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Illinois Supreme Court History: Upcoming Judicial Bicentennial Events

By: John A. Lupton, Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission

August 27 , 2018

On August 26, 1818, the Constitution of Illinois created the Supreme Court and the judicial branch of government. Despite many structural changes, the Court has had the same important role in Illinois as the supreme judicial body within the state. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Court’s creation, the Supreme Court Historic Preservation is sponsoring two upcoming events: a traveling exhibit and a gala.

The traveling exhibit will open on Friday, September 21, 2018 at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, where it will remain for several weeks. The educational and interesting exhibit features information about how the court system operates, as well as prominent lawyers and cases in Illinois history and a general history of the judiciary’s first 200 years of existence. Circuit clerks in Illinois have been providing the Commission information about historic cases and a few of those cases and people will be featured. The exhibit also provides an opportunity for the Commission to showcase a few items in its collection and some of the activities it undertakes. The exhibit will circulate among colleges and universities throughout Illinois in 2018 and 2019.

The Bicentennial Gala will take place on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield. Illinois attorney and author Scott Turow will be the keynote speaker. October 9, 1818 was the date that the legislature selected the first four justices on the Supreme Court: Chief Justice Joseph Philips, Justice Thomas C. Browne, Justice William Foster, and Justice John Reynolds. The Commission’s George N. Leighton Award will be presented, and a short video will highlight some of the achievements of the Commission. The Presidential Museum exhibits will be open for those who have not yet seen its treasures. The Illinois Gallery will also be open to showcase artifacts from the four presidents who have called Illinois home. The Supreme Court loaned one of its documents to the Museum for the presidential exhibit.

A bicentennial is a unique experience, and the Commission continues to work with the Supreme Court and the circuit clerks to highlight the important role that the judicial branch has in upholding the rule of law, providing a forum for dispute resolution, and interpreting the law.

For more information about these events, please contact John Lupton at john.lupton@illinoiscourthistory.org.