For People Without Lawyers (Pro Se Litigants)

Certain civil cases pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County must complete the mandatory arbitration process.  Your case is being referred for a mandatory arbitration proceeding because you are seeking money damages that do not exceed $30,000, and you have requested that a jury determine a final judgment in your legal dispute. 

The Circuit Court of Cook County provides a general guide on the mandatory arbitration process for persons who choose to represent themselves at the arbitration hearing instead of retaining a lawyer.   Click here for a copy of the Mandatory Arbitration Handbook.


The Mandatory Arbitration Program was approved by the Illinois Supreme Court in January 1990 as a joint effort of the judiciary, attorneys and public to help resolve disputes in a more efficient way. The Cook County Mandatory Arbitration Program resolves approximately fifty percent of cases before they reach a jury trial.

The purpose of the program is to avoid a court trial and clogged court calendars. There are hundreds of thousands of cases filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County each year, and sometimes it can take a several years before a case will proceed to trial. Arbitration gives you a chance for a speedier resolution of your lawsuit and a clearer picture of the probable result of a trial.


Arbitration is a mandatory but non-binding informal hearing (the outcome or "award" can be rejected), in which neutral arbitrators (knowledgeable, practicing attorneys and retired judges) are selected to hear the evidence in your case.  Based on your evidence and your presentation, the arbitrators then determine the amount of the arbitration award, if any.  The case ends if both parties to the lawsuit agree to the award. In these cases, the award becomes a court judgment for further enforcement purposes. However, any party participating in the hearing may reject the award and proceed to trial before a jury if they feel they can get a better result before a judge and jury.

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