Inside the Courthouse: Clerk of the Circuit Court
The Clerk of the Circuit Court is the official record keeper for the courts. The circuit clerk is an integral part of the entire county governmental process and is endowed with certain authority to aid and promote the judicial process.
The circuit clerk is not an official of local government but a state constitutional officer.
The primary duty of the circuit clerk is to assist the Circuit Court judge in the execution of their judicial duties by preparing and maintaining court records, collecting fees and fines, and processing paperwork. The circuit clerk issues all processes such as citations, notices, and summons for service to the sheriff and subpoenas all witnesses in trials of matters.
The circuit clerk must be present at all court sessions and keep complete records of the proceedings and determinations of that court.
The circuit clerk keeps the following books:
- A general docket book upon which is entered all suits in the order in which they are commenced.
- Proper books of record indexed to show the names of all parties to a suit.
- Judgment and execution docket in which all final judgments are minuted.
- Two well bound books, known as Plaintiff's Index to Court Records and Defendant's Index to Court Records, which include all information concerning all cases commenced and decided by the Court.
- A fee book in which is set down the title of the suit, cost of each suit, and witness fees.
- Such other books of record and entry as may be required by law.
In order to efficiently manage these duties, the areas of responsibility are commonly divided into four divisions which are Civil, Criminal, Family, and Traffic.
The circuit clerk assigns a chief deputy to each division to help facilitate communication between the circuit clerk and deputy clerks.
The Civil Division deals with a variety of cases including personal injury, probate (wills), small claims, and product liability just to name a few.
The Criminal Division is where all felony charges are processed. Charges filed here are initiated by either the State's Attorney, Attorney General, or the grand jury on behalf of law enforcement agencies and range from homicide and armed robbery to felony drug charges and juvenile delinquency.
The Family Division processes payment records for divorces, child adoptions, orders of protection for victims of abuse, and paternity suits and maintains payment records for all child support cases.
The Traffic Division usually handles the highest volume of cases which include traffic violations, DUIs, and misdemeanors.
The circuit clerk also manages the courts’ docket and juries. The circuit clerk furnishes the County Clerk a list of all persons who have served as jurors and draws the names for jury service as needed.
The office of Clerk of Circuit Court is open to laypersons. The Circuit Clerk has many different constituencies to serve including judges, the state’s attorney, the county board, law enforcement, social service agencies, witnesses, and jurors.
To maintain this high level of professionalism, Circuit Clerks continually review law, technology, policies, and procedures to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Clerk of the Circuit Court is an elected office serving a four-year term.
*Inside the Courthouse, Illinois Association of County Board Members, 2019