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Legal Research for UIUC Students (Non-Law)


Introduction to Illinois Courts

The Illinois court system is composed of three basic levels:

Illinois Circuit Courts These are the trial level courts of the Illinois system. There are 23 circuit courts in Illinois, each covering 1 to 12 counties. Circuit courts handle trials and local issues and in some cases may review decisions of administrative agencies.
Illinois Appellate Courts The Appellate Courts are the first level of appeal in the Illinois system. There are 5 appellate districts in Illinois, and these courts hear appeals from the Circuit Courts. These courts may also review decisions from administrative agencies.
Illinois Supreme Court The Supreme Court is at the top of the Illinois court food chain and is the last court of appeal in the Illinois system. The Supreme Court hears certain appeals from the Circuit Courts and the Appellate Courts, as well as reviews of death sentences.


There are also other parts of the Illinois system that deal with special issues, such as arbitration panels in certain counties that review lawsuits under a certain dollar amount. The Illinois Courts website has a good explanation of how a case moves through the Illinois court system.

Illinois Courts Quick Links

How to Find Illinois Case Law

The main database for researching Illinois case law is Lexis Academic. After opening Lexis, choose "US Legal" from the side menu and then choose "Federal & State Cases".

On that page, set the jurisdiction to "Illinois".

Lexis Academic can be searched by citation, by party name, by legal topic, by judges, attorneys, or by keyword. You can also narrow the results by date.

Aside from Lexis Academic, there are other sources of Illinois law available online:

Is it still good law? (Citators)

Shepards on Lexis & Lexis Academic

KeyCite on Westlaw

BCite on BloombergLaw

Bad Law Bot on Fastcase

CiteCheck on Casemaker