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The Circuit Court is the trial court of general jurisdiction in the State of Illinois which initially hears all cases filed other than those for which the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction. (For example, redistricting of the General Assembly.) The Circuit Court is comprised of Circuit Court Judges and Associate Judges. Resident Circuit Judges are elected in one county. Judges of the Circuit Court are elected in all of the counties of the circuit and each have the same jurisdiction to hear cases. After first being elected in a general election on a partisan ballot, Circuit Judges must be retained every six years by receiving at least 60 percent yes votes from those who vote on their retention. All Circuit Judges run for retention in the entire circuit.

Associate Judges are elected by the Circuit Judges and serve four-year terms and have general jurisdiction to hear all cases other than those criminal cases (felonies) which carry a penalty of incarceration in the department of corrections for one year or more. Associate Judges can and many are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to hear felony cases as well.

Each circuit, of which there are 21 in the State of Illinois, has a Chief Judge who is elected by the Circuit Judges of the circuit. In the Eighth Judicial Circuit the Chief Judge serves a term of two years but can be re-elected to that position without limitation.

The Eighth Judicial Circuit is comprised of eight counties including, Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Mason, Menard, Pike, and Schuyler. Each of the 102 counties within the State of Illinois also have a circuit clerk whose duties, among others, is to maintain all court records, court files, and receipt of funds paid as a result of the court cases handled by the judges.