Illinois Supreme Court Lifts Its Pause Order Regarding Judicial Redistricting
In a summer move that caught many off guard, Illinois legislators passed Public Act 102-0011 changing the boundaries of the Illinois appellate court districts for the first time in over 55 years. The redrawn judicial district map was proposed by lawmakers on May 25th and swiftly signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker on June 4. The Illinois Supreme Court took immediate action with a June 7, 2021 order pausing the enactment of the redistricting to give courts adequate time to implement the changes. On December 8th, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a new order lifting the temporary pause effective New Year’s Day 2022.
Prior to June 3, 2021, Illinois had five appellate districts made up of Cook County, plus four additional districts grouped geographically spanning the width of the state stacked north to south. Effective January 1, 2022, the state will still have five appellate districts albeit with a different configuration:
- The First District Appellate Court in Chicago will hear cases appealed from trial courts in Cook County.
- The Second District Appellate Court located in Elgin will hear cases appealed from trial courts in five counties (DeKalb, Kane, Kendall, Lake and McHenry).
- The Third District Appellate Court is in Ottawa and will hear cases appealed from trial courts in seven counties (Bureau, DuPage, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, LaSalle and Will).
- The Fourth District Appellate Court in Springfield will hear cases appealed from trial courts in 41 counties (Adams, Boone, Brown, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Ford, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Knox, Lee, Livingston, Logan, Macoupin, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McLean, Menard, Mercer, Morgan, Ogle, Peoria, Pike, Putnam, Rock Island, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Stark, Stephenson, Tazewell, Warren, Whiteside, Winnebago and Woodford).
- The Fifth District Appellate Court is located in Mt. Vernon and will hear cases appealed from trial courts in 48 counties (Alexander, Bond, Champaign, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Macon, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Montgomery, Moultrie, Perry, Piatt, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, Saline, Shelby, St. Clair, Union, Vermillion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson).
See map online at: https://www.illinoiscourts.gov/courts/appellate-court/appellate-court-di....
The court’s June 7, 2021 order was issued pursuant to the court’s general administrative and supervisory authority over the courts of Illinois conferred on this court pursuant to Article VI, section 16 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, sec. 16), as acknowledged by the Illinois General Assembly in Public Act 102-0011. The order paused the implementation of the new districts “in view of the numerous changes to the processing of appeals and the administration of the justice system in Illinois necessitated by Public Act 102-0011, including but not limited to, updates to e-filing and case management systems software, redistribution of staffing and judicial resources, and training of judicial stakeholders and education of the public and members of the bar; to give sufficient time to plan and implement such changes required by Public Act 102-0011, and to facilitate an orderly transition, avoid errors and guarantee access to justice; and recognizing that Public Act 102-0011 states that nothing in the Act is ‘intended to alter or impair the ability of the Supreme Court to fulfill its obligations to ensure the proper administration of the Judicial Branch.’” See June 7, 2021 Order In re: 2021 Judicial Redistricting M.R. 30858.
The court’s December 8, 2021 order not only set the effective date for the re-districting to take effect (January 1, 2022), but also answers some of the practical, procedural, and legal questions raised by the reshuffling of jurisdictions:
- Effective January 1, 2022, the court’s order of June 7, 2021, pausing the implementation of redistricting pursuant to Public Act 102-0011 is hereby vacated. On or after the effective date of this order, a notice of appeal initiating an appeal to the appellate court or a direct appeal to the supreme court pursuant to Rule 302(b) shall be transmitted by the clerk of the circuit court to the appropriate appellate district as established by Public Act 102-0011. Likewise, on or after the effective date of this order, a petition or application or motion under Rule 303(d), Rule 303A, Rule 306, Rule 307(d), Rule 308, Rule 335, Rule 604(c), or Rule 606(c) shall be filed in the appropriate appellate district as established by Public Act 102-0011. These provisions shall apply regardless of the date of the judgment appealed or sought to be appealed.
- Circuit courts remain subject to the rule that, when conflicts arise among the districts, the circuit court is bound by the decisions of the appellate court of the district in which it sits. Aleckson v. Village of Round Lake Park, 176 Ill. 2d 82, 92 (1997). For purposes of application of this rule in a redistricted circuit, the appropriate appellate district shall be the district in which the circuit was located at the time that the circuit court action was initiated.
- If a case is heard by one appellate district on appeal and if a subsequent appeal in that case is heard by a new appellate district pursuant to this order, the new district shall treat the decision of the prior district as the law of the case. The fact that the decision of the prior district applied the law of the prior district that is contrary to the law of the new district shall not be a basis for departing from the decision of the prior district.
See December 8, 2021 Order In re: 2021 Judicial Redistricting M.R. 30858.
The new configuration of the appellate districts in Illinois has wide-ranging implications for Illinois judges, lawyers, and litigants. Actions pending in many different counties are now to be appealed to a different appellate court, but those trial courts are still bound by appellate court decisions from the “prior” district for cases filed on or before December 31, 2022. Appellate courts are also bound to follow the law of the case in subsequent appeals even if the prior decision is contrary to the law of the new district.
For more information visit the www.illinoiscourts.gov website.
Edward Casmere is a Chicago-based litigator and trial lawyer at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP.