Justice, in Illinois counties, has been administered by a constantly increasing numiber of bodies. The Constitution of 1818 vested the judicial powers of the state in a Supreme Court and such inferior courts las the General Assembly should ordain and establish; required the Supreme Court justices to hold circuit courts in the several counties; and provided for the appointment, in such manner and with such powers and duties as the General Assembly should direct, of a competent number of justices of the peace in each county.(64)
Federal statutes already allowed circuit courts, in all states, jurisdiction over the naturalization of aliens (65) the first state legislature additionally conferred jurisdiction over all causes at common laiw and chancery and over all cases of treason, felony, and other crimes and misdemeanors. (66) The legislature further required that two terms of a circuit court be held in each county annually by one of the Supreme Court justices, (67) but in 1824 provision was made for the holding of circuit courts by separate circuit court judges, to be appointed, as were the Supreme Court justices, by both branches of the General Assembly, and to hold office during good behavior. (68) In 1827 the General Assembly repealed the 1824 law, and again provided for circuit courts to be held by Supreme Court justices. (69) At the next session of the legislature, when a new circuit was established, provision was made for the appointment of a circuit judge to act therein. (70) At that time, therefore, the circuit courts were held by Supreme Court justices in four judicial circuits and by a circuit judge in the fifth. (71) A change was made again in 1835, when power to hold circuit courts was taken away from the Supreme Court justices and provision was made for the appointment of five circuit judges, in addition to the one already authorized, to hold circuit courts. (72) The six judicial circuits existing at that time were supplemented during the next few years by the creation of new circuits, (73) so that they numbered nine in 1841 when the office of circuit judge was again abolished and the Supreme Court justices, also inoreased to nine, where required to hold circuit courts. (74)
The authority of justices of the peace was limited by law to jurisdiction in specified civil cases and in misdemeanors, with appeals allowed from their judgments to the circuit court. (75) The power of appointment, the legislature at first reserved to itself (76) in 1827, however, justices of the peace were required to be elected, two in eiach of such districts as should be determined within statutory limits by the county commissioners' court. (77)
Jurisdiction over probate matters was at the outset delegated to the county commissioners' court. (78) By act of the next General Assembly, it was transferred to the court of probate, (79) consisting in each county of one judge appointed by the General Assembly.(80) As a result of the substitution in 1837 of probate justices of the peace for the judges of probate, (81) jurisdiction over probate matters for the first time was placed in the hands of elected officers. (82)
The county court was the creation of the second constitution, (83) which also made circuit judges elected officers. (84) With regard to the new court, it was further provided by law that it should be held in each county by a single elected officer, the county judge. (85) Its authority was extended to jurisdiction in all probate matters, and to such jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases as might be conferred by the General Assembly. (86) in pursuance of this latter provision, the county court was first given the same civil and criminal jurisdiction as justices of the peace (87) at the same session of the General Assembly, however, it was declared that county judges when exercising this jurisdiction, acted only in the capacity of justices of the peace. ss Until the next constitutional period, the county court, as such, was given jurisdiction only in a limited number of special actions (89) it was however, considered entitled to equal jurisdiction with the circuit court over naturalization. (90) In this same period, provision was made for increasing, on the basis of population, the number of justices of the peace to be elected in each district. In Moultrie County, and others similarly organized, one additional justice of the peace is now elected for every one thousand inhabitants exceeding two thousand inhabitants in each town.(91)
Provision was first made by the Constitution of 1870 for the establishment by the General Assembly of an independent probate court in each county having a population of more than fifty thousand inhabitants. (92) As first established by statute, the new courts were to be formed dn counties of one hundred thousand or more inhabitants. (93) This population requirement was lowered to seventy thousand in 1881. (94) The population of Moultrie County not having reached this figure, jurisdiction over probate matters has continued to be vested in the county court in accordance with constitutional provision to that effect. (95) The county court, early in this period, was given concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit court in appeals from justices of the peace (96) its original jurisdiction was extended to be equal with that of the circuit court in all that class of cases cognizable by justices of the peace (97) and involving in controversy sums not exceeding $500. (98) In 1906, however, it lost its naturalization jurisdiction since it failed to meet the additional requirement of Federal legislation that it possess jurisdiction at law without limitation upon amounts in controversy. (99) The present constitution, also, for the first time, directed the manner in which the General Assembly should establish judicial circuits, requiring that circuits be formed contiguous counties and that they should not exceed in number one circuit for every one hundred thousand of population of the state. (100) At present there are eighteen circuits in Illinois, and Moultrie County is attached to the sixth circuit. (101)
Clerks of Courts
The clerk of the circuit court under the Constitution of 1818, was to be appointed by a majority of the justices of that court. (102) Since 1849, however, by provisions of the constitutions of 1848 and 1870, the office has been filled by election. (103) The office of clerk of the county court, which was an independent elective office under the second constitution, (104) is now filled in an ex-officio capacity by the county clerks (105) is also required by constitutional provision to be elected. (106) The county commissioners' court, which for a brief period held jurisdiction over probate matters, had its own clerk who was at that time appointed by the court. (107) Probate judges and justices of the peace who subsequently held probate jurisdiction, were required to act as their own clerks.(108) With the transfer of probate jurisdiction to the county court, the clerk of the county court was required to keep, separately, records of probate proceedings and business. (109) In Moultrie County where the county court still retains probate jurisdiction, the county clerk serves it in these matters in his capacity as ex-officio clerk of the county court. (110) Justices of the peace have always been required to keep their records in person.(111)
The principal ministerial officer of all courts of record in Illinois counties is the sheriff. The first constitution provided that the sheriff should be elected.(112) Later, in 1827, statutory provision was made for the appointment of deputies by the principal officer (113) since 1870, the number of deputies that the sheriff may appoint is determined by rule of the circuit court, (114) The ministerial duties of the sheriff have undergone little change in more than one hundred years. Essentially he is to attend, in person or by deputy, all courts of record in the county, obeying the orders and directions of the court, and to serve, execute, and return all writs, warrants, process, orders, and decrees legally directed to him.(115)
The coroner was originally given equal power with the sheriff as a ministerial officer of the courts as he was also required to serve all process in any suit in which the sheriff was an interested party (117) and to perform all the duties of the sheriff when that office was vacant.(118) The last two functions are still incumbent upon the coroner.(119)
Justices of the peace are served similarly in a ministerial capacity by constables. Not until 1870 was the office of constable given constitutional recognition (120) at its creation by the first General Assembly, the county commissioners' court was empowered to appoint one or more constables in each township (121) in 1827 it was provided that two constables should be elected in each justice of the peace district, (122) Since that date, subsequent legislation has grouped justices of the peace and constables in all provisions regarding their election. (123) Clonstables, like sheriffs and coroners, have always been required to serve and execute all process legally directed to them; (124) process issuing from a justice of the peace court, however, may be directed only to some constable of the same county. (125)
The duty of the present state's attorney to prosecute and defend all actions, civil or criminal, involving the county, the people, or officers of the state or county,(126) was incumbent originally upon the circuit attorney. (127) In 1827 this officer was replaced by the state attorney. (128) Also in effect from an early date is the officer's other major duty, apart from the enforcement of law, (129)of giving opinions on any questions of law relating to criminal or other matters in which the people of the county may be concerned. (130)
The office of circuit attorney and early state's attorney, which existed solely by statutory provision. (132) were appointive by the Governor until 1835, (132) and thereafter by the General Assembly. (133) The second constitution provided for an elected state's attorney (134) since each judicial circuit was an elective district for this purpose, the territorial jurisdiction of the new officer remained the same as that of the former officer. (135) Not until the adoption of the present constitution was provision made for the election of a separate state's attorney in each county. (136)
The holding of inquests, one of the duties of the coroner in Illinois counties, is also a part of the administration of justice. The office of coroner was created by the first constitution and required to be filled by election; (137) the statutory provisions concerning the inquest function have not changed substantially since their enactment by the second General Assembly. (138) The coroner, when informed of the body of any person being found dead, supposedly by violence, casualty, or indue means, is required to summon a jury to inquire how, in what manner, and by whom or what, death was caused; testimony of witnesses is taken; witnesses whose evidence implicates any person as the unlawful slayer of the deceased are bound over to the circuit court; the verdict of the jury is returned to the clerk of that court.(139)
The verdict of the coroner's jury, however, is not generally admissible in evidence; (140) additionally, it is not held to be prime facie proof of matters stated therein with regard to the cause and manner of death its essential nature, therefore, is that of a finding of facts upon the basis of which the coroner may be led to discharge his collateral duty to apprehend and commit to jail any person implicated by the inquest as the unlawful slayer of the deceased, (142) To this extent, the coroner's inquest duties overlap his function as an officer for the enforcement of law.
Enforcement of Law
Sheriffs, coroners, and constables have always been charged equally with keeping the peace and apprehending all offenders against the law. (143) The state's attorney's powers as an officer for the enforcement of law originally derive by implication from another duty;(144) the gathering of evidence and the apprehension of offenders is necessarily involved in commencing and prosecuting actions in which the people of the state or county are concerned. (145) in relatively recent years, however, the state's attorney has been given more specific statutory powers to enforce laws and to investigate violations and secure necessary evidence thereof. (146) But at any time the effective spheres of authority of law enforcement officers have been determined less by statutory provisions than by local conditions and individual circumstances.
64. Constitution of 1818, Art. IV, sec. 1, 4, 8.
65. 2 U.S.S. L 133-55.
66. L..1819, p. 380.
67. Ibid., p. 378.
68. L.1824, p. 41. The Constitution of 1818, which had required that Supreme Court justices be appointed by the General Assembly, further provided that they should not, after tlio first session of the legislature subsequent to January 1, 1824, hold circuit courts unle-ss required to do so by law. (Art. IV, sec. 4).
69. R.L,.1827, p. 118, 119.
70. R.L.1889, p. 38.
71. Ibid., p. 42, 48.
72. L.1835, p. 150.
73. L.1837, p. 113; L.1838-39, p. 155.
74. L..1841, p. 173.
75. L.1819, p. 185. 192, 195
76. Ibid., p. 22.
77. R.L. 1827, p. 255, 256. Since 1821, however, the county commissioners' court has been required to established such districts, which also constituted general election precincts (I 1821, p. 74). For changes in the statutory limitations of this power of the court, see R.I.1827. p. 255, and R.1..1829, p. 93. 78. L.1810. p. 223-33.
79. L.1821, p. 121.
80. Ibid., p. 119. The Constitution of 1818 (Art. IV. sec. 4) had also designated this manner of election for judges of all inferior courts.
81. 1.1837, p. 176, 177.
82. The Constitution of 1818 (Art. IV, sec. 8) had reserved to the General Assembly the right to prescribe the manner of appointment of justices of the peace.
83. Constitution of 1848. Art. V, sec. 1. I6.
84. Ibid., sec. 7, 15.
85. Ibid., sec. 17.
86. Ibid., sec. 18.
87. L.1849, p. 65.
88. Ibid., Second Ses.s., p. 15.
89. L.1849. p. 65, 66; I..1853, p. 103; 1..1861, p. 171, 172.
90. 2.U.S.S. L. 155.
91. L. l854, p. 30. No more than five justifes. however, may be elected from any town or election precinct.
92. Constitution of 1870, Art. VI, sec. 20.
93. L.1877, p. 79, 80.
94. L.1881, p. 72. In 1933, the act of 1877 was further amended to make the establishment of an independent probate court mandatory In counties having a population of eighty-five thousand or more, and optional In counties having a population of between seventy thousand and eighty-five thousand (L,.1933, p. 458).
95. Constitution of 1870, Art. VI, sec. 18; L.1877, p. 80; L.188I, p. 72.
90. R.S.1874, p. 340; L.1877, p. 77; L,.1895, p. 212, 223,
97. The jurisdiction of Justices has also been progressively Increased during this period. See L,.1871-72, p. 524; L.1895, p. 189, 190; L.1917, p 562, 563; L.1929, p. 541, 542.
98. L.1871-72, p. 325.
99. 34 U. S. S. L. 596.
100. Constitution of 1870, Art. VI, sec. 13.
101. L.1933, p. 436.
102. Constitution of 1818, Art. IV, sec. 6.
103. Constitution of 1848, Art. V, sec. 21, 29; Constitution of 1870, Art. X, sec. 8.
104. Constitution of 1848, Art. V. sec. 19.
105. R. S.1874. p. 260
106. Constitution of 1870, Art. X, sec. 8.
107. L.1819, p. 175.
108. L.1821, p. 119, 120; L. 1837, p. 177. 178.
109. L.1849, p. 66.
110. R.S.1874, p. 269.
111. 1..1819, p. 185-97 (no specific record-keeping requirement listed among general duties of justices), 326 (establishing fees to be paid justices for keeping records); R. L. 1827, p. 260 (becomes definite provision for justices to keep own records); L. l895, p. 221. 222.
112. Constitution of 1818, Art. X, Sec. 11.
113. R.L.1887, p. 373.
114. Constitution of 1870, Art. X, sec. 9.
115. L.I819. p. 111; R.S. I874, p. 990, 991.
116. L.1819, p. 111.
117. L.1821. p. 20-33.
118. R.L.1827, p. 372, 373.
119. Despite the absence from the present law of statutory provision for the coroner to serve process originally directed to him (R.8.1874, p. 281. 282), the courts have held that he may so do, an emergency being presumed to exist without need for the process to recite reason for its issuance to the coroner (20 111. 185; 57 111. 268).
120. Constitution of 1870, Art. VI, sec. 21.
121. L.1819, p. 162.
122. R.L.1887, p. 258.
123. See Courts, p. 59.
124. L.1819, p. 162, 163; R.8.1874, p. 400.
125. L.1819, p. 186; R.8.1845. p. 317; L.1871-72, p. 625; L.1895, p. 191, 193; L.1937, p. 900. Similarly, process issuing from courts of record is required to be directed to the sheriff or, under certain conditions noted (footnotes 116, 117, and 118), to the coroner R. S.1845, p. 413; L.1871-78, p. 338; L.1907, p. 444, 445; L.1933, p. 786; L.1937, p. 989).
126. R.S.1874, p. 173, 174.
127. L.1819, p. 204; L.1885, p. 178, 179.
128. R.L.1827, p. 79, 80.
129. See Enforcement of Law, p. 64.
130. R.S.1846. p. 76; R.S.1874, p. 174.
131. L.1819, p. 204-6.
132. Ibid., p. 204.
133. L.18.35, p. 44.
134. Constitution of 1848, Art. V, sec. 21. The new title, however, had already come into occasional use in the Interim (R.L,.1827. p. 79, 80; L.1835. p. 44; L.1847, p. 18. 19).
135. Constitution of 1848, Art. V. sec. 28.
136. Constitution of 1870, Art. VI. aec. 22.
137. Constitution of 1818. Art. Ill, sec. 11.
138. Cf. L.1821, p. 22-24; K.8.1845, p. 517, 518; R.S.1874. p. 282-84; R.S.1937. p. 780-82.
139. L.1881, p. 24. 25; R.S.1845. p. 518; R.S.1814. p. 284; L.1879, p. 82; L.1907. p. 213; L.1919, p. 403, 404 L. 1931. p. 388. 389.
140. 46 N.W. 872. It is however, held to be proper practice to offer. In cross examining witnesses sought to be impeached, excerpts from transcripts of testimony taken at the Inquest (189 111. App. 556; 211 Ill. App. 474).
141. 201 Ill. App. 287.
142. L.1821, p. 25; R.S. 1845, p. 518; R.S. 1874, p. 283, 284.
143. L.1819, p. Ill, 162, 163; R.8.1M5, p. 515; R.S.1874, p. 400.
144. See Prosecutions, p. 63.
145. L.1819. p. 204; R..S.1845, p. 76.
146. L.1885. p. 3; L.1907, p. 268; L.19I3, p. 395; L.1915, p. 368; L.1927, p. 33
Inventory Of The County Archives of Illinois
Prepared by The Illinois Historical Records Survey Project No 70 Moultrie County 1941