Illinois State Court System
- Circuit Court: Circuit courts are also known as trial courts, are courts of general jurisdiction.
- Appellate Court: The Illinois Appellate Court is divided into five judicial districts, with Cook County comprising the First Judicial District, and the rest of the state divided into the remaining four districts, with roughly equal populations. The Appellate Court hears appeals from the Circuit Courts.
- Supreme Court: The Supreme Court of Illinois is the highest court in the state. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the Appellate Court decisions.
*Some of the above courts in the Illinois State Court System also have jurisdiction over certain other proceedings which are not covered here.
In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 30 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.
After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:
- Written Discovery is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:
- Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
- Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
- Depositions – In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Before the lawsuit goes to trial, the parties may opt for mediation or arbitration. Nonbinding arbitration programs may be available in civil cases where the amount in controversy is up to $50,000. Civil cases brought in Cook County may proceed to arbitration where the amount is not in excess of $30,000. Voluntary mediation may also be available. In complex litigation, an experienced mediator may allow the parties to avoid the costs and expenses of a long trial, and help both sides explore a mutually agreed upon settlement.
If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.
Motions and Appeals
After the jury returns their verdict, the parties may file post trial motions and/or appeal the verdict to the appropriate appellate court in Illinois.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Illinois. Should you have a question/concern specific to Illinois law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois.