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Illinois Supreme Court History: Adjudicating Illinois

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

October 29, 2018

As part of the Illinois Judicial Bicentennial commemorations, the Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission released a new book entitled Adjudicating Illinois: Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court. The book contains short biographies of every justice who sat on the Supreme Court beginning in 1818 and continuing to the present day.  

In addition to traditional biographical information about each of the 117 members of the Supreme Court, Adjudicating Illinois also provides summaries of cases in which the justices authored the majority or dissenting opinions. These cases demonstrate the evolution of the legal system in Illinois.

The state experienced great change in its two-hundred-year existence: geographically, politically, socially, economically, and technologically. The Supreme Court and its justices experienced this change through the legal system. Legal cases mirrored the state’s development as many early court cases examined whether a promissory note’s consideration had failed. As the population grew, conflict became more prevalent, and when Illinois became a hub of manufacturing and transportation, legal cases soon followed to resolve disputes that had never been considered. The Court also recognized the evolution of the English Common Law system to a legal system unique to Illinois. More recent changes in Illinois law include modernization of contributory negligence and the elimination of the death penalty. 

Most importantly, the Court consisted of individuals with varied backgrounds and life histories.  This is the story of each of these justices within the context of their time and adjudicating cases that reflected the important issues of the day.

The biographies were written largely by Janice Petterchak and Theodore Hild. John Lupton, the Director of the Commission, edited the manuscript to make the biographies consistent. Matt Burns, Director of Administration for the Commission provided many of the illustrations, including the beautiful cover photo of the Supreme Court Building, The book is published by Donning Press, and is available for $60 (plus $5 shipping and handling) at www.illinoiscourthistory.org