Illinois Court Records

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What are Illinois Civil Court Records?

Civil court records contain files and documents created during in-court civil proceedings. It covers records related to a variety of civil cases, including personal injury/tort, housing, evictions, administrative review, and contracts. Some of the information can be accessed by members of the public such as calendars of court proceedings and case indexes.

Who Can Obtain a Civil Court Record?

Almost anyone can obtain a public civil court record. The state of Illinois preserves the public’s right to view or inspect public court records. Interested parties can access case information, such as pleadings and motions filed by different parties, docket information, court transcripts, and court decrees. Court records can be obtained as long as they protect proprietary business information and do not violate the interests and privacy rights of civilians and neutral parties.

Note: Members of the public can only access documents exchanged between civil parties and filed with the court. For instance, if two parties reach a settlement agreement about a civil dispute but do not submit the agreement to the court, the public will be unable to access the agreement.

What’s contained in an Illinois Civil Court Record?

While the contents of a civil court file vary with different cases and the nature of the allegation, most civil court records contain the following documents:

  • The filed complaint, substituted complaint or amendment complaint
  • Responsive pleadings
  • Answer to the complaint
  • Cross complaints
  • Third-party complaints
  • Orders of notices
  • Memorandum of points
  • Dismissal or verdict
  • Judgment file and modification of the judgment

Illinois Civil Court Structure

The state of Illinois operates with a three-tiered court structure, consisting of the Supreme court at the top, the appellate courts, and circuit courts.

Illinois Supreme Court

The court of last resort in the state, the Illinois Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts. It also has limited original jurisdiction over cases involving the constitution and may preside over cases related to mandamus and revenue. It also hears direct appeals for cases where a death sentence has been imposed by the circuit court.

Appellate Court

The Illinois Appellate Court serves as the intermediate appellate court. It’s duties including hearing appeals originating from the lower courts (circuit court). The Illinois Appellate Court is divided into five judicial districts. Cook County makes up the first judicial district while the other four are split across the state.

Circuit Courts

Divided into 23 judicial circuits, circuit courts serve as the main trial courts for the state. They have general jurisdiction over most civil and criminal cases. Circuit courts may sometimes be organized into departments or divisions based on the type of cases, such as traffic departments, civil divisions, probate divisions, and criminal divisions. They also have a small claims division that handles civil cases involving disputes of $10,000 and less.

How to Obtain Illinois Civil Court Records

Interested parties can obtain civil court records by applying in person or searching for them online. In some cases, records may also be available by mail.

How to Obtain Civil Court Records in Person

Step 1. Identify the Right Court

Records for civil cases are maintained by the record custodian of the courthouse where the case was heard. To visit the appropriate court, requesters must be able to identify the court where the case was filed.

Step 2. Gather Case-Specific Information

Court clerks require that requesters provide some specific information that can assist with the search for court records. The best approach is to provide a case number. Other details that can assist with the search include providing the name of the parties involved, filing date and the name of the presiding judge. Having case-specific information is important. Thousands of court records pass through the Illinois judiciary system each year. Without any information to work with, finding the right records may prove difficult and very expensive.

Step 3. Visit the Court to View or Inspect Records

Most courts have public access terminals or libraries where members of the public may view or inspect digital records. This service is provided for free, in compliance with state laws. However, any request for copies will likely incur a fee for printing. An additional fee may be required for certified copies of a civil record. Depending on the year where the case was filed, older records may be stored in offsite locations or the court’s archives. Such records may take longer to obtain.

How Do I Obtain Civil Court Records by Mail?

Not all courts provide court records by mail. The courts that do often require that interested parties provide as much relevant information as possible. Requests may be made by a written letter or form providing the:

  • The full legal name of the parties or business involved in the case
  • The specific documents required (court decree, trial docket, filed complaint, etc.)
  • Filing date
  • Name of the presiding judge

Requesters may also be required to make an initial payment to cover the cost of the search up to a certain amount. Because searches may sometimes lead to thousands of pages, a special instruction is often recommended with each request—such as note saying “Not to exceed $40” on the included check. Some courts may also request that interested parties provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope for delivery of the records.

Can Illinois Civil Court Records be Obtained Online?

Some circuit courts provide online access to civil court records via independent search platforms. However, these databases often only contain records of cases filed after 1999. Older records are more likely to be stored as physical files at the courthouse. Online court records may also be limited to only summaries of case information. Access to online case information can be obtained from these courts:

However, some court records may be protected by statute or court order. These include records that contain:

  • Information that may constitute copyrighted or patented material
  • Names of sworn jurors during a case
  • Drafts or notes prepared by a judge or a court staff on behalf of the judge
  • Information that constitutes trade secrets
  • Information that may infringe on the proprietary interest of the government when released
  • Financial information that identities account numbers, social security numbers, credit cards, and other assets.

Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name

Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

Can I Obtain Illinois Juvenile Records?

No. Except in select cases, juvenile court records are generally closed to the public and remain confidential. Records may only be accessed by a state statute or court order.

Note: In 2018, the state of Illinois passed a law requiring the expunction of all juvenile records made between 2000 and 2012 on or before 2023.

How to Obtain Federal Court Records

The federal courts provide online access to docket information, case status, court decrees, and other court-related records via its Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. Using the platform will require a registered account. Users can sign up for the system by providing their full names, contact details, and date of birth. New registrants will also be expected to indicate if they are directly involved in a case, working as a journalist and more.

Search by Court

Searches for records can be done by identifying the specific courthouse where the record is stored. The state of Illinois is home to three federal district courts:

  • Southern District of Illinois
  • Northern District of Illinois
  • Central District of Illinois

Search by Case Number

Members of the public can also conduct searches by case number. Case numbers provide a fast and effective way of searching the federal database as it narrows down the results to files associated with the number.

Search by Name

Another way to locate civil court records is to search through the database using the name of the parties involved. However, this might mean reviewing hundreds and sometimes thousands of records where the plaintiff or defendant has a similar name.

Can I Obtain Illinois Court Transcripts?

Yes. Transcripts of civil court hearings fall under the umbrella of public record and can be accessed by members of the public. As established with the Illinois Court Reporter Transcript Act (705 ILCS 75/0.01), authorized court reporters in attendance of certain cases may cover proceedings either through an electronic recording system or stenographic notes. To obtain a copy, interested parties will need to place an order with the court reporter supervisor. Most courts require that submitted request include relevant information such as the:

  • Name and address of the party placing the order
  • Case number
  • Name of the presiding judge
  • Courtroom number
  • Case Name
  • Date of hearing

Some courts may require a deposit before the transcript request is processed. The exact rates for transcripts typically vary, depending on the type of recording and how quickly the requester wants results.

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