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Illinois Circuit Courts

The Unified Trial Court in Illinois is the Circuit Court comprised of Circuit and Associate Judges. The state is divided in 24 judicial circuits, each having one Chief Judge elected by the Circuit Judges. The Chief Judge has general administrative authority in his or her circuit, subject to the overall administrative authority of the Supreme Court. Circuit Judges may hear any case assigned to them by the Chief Judge. Associate Judges may not preside over criminal cases in which the defendant is charged with an offense punishable by imprisonment for one year or more (felonies), unless approval is received from the Supreme Court. Circuit Judges are elected for a term of six years; Associate Judges are appointed by the Circuit Judges in accordance with Supreme Court rules for a four-year term.

When a Circuit Court Judgeship is vacant or newly created, candidates are nominated at Primary Elections and elected at the General Election. However, any Judge previously elected may, at the expiration of his or her term, have his or her name submitted to the voters on a special judicial ballot without party designation and without an opposing candidate, on the sole question of whether he or she shall be retained in office for another term.






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