Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Circuit Court of Cook County provides several alternative community court options that aim to help individuals avoid incarceration:

Court-Annexed Civil Mediation Program

In certain civil cases, a judge can order parties to submit to mediation through the Court-Annexed Civil Mediation Program in an effort to settle the lawsuit outside of court. In these cases, the neutral third-party mediator acts as a link between parties to resolve their dispute. Settlement conversations with the mediator are confidential and focused on the parties' interests and needs. Parties are under no obligation to settle during mediation and can have the case returned to court if no settlement is reached.

Mandatory Arbitration

Nearly half of all civil cases are resolved through the court's Mandatory Arbitration Program, helping individuals quickly resolve disputes without resorting to a formal trial. A civil case may be transferred to mandatory arbitration if the court determines that no claim in the action has a value in excess of $30,000. Mandatory arbitration hearings are held before a panel of three Illinois-licensed attorneys who review arguments and render decisions at the conclusion of the arbitration hearing. If one of the parties disagrees with the arbitration decision, that party may file a rejection and have the case heard before a judge and jury. 

Problem-Solving Courts (PSC)

For low-level criminal defendants suffering from underlying mental health, social or substance abuse issues, problem-solving courts aim to provide treatment and intensive supervision to help participants from becoming repeat offenders. The Cook County Circuit Court has a countywide network of problem-solving courts that includes Drug Treatment Courts, Mental Health Treatment Courts, and Veterans’ Treatment Courts. Cook County problem-solving courts are designed primarily to assist people who have committed non-violent felony crimes. However, some problem-solving courts in the suburbs of Cook County accept misdemeanor cases.

Restorative Justice Community Courts (RJCC)

Restorative Justice Community Courts are aimed at young adults, aged 18-26, charged with non-violent felony or misdemeanor crimes. Part of the court’s mission is to end the harmful cycle of revenge and recidivism. The courts resolve conflict through restorative conferences and peace circles involving participants, victims, family members, friends, others affected by the crime and the community. Participants graduate in approximately six months to one year and, upon graduation, have their charges dismissed and arrest and court records expunged. Cook County currently operates restorative justice courts in North Lawndale, Avondale and Englewood. 

Supporting Education and Employment Development (SEED)

The SEED Court administers the Supporting Education and Employment Development (SEED) program, a deferred-prosecution program that serves emerging adults, aged 18-26, charged with gun offenses or with selling or intending to sell illegal drugs in Cook County.  Upon successful completion of the program, defendants are eligible to have their court and arrest records expunged.

Started in 2020, the county-wide program is located at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse and is in partnership with the Heartland Alliance.