Court-annexed arbitration was established in Illinois as a mandatory, but non-binding, form of alternative dispute resolution. The program is a deliberate effort on the part of the judiciary, bar and public to reduce the length and cost of litigation in Illinois.
The program applies to all small claims jury proceedings and all civil cases seeking money damages exclusively greater than $10,000 and less than the jurisdictional limit approved for that particular circuit by the Illinois Supreme Court. In Madison County the limit is currently $50,000. Cases may also be transferred to the arbitration calendar from other court calls or divisions.
These arbitration eligible cases are litigated before a panel of three attorney/arbitrators in a hearing resembling a traditional bench trial. Each party makes a concise presentation of its case to the panel of arbitrators who then deliberate the issues and make an award on the same day as the hearing.
The parties to the dispute then have thirty (30) days to decide whether or not to accept the arbitrators’ award. In the event one of the parties is not satisfied with the panel’s decision, he or she may, upon the payment of the proper fee, the filing of the proper form with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, and the giving of notice to all other parties, reject the award. The parties will then proceed to trial before a judge as if the arbitration hearing had never occurred.
The Arbitration Program has provided a speedier resolution of small civil lawsuits than had previously been possible. The parties accept the vast majority of the arbitration awards. In addition, the members of the Madison County Bar, as arbitrators, have played a major role in helping to reduce the length and cost of litigation in this circuit.