Illinois Court Records
Where to Find Illinois Civil Court Records
Illinois Civil Court records are all official documents generated and maintained during civil court proceedings within the state's jurisdiction. These records include documents on civil disputes, suits, claims, and court transcripts, motions, appeals, and dockets. Typically, the courthouse that presided over a case manages and disseminates Illinois Civil Court records. Likewise, interested and eligible members of the public may access them through third-party service providers such as CourtRecords.us.
Are Illinois Civil Court Records Public?
Yes, interested members of the public may access Civil Court records, under the provisions of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. However, the public cannot access all types of Civil Court records. While transcripts of court proceedings and court motions and decrees are available for public access, some records are naturally restricted as they contain confidential information. Such restricted records include documents containing information on juveniles as well as adoption.
Likewise, a judge may restrict public access to a record if privacy concerns outweigh the need for public availability. Thus, Civil Court records in this category are only accessible to person(s) named on the record, their attorneys, court-authorized requesters, individuals armed with a court order, and certain law enforcement agencies.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Types of Cases in Illinois Civil Courts
Civil Courts in Illinois have jurisdiction over non-criminal cases filed in the state. These cases include, but are not limited to, disputes between individuals, individuals and private or public-owned companies, disputes between private companies, private and public companies, and cases on injury to rights. Generally, these cases are privately resolved when the parties reach a mutually-convenient settlement or through a court-ordered settlement. Examples of these cases include:
- Traffic violations (e.g., infractions)
- Tort and equitable claims
- Non-violent civil rights violations such as discrimination
- Landlord-tenant disputes
- Consumer suits or complaints
- Employee suits or complaints
- Workplace accidents or injuries
- Contract-based violations and disputes
- Marriage and civil unions
- Separations and divorce
- Adoption and transfer of guardianship
- Child support
- Child custody battles
- Contract and Property Disputes
- Small Claims
What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in Illinois?
Typically the Illinois judicial system classifies wrongdoings or suits as either criminal cases or civil cases, i.e., non-criminal. Criminal cases are wrongdoings or offenses that violate the state's criminal laws. The court punishes criminal cases with fines, jail time, or both penalties. On the other hand, civil cases are legal disputes involving individuals, businesses, or institutions. In this case, one party has been slighted by another, usually in a non-violent manner. Thus, the court compels the erring party to abide by the original agreement or pay damages.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Illinois?
The Court Clerk in the courthouse that presided over the case maintains Civil Court records in Illinois. An interested individual may access these records by making in-person requests, via mail or online. Online searches are typically useful when requesting multiple records filed in different local jurisdictions.
To make in-person query or mail request, the eligible individual must:
- Possess relevant information on the case: Courts are legally obligated to provide access to records if the requester can identify the record. Thus, a requester must provide all the information needed to facilitate a record search. This information includes the date of filing, personal information of the parties involved, names of the litigants' legal representative(s), and the case file or docket number.
- Identify the court: If a requester possesses the relevant information, they must proceed or forward their request to the appropriate court. Identifying the particular court is essential because the Illinois judicial system comprises several circuit courts, appellate courts, and the Supreme Court, which is at the apex of the state judiciary. While the circuit court typically hears civil cases in the local jurisdiction where the dispute occurs, an appellate court may overturn a lower court's ruling. The Supreme Court has absolute power over a case and may overrule courts below it.
- Upon confirming the court location or jurisdiction, the requester must also identify the specific division that heard the case. Identifying the division is necessary because the Illinois civil court structure is divided into several divisions based on the amount involved in the case's claim or nature. For example, the Small Claims Court hears landlord-tenant disputes or cases involving money less than $10,000. Thus, record requests must be specifically directed to the appropriate division of the courthouse.
- Schedule a visit to the courthouse: Typically, in-person requestors must contact the court ahead to schedule their visit to the courthouse. The local court website provides information on how to do this and the mailing and physical addresses of the courthouse. A mail request also follows this format.
- Cover the cost of record search: After the requester has satisfied eligibility requirements and provided the necessary information, they may have to cover the cost of searching and copying the record of interest. Naturally, the associated cost differs with jurisdiction and the type of record.
The requester has full discretion on how to request and obtain a public Civil Court record based on the available channels. However, online perusal is the fastest means to access a record, but obtaining certified copies of such records may take longer. Noteworthy is that in-person applications are typically processed faster than other request channels.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?
Illinois Civil Court records are accessible online using the electronic resources provided on various court websites. They are also accessible using third-party search engines. To access available records remotely, the requester must find the court applicable and their corresponding website. The Illinois judicial website maintains a helpful list of these websites. Likewise, the website provides a database of standardized court forms per jurisdiction.
However, the online availability of individual civil court records is not always guaranteed. The Electronic Access Policy restricts access to the following records:
- Records that provide identifying information on financial information such as account numbers, liabilities, accounts, credit cards, social security number, or PINs of individuals or business entities;
- Proprietary business information such as trade secrets, customer lists, financial information, or business tax returns;
- Information constituting trade secrets, copyrighted or patented material whose release would infringe on the government's proprietary interests;
- Notes, drafts, and work products prepared by a judge or for a judge by court staff or individuals working for the judge related to cases before the court;
- Names, addresses, or telephone numbers of potential or sworn jurors in a criminal case;
- Juror questionnaires and transcripts of voir dire of prospective jurors;
- Wills deposited with the court according to the Manual on Recordkeeping;
- Arrest warrants (at least before the arrest of the person named);
- Any documents filed or imaged, i.e. complaint, pleading, order Records containing information on a juvenile or minor
- Court records in a civil harassment proceeding
- Civil court records about family cases such as domestic violence suits, child support, custody battle, and legal separation cases
- Court records regarding workplace violence or workplace violence prevention.
However, only persons who meet specific eligibility requirements may view electronic court records. More information regarding the available case types and eligibility requirements is outlined under the Electronic Access Policy.
What is Included in an Illinois Civil Court Record?
The information contained in Illinois Civil Court records is typically unique to each case. However, there is some standard information shared by all records. This includes:
- The personal information of all litigants involved
- All documentation related to court summons, orders of notices, arrest warrants, and restraining orders
- Details of the complaint, suit, or claim
- Amendments to the complaint or claim, following the initial report.
- The plea of the defendant
- Filings, affidavits, and evidence presented by either plaintiff or defendant
- The trial transcripts including appearances, motions, and oral arguments (usually contained in dockets)
- Memorandum of decision and final judgments
- Details of agreements and court-ordered settlements
- Details of any court-ordered rights and privileges supervised by law enforcement
How to Access Illinois Civil Court Records For Free
All open court records are accessible electronically for free. However, depending on the jurisdiction, these records may not be copied, downloaded, or exported for free. In such cases, the requester must pay for the services provided. Also, information accessed remotely is typically limited as stipulated under the Electronic Access Policy. In this case, the requestor must use the self-service station available at the office of the Clerk of Courts. Regardless, identifying information on juveniles and witnesses are typically excluded from electronic access.
How to Seal Civil Court Records in Illinois
Under Illinois statutes, a litigant may petition a presiding judge to expunge or seal a record if the case meets specific requirements. However, expungement or sealing only results in the restriction of access to the information contained in the record. It does not refer to the total obliteration of the record.
Generally, the presiding judge weighs the petitioner's interest to keep the records confidential against the right of public access to the record and public interest. However, the court is obligated to grant or deny the petition of either or both parties.
How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Illinois
Unless armed with a court order, requestors are typically denied access to sealed Civil Court records. Otherwise, sealed records are only accessible to parties named on the record, their legal representatives, as well as certain law enforcement agencies.