How Courts Work
Learn about the courts that hear cases in Winnebago County.
Courts in Illinois
A court of last resort, known as a Supreme Court, is the highest court in Illinois, located in the State’s capital of Springfield, IL. The Supreme Court presides over all courts in the State and typically hears appeals from the Appellate Courts. The Appellate level of the system is an intermediate Court of Appeals. These courts, with 5 total districts located throughout the state, hear appeals for cases originally heard at the trial court level. Winnebago and Boone County are a part of the Second Judicial District of the Appellate Court. In Illinois, we call trial courts Circuit Courts. There are a total of 23 Circuit Courts. Winnebago and Boone County are a part of the 17th Judicial Circuit. The 17th Judicial Circuit has two county courthouses- one in each of the counties (Winnebago and Boone).
Inside the Courts
You will probably find these court employees and staff members when you enter the court house:
- The Court Clerk: If you are giving the court paperwork (otherwise known as “filing”) or trying to ask general questions about a case, you can visit the Clerk’s office. The Clerk is in charge of filing documents that parties submit to the court. You can find them on the first floor of the Winnebago County Courthouse (Room 108).
- Judges: Every courtroom has a judge, who makes the decisions about the issues raised by those in court. They wear a black robe and sit in the front of the court, facing everyone else. There are two types of judges you’ll meet at the Winnebago County Courthouse- Associate and Circuit Judges. Associate Judges are appointed by the court, and Circuit Judges are elected by voters at a general election. It's customary to refer to judges as “Your Honor” while in the courtroom.
- The Courtroom Clerk: Every courtroom has a clerk who helps the judge to manage the cases being heard- this includes keeping records or scheduling future hearings. They typically sit to the left or right of the judge.
- A Bailiff: Bailiffs are in charge of security of the courtroom. They also help the judge organize who appears when during a given time slot. Let the bailiff, typically in a dark suit, know who you are and what case you are involved in when you arrive in the courtroom.
- An Interpreter: When either a party or witness in a case is unable to understand English, there is a court interpreter that can arrive to help those non-English speakers understand.
If you are curious what goes on in a courtroom, you are able to watch most hearings and trials, as they are open to the public. That way, you have an idea of what to expect.