History of the Circuit Court

Splitting Counties into Circuits

In the early 1800s, the counties that currently make up the Eleventh Judicial Circuit were split among several different circuits. For example, initially the First Circuit consisted of Calhoun Green, Macon, Macoupin, McLean, Morgan, Pike, and Sangamon counties. It had two terms of court limited to three days each, with Samuel Lockwood as judge. The act of incorporation provided that all court for said county was held at the house of James Allin until public buildings were erected, unless changed to some other place by the County Commissioner.

Growth & Reduction of the Eighth Circuit

The Eighth Circuit was organized March 21, 1839, consisting of Champaign, DeWitt, Livingston, Macon, Mason, McLean, Menard, Sangamon, and Tazewell counties. Christian, Logan, Piatt, Shelby, and Woodford counties were added to this Circuit in February 1841.

McLean County Courthouse from 1900 - 1976McLean County Courthouse from 1900 to 1976. Today, it houses the McLean County Historical Society and Museum.

In February 1843, Moultrie County was attached to the Eighth Circuit, and Edgar and Vermillion counties were attached in 1845. In 1847, Livingston County was attached to the Ninth Circuit, and Shelby was attached to the Eighth making the Circuit consist of Champaign, Christian, DeWitt, Edgar, Logan, Macon, McLean, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermillion, and Woodford counties. This was the Eighth Circuit so famous in the history of Lincoln.

By 1857, the Eighth Circuit was reduced to Champaign, DeWitt, Logan, McLean, Tazewell, and Vermillion counties. In 1861, the circuit consisted of DeWitt, Logan, and McLean counties with the circuit judge receiving a salary of $1,000 yearly.

Rearranging Circuits in 1877

In 1873, Ford and McLean Counties were made the 14th Circuit. In June of 1877, the Appellate Courts were established, and the Circuit Courts were rearranged, with the number of Circuits reduced from 28 to 13. The Eleventh Circuit consisted of Ford, Iroquois, Kankakee, Livingston, and McLean counties. Each circuit had three judges.

Creating Judicial Circuits

The circuit remained this way until 1897, when the 40th General Assembly passed an act that divided the State of Illinois, exclusive of the County of Cook, into judicial circuits:

  • "Section 1. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: That in lieu of the Circuit Courts provided by law and now existing, the State of Illinois, exclusive of the County of Cook, shall be and the same is hereby divided into judicial circuits as follows…Eleventh Judicial Circuit - the Counties of McLean, Livingston, Logan, Ford, and Woodford…" Source: Laws of 1897

The Eleventh Judicial Circuit has retained the same composition since that date.