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The Circuit Court of Cook County is the largest of the 22 circuits in Illinois as well as one of the largest unified court systems in the world. It was created by a 1964 amendment to the Illinois Constitution which reorganized the courts of Illinois. The amendment effectively merged the often confusing and overlapping jurisdictions of Cook County's 161 courts into one uniform and cohesive court of general jurisdiction.
More than 2.4 million cases are filed every year. To accommodate its vast caseload, the Circuit Court of Cook County is organized into three functional departments: County, Municipal, and Juvenile Justice and Child Protection.
The County Department is divided into the following six divisions. Each division is headed by a presiding judge. The types of cases heard in each division depend on the nature of the controversy.
The Criminal Division hears cases in which the state alleges the commission of a serious criminal act such as:
Domestic Relations Division hears matters concerning:
The Law Division hears civil suits for recovery of monetary damages in excess of $30,000 in the city of Chicago, and in excess of $100,000 in the suburban districts, as well as many types of administrative reviews. Cases heard include:
The Probate Division hears matters concerning wills and administration of estates. Cases heard include:
"The Municipal Department is divided into six geographic districts. Each district is supervised by a presiding judge.
The First Municipal District encompasses the City of Chicago. Municipal Districts Two through Six encompass the communities in suburban Cook County.
The Municipal Districts hear cases involving:*
The Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department is the Circuit Court of Cook County's newest department. Prior to its creation as a full-status department by then Chief Judge Donald P. O'Connell in January 1995, the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department was originally known as the Juvenile Justice Division and functioned as a part of the County Department. The establishment of the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department marked the first restructuring of the Circuit Court of Cook County in its thirty-year history.
The department is divided into two divisions: Juvenile Justice and Child Protection. Each division is headed by a presiding judge.
The Juvenile Justice Division hears cases involving delinquent minors under 17 years of age. The Juvenile Justice Division also orders programs and services to rehabilitate these minors and monitors their progress through probation officers. Cases heard include:
The Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Resource Section serves as liaison to the academic, business and religious communities to identify and develop services and resources that will augment programs vital to juvenile justice. The section is supervised by an administrative presiding judge and is located in the Richard J. Daley Center.
The Cook County Juvenile Court was the first juvenile court established in the U.S., in 1899. During its first quarter century, its most important person was Mary Bartelme, whose official titles were Cook County Public Guardian and then (after 1913) assistant to the judge. Bartelme devoted much of her life to child welfare and the reform of juvenile laws, and became an associate justice in 1923 and presiding judge in 1927.