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Prerequistes for Becoming a State Judge

There are several hundred Illinois state judges whose job is to apply and interpret the laws that govern us.

To become a judge, the Illinois Constitution states that the person must be a U.S. citizen, an Illinois licensed attorney-at-law and a resident of the geographic area that selects the judge.

Judicial candidates either must run for election or be appointed. Candidates for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court, for most seats on the Illinois Appellate Court and for a seat on the Illinois Circuit Court are nominated in the primary election and elected in the general election. All Associate Judges of the Circuit Courts are appointed by the Circuit Judges of each circuit. Supreme and Appellate Court justices are elected for ten-year terms; Circuit judges are elected and retained for six-year terms.

At the end of their terms, justices and judges must run for retention on the non-partisan portion of the ballot in general elections. Voters are given the option to vote "Yes" or "No" to retain a judge for another term. A judge must receive 60 percent "yes" votes to retain his or her seat on the bench. Associate judges are appointed for four-year terms and are retained by a vote of the judges in their circuit.

The Illinois Supreme Court may fill vacancies in elected judicial positions by appointment until the vacancy is filled by election. This includes vacancies for the elected positions on the Supreme Court, Appellate Court and Circuit Court.

In Illinois, there are five judicial districts which are sub-divided into 22 judicial circuits. The First District (Cook County) elects three Supreme Court justices. The other four districts each elect one Supreme Court justice. Each judicial district elects a number of Appellate justices. Each county elects at least one Resident Circuit Judge, and as a whole, elects a number of at-large Circuit Judges.

Once elected, all Illinois judges must abide by the Code of Judicial Conduct, which was written to establish standards for ethical conduct of judges. The Code is designed to provide guidance to sitting judges and candidates for judicial office and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through disciplinary agencies.

Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page

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