Lesson 7

The Judicial Branch

The main functions of the Judicial Branch are they administer justice, interprets the meaning of law and the Constitution of Illinois, and settles disputes. It is composed of a system of state courts. The state courts are the Illinois Supreme Court, Illinois Appellate Courts, and the Illinois Circuit Courts.

Circuit Courts

Circuit courts are the general trial courts. In these courts cases are heard and judgements are made. They have original jurisdiction.

The voters elect circuit court judges to 6-year terms.

Appellate Court

This court hears appeals from the Circuit courts and therefore has appellate jurisdiction. Its judges are elected and serve for 10-year terms.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Illinois has original jurisdiction in the following cases: Revenue, mandamus, and habeas corpus. Otherwise it is simply the final court of appeal on all other state matters that have come up from the lower courts. Its judges serve for 10-year terms. There are seven Supreme Court judges. These are elected also.


Once judges have been elected, they may run for re-election on their records, without opposition. In these cases voters simply vote yes or no on their retention. If 3/5 approval is not obtained, the judge must be replaced.


All judges must be citizens, licensed attorneys of the state, and residents of the districts from which they are elected. Judges must devote full time to their judicial duties and may not engage in law practice or hold other office, including officers in political parties.