State Supreme Court pauses transition to new appellate districts

State Supreme Court pauses transition to new appellate districts

By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
smansur@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court will delay its transition to implement new appellate court boundaries that were created by a recently approved judicial district map until further notice.

“Appeals and other matters shall continue to be filed in the judicial districts as they existed on June 3, 2021, until further order of the Court,” according to the court order released on Monday.

Last month, lawmakers redrew four of the five judicial districts along with the state’s legislative districts, the latter of which is a process required by the state constitution every 10 years following the decennial census. Gov. JB Pritzker signed the maps into law on Friday, June 4.

The delay is needed “in view of the numerous changes to the processing of appeals and the administration of the justice system in Illinois necessitated by (the new judicial map),” according to the order. That includes changes to e-filing and case management systems, redistribution of staffing and judicial resources, training for judicial stakeholders and education of the public and members of the bar.

The five judicial districts that are used for electing the seven Illinois Supreme Court justices are the same district boundaries used to elect judges within the five appellate court districts.

The 1st District, which contains only Cook County and elects three Supreme Court justices, was not included in the judicial redistricting process. The remaining four districts, which elect only one justice each, share boundaries with the four appellate court districts outside of Cook County.

The 2nd District previously spanned 13 counties that surrounded Cook County and ran across the northwestern portion of the state, bordering Wisconsin to the north and Iowa to the west. It now covers DeKalb, Kendall, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

DuPage County was moved from the 2nd District to the 3rd District, which previously included 21 counties spanning from Kankakee County to the Metro East. The new 3rd District also includes Bureau, LaSalle, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee and Will counties.

The new 4th District, which contains 22 counties that were previously within the 2nd or 3rd districts, contains counties in western Illinois along the Mississippi River and encompasses counties up to the Wisconsin border.

The new 5th District gained 11 counties that were previously in the 4th District.

Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly opposed the new judicial maps, which were drawn by Democrats. They argued the new district boundaries were redrawn in response to former Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat from the 3rd District, losing his retention election in 2020.

The new district lines were drawn to maximize Democrats’ chances of keeping a majority on the state’s highest court, the Republicans say.

But Democrats claim population shifts that resulted in Supreme Court districts that are no longer “of substantially equal population,” which is required under the Illinois Constitution, necessitated the action.

Republicans also decried that the maps were not based on U.S. Census data, which will not be released until August due to the pandemic. Instead, the Democrats used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data which is less detailed and precise.

The legislation creating the new judicial map states that the new districts do not change the “composition and boundaries of the Judicial Circuits,” which are trial courts where cases typically originate.

There are 24 judicial circuits across the state, including six single county circuits in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

The new judicial boundaries relocate eight judicial circuits to new districts. DuPage County, which is the 18th Judicial Circuit, has moved from the 2nd to the 3rd Appellate District under the remap.

In addition, the 15th Judicial Circuit (containing Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Carroll, Ogle and Lee counties) and the 17th Judicial Circuit (containing Winnebago and Boone counties) moved from the 2nd to the 4th Appellate District.

The 14th Judicial Circuit (containing Mercer, Rock Island, Whiteside and Henry counties), the 10th Judicial Circuit (containing Stark, Putnam, Marshall, Peoria and Tazewell counties) and the 9th Judicial Circuit (containing Knox, Fulton, Warren, Henderson, Hancock and McDonough counties) moved from the 3rd to the 4th Appellate District.

Dennis J. Orsey, Illinois State Bar Association President, said in a statement Monday that the organization agrees with the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision “to temporarily pause the implementation of the legislatively enacted judicial redistricting plan in order for the Court to faithfully execute the plan.”

“On behalf of the ISBA, I applaud our Supreme Court’s leadership and foresight in recognizing that the changes necessitated by this legislation must be properly and thoughtfully implemented in order to ensure the efficient and orderly administration of our justice system,” Orsey said in the statement.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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