1878-1879|
|T. Lyle Dickey||1875-1885|
|Alfred M. Craig||1873-1900|
|William K. McAllister||1870-1875|
|Benjamin R. Sheldon||1870-1888|
|John M. Scott||1870-1888|
|Charles B. Lawrence||1864-1873|
|Pinkney H. Walker||1858-1885|
|Onias C. Skinner||1855-1858|
|Walter B. Scates||1853-1857|
|David M. Woodson||1848-1848|
|Jesse B. Thomas||1847-1848|
|William A. Denning||1847-1848|
|Norman H. Purple||1845-1848|
|Gustavus P. Koerner||1845-1848|
|Jesse B. Thomas||1843-1845|
|John Dean Caton||1843-1864|
|John M. Robinson||1843-1843|
|Richard M. Young||1843-1847|
|John Dean Caton||1842-1843|
|Stephen A. Douglas||1841-1843|
|Samuel H. Treat||1841-1855|
|Walter B. Scates||1841-1847|
|Theophilus W. Smith||1825-1842|
|Samuel D. Lockwood||1825-1848|
|William P. Foster||1818-1819|
|Thomas C. Browne||1818-1848|
- The Illinois Supreme Court: Judicial Activism, With Limits
- Fringe Tactics: Special Interest Groups Target Judicial Races (timed out)
- Illinois Supreme Court Official Site
- List of Supreme Court Justices from Supreme Court's website
- Supreme and Appellate Court District Map
- Illinois Courts - Student Learning Center, "Illinois Supreme Court," accessed March 21, 2014
- Illinois General Assembly; Courts: (705 ILCS 25/) Appellate Court Act
- Constitution of the State of Illinois, Article VI: The Judiciary
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection," archived October 2, 2014
- American Judicature Society, " "Methods of Judicial Selection: Illinois," archived October 2, 2014"
- Illinois Constitution, Article VI, Section 3
- Illinois Constitution, Article VI, Section 11
- In the case of redistricting, sitting judges are not required to give up their seats, even if they live outside of the new district they represent. (Illinois Constitution, Article VI, Section 11)
- 705 ILCS 55/1 "Compulsory Retirement of Judges Act."
- ABA Journal, "Top Illinois Court Axes Mandatory Retirement Law for State Judges," June 18, 2009
- Illinois Courts, "Supreme Court Caseload Statistics"
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Illinois Courts, "Illinois Supreme Court Rules," accessed March 21, 2014
- Illinois Courts, "Illinois Supreme Court Building Information," accessed March 21, 2014
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- American Judicature Society, "Removal of Judges," archived October 2, 2014
- American Judicature Society: History of Efforts to Reform the Illinois Judiciary
- Chicago Tribune, "State high court overrules voters on judge picks," August 26, 2011
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Reuters, "Illinois Supreme Court strikes down," March 21, 2014
- The Chicago Tribune, "Court shuts down sales tax havens," November 28, 2013
- The Chicago Tribune, "Illinois Supreme Court tosses Department of Revenue's tax-collection rules," November 22, 2013
- Mondaq, "Illinois Local Sales Tax Sourcing Uncertainty Is Over…Replaced By Chaos: Hartney Wins Tax Situs Suit, But Governing Regulations Are Invalidated," November 26 2013
- The News Tribune, "Hartney Fuel wins high court ruling," November 22, 2013
- The Supreme Court of Illinois, "Opinion," November 21, 2013
- NRA-ILA, "Illinois Supreme Court Declares State's Ban on Carrying Firearms Unconstitutional," January 17, 2014
- Illinois Courts, "People v. Aguilar, 2013 IL 112116," September 12, 2013
- Supreme Court of Illinois (via ABA Journal), "Hon. William D. Maddux et al. v. Rod R. Blagojevich," June 18, 2009
- Chicago Breaking News Center, "State court rebuffs Burris on Senate signature," January 9, 2009, archived November 27, 2010
- NPR, "Illinois Sen. Roland Burris Prepares Exit, Has No Regrets," November 1, 2010
- Chicago Tribune, "Court denies suit," December 17, 2008
- Illinois Courts, "The Third Branch - A Chronicle of the Illinois Supreme Court," accessed March 20, 2014
- Illinois Courts, "Mary Ann G. McMorrow," accessed March 21, 2014
- Illinois Courts, "Charles E. Freeman," accessed March 21, 2014
- The Third Branch - A Chronicle of the Illinois Supreme Court, "Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court," accessed March 21, 2014
|Former||Mary Ann McMorrow • Thomas R. Fitzgerald (Illinois) •|