Mandatory Arbitration Program

Arbitration is a mandatory but non-binding informal hearing where a neutral arbitrator, or panel of arbitrators, is selected to hear the evidence in your case. Arbitrators are knowledgeable, impartial practicing attorneys or retired judges. Based on your evidence and presentation, the arbitrator or arbitration panel will issue a decision called an award, which will include the amount of any money you may be entitled to recover. 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 if they disagree with the decision and feel they can get a better result before a judge and jury. If an award is rejected, the case will proceed to trial before a judge or jury. 

IMPORTANT: the specific rules governing the Municipal Districts Arbitration Program are different from the Law Division Arbitration Program rules. Additional details and Frequently Asked Questions specific to each program can be found on their respective pages.

Scroll down for Frequently Asked Questions applicable to ALL Mandatory Arbitration programs

Locations and Contacts for Mandatory Arbitration Hearings

The Circuit Court of Cook County conducts arbitration hearings for different divisions of court and at different courthouse locations, depending on where your case is pending. If your case is assigned to the Richard J. Daley Center in downtown Chicago and your case is assigned to mandatory arbitration, your hearing will be heard at the Arbitration Center in downtown Chicago. This is for cases referred from the First Municipal District as well as for all cases referred from the Law Division. If your case is assigned to a suburban Cook County courthouse location, your hearing will be heard at the respective suburban courthouse where your case is currently pending. Please see the appropriate tab below for specific information about the Program and location where your case is assigned. 

    Downtown Chicago

    First Municipal District & Law Division Cases

    Cook County Mandatory Arbitration Center, 13th Floor
    222 North LaSalle Street
    Chicago, Illinois 60601

    Hours: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

    Phone: (312) 793-0125
    Fax: (312) 793-0146

    Arbitration Administrator: Kimberly Atz O'Brien
    Deputy Administrator: Emelda Wilkins
    Arbitration Supervisor: LaKheem Trotter (

    Skokie Courthouse

    Second Municipal District Cases

    Skokie Courthouse, Room 219
    5600 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, Illinois 60077

    Hours: 8:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

    Phone: (847) 470-7200
    Fax: (847) 470-5133

    Location Contact: Alissa Bender (

    Rolling Meadows Courthouse

    Third Municipal District Cases

    Rolling Meadows Courthouse, Courtroom 030 (lower level)
    2121 Euclid Avenue
    Rolling Meadows, Illinois 60008

    Phone: (847) 818-2287
    Fax: (847) 818-2766

    Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
    Arbitrations are held Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom 030.

    Location Contact: Carol Mulroe (

    Maywood Courthouse

    Fourth Municipal District Cases

    Maywood Courthouse, Room 253
    1500 Maybrook Drive
    Maywood, Illinois 60153

    Phone: (708) 865-6060
    Fax: (708)865-4952

    Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

    Location Contact: LaTasha Deal (

    Bridgeview Courthouse

    Fifth Municipal District Cases

    Bridgeview Courthouse, Room 143
    10220 South 76th Avenue
    Bridgeview, Illinois 60455

    Phone: (708) 974-6288
    Fax: (708) 974-6291

    Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

    Location Contact: Jean Tobin (

    Markham Courthouse

    Sixth Municipal District Cases

    Markham Courthouse, Room 207-J
    16501 South Kedzie Parkway
    Markham, Illinois 60428

    Phone: (708) 232-4169
    Fax: (708) 232-4088

    Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

    Location Contact: Judy Brown (

    Frequently Asked Questions for All Types of Arbitration Cases

      The judge assigned to your case will refer the case to the arbitration calendar after the discovery closure date or when the case is at a point where arbitration would be helpful.  The discovery closure date is the day by which all the facts of the case and evidence you are going to need to use must be revealed or exchanged between the parties.  There is a Supervising Arbitration Judge for each arbitration program and  in each courthouse who oversees the mandatory arbitration proceedings for their respective program and location.  The arbitration hearing date and time are scheduled by the Clerk's Office and they send you notice of this date by U.S. mail or by email if you have signed up for e-notices with the Office of the Circuit Clerk.

      Please note that if your hearing date is set by a court order when you are before your assigned Supervising Judge, you will not receive the usual notice of your hearing date from the Clerk’s Office.  The order substitutes as proper notice.  

      You can contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court at (312) 603-5116 or check the electronic docket of your case on the Clerk's Office website to make sure that your case was transferred to the arbitration calendar. Please note that if your case does not have a hearing date that it can take some time for the Clerks to set the hearing date.  Hearings are scheduled “in line” of when they are referred and sometimes there is a backlog in line.  The online docket will reflect the hearing date once it’s set.  

      IMPORTANT: You are responsible for following the progress of your case and being aware of scheduled hearings. The arbitration staff may call you as a courtesy the day before to confirm your hearing, but you are responsible for attending your hearing once it is set and the Clerks send notice. 

      You can call the Arbitration Center directly (for downtown Chicago – District One cases) or call the courthouse where your case is pending during their scheduled business hours the day before your scheduled hearing to make sure that your case will take place. 

      IMPORTANT: Remember to always have your case number handy whenever you are requesting information about your case.

      Only the Supervising Arbitration Judge assigned to your case can reschedule an arbitration hearing. You must file a proper motion to reschedule or continue your arbitration hearing by filing an appropriate motion with the Clerk’s Office either at the Daley Center or at the suburban courthouse where your case is being heard. Your motion may be heard on the Judge’s regular motion call or the Judge’s emergency motion call, depending on how quickly you can get on the call. If your motion is granted, the judge will give you a new hearing date. All motions need to be properly noticed by filing the motion with the Clerks and sending notice to the other side. You can contact the Arbitration Center at the courthouse in which your case is pending for specific information on the emergency motion call for your location. Please note that only the Supervising Arbitration Judge can decide if your motion meets the emergency criteria.

      IMPORTANT: You cannot continue your arbitration hearing after you arrive at the Arbitration Center for your hearing. Arbitrators are not able to hear any motions to reschedule - they are heard only by the Supervising Arbitration Judge for the courthouse where your case is pending.

      You are not required to hire an attorney for your arbitration hearing but can choose to go forward as a self-represented litigant (SRL or pro se) in your lawsuit. Please remember though that you will be responsible for the same legal standards as a lawyer would be and you have to follow all the appropriate legal rules and procedures that apply to mandatory arbitration proceedings. 

      IMPORTANT: You are responsible for any legal mistakes you make, which may in turn affect the outcome of your lawsuit.

      Court clerks and the Arbitration Center staff are not allowed to give any legal advice. There is a Circuit Court of Cook County Mandatory Arbitration Handbook that was created for people who choose to represent themselves which can be helpful. The courtrooms also have a list of low-cost or no-cost legal service organizations that they can provide if requested. 

      Arbitration Handbook for Pro Se Litigants

      Arbitration hearings are open to the public and watching a hearing in advance may put your mind at ease on how the process works. All observers must be respectful and not interfere with any proceedings. Additionally, you cannot discuss your case with arbitrators who you are watching to try to get legal help. Let the arbitration center staff know that you would like to watch a hearing and they will direct you to one of the hearing rooms.  

      IMPORTANT: Please be on time. Check-in begins 30 minutes prior to the start of arbitration hearings. You will not be allowed to enter the hearing rooms after proceedings begin as it is disruptive to the hearing process. To make sure you know what times you can see cases, you can contact the Arbitration Center to find out the times of arbitration hearings.

      Arbitration hearings on cases pending in the suburban courthouse locations will be heard at the respective suburban courthouses. Hearings for First Municipal District (downtown Chicago) cases will be at the Circuit Court of Cook County Mandatory Arbitration Center located in a private office building at 222 N. La Salle Street, in Chicago, Illinois, on the 13th Floor. 

      For the Arbitration Center downtown, you will need to check in at the reception desk, which is located in the lobby of the building, and present building security with a government-issued picture ID in order to receive a pass allowing you to access the 13th-floor elevators.  For the suburban courthouses, you will be required to pass through the regular courthouse security lines with all other visitors.

      IMPORTANTPlease arrive early as you may experience a delay for security, and you must be on time for your case.

      When you are at the Arbitration Center, you must check in with the staff at the front desk. Please have your name and case number ready. Check-in time begins 30 minutes prior to the time set for your arbitration hearing.  After you have checked in, the staff will direct you to your designated hearing room.  Please remember it is your responsibility to make sure you arrive in your assigned room on time and ready to begin. 

      IMPORTANT: For First Municipal District (downtown Chicago) cases, the downtown Arbitration Center has eleven hearing rooms that allow many hearings to be conducted at the same time. Check-in is very important as the arbitration staff needs to be aware of your presence.

      Arbitration hearings have set times to begin so it’s very important that you arrive in a timely manner for your case. The court allows a grace period of fifteen (15) minutes if parties are having issues (i.e. parking difficulties or public transportation delays). It’s recommended that you call your attorney or the location of your hearing (the downtown Arbitration Center for District One cases, the suburban courthouse locations if your case is in the suburbs) so that everyone is aware that you are on the way.  

      Please note while the maximum amount of time a case is held for late parties is fifteen (15) minutes, if the case is still proceeding when you do arrive, you will be allowed to participate although the time may be abbreviated. It’s important for you to attend your hearing so do not fail to appear if you think you are going to be late.  

      IMPORTANT: You will be penalized for your tardiness. This is done by deducting the amount of late time from your presentation.

      If a party fails to appear, the hearing will go forward ex-parte (without all parties present) and the appropriate award will be entered. However, the party present will not automatically win. The arbitration panel will enter an award based on the evidence produced. 

      IMPORTANT: Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 91, the non-appearing party waives the right to reject the award and consents to entry of a judgment on the award.

      The arbitrators will enter an award in favor of the defendant.

      Arbitrators are licensed attorneys and retired judges who meet all statutory requirements to serve on the arbitration panel. They are assigned in advance of the hearing and are neutral and unbiased. If an assigned arbitrator has a last-minute conflict and cannot attend the hearing, the arbitration staff will find an emergency replacement to hear the case.  

      IMPORTANT: For Municipal Division hearings, the arbitration panels consist of three people. However, by agreement of the parties present, the hearing may be conducted by two arbitrators. For Law Division hearings, a single arbitrator hears the case alone. 

      The arbitration hearing is an informal mini-trial. Arbitrators have authority over the hearing and act in a similar way to a judge. They will rule on objections to evidence or other issues that may arise during the hearing. Arbitrators have the power to administer oaths and affirmations to witnesses, to determine the admissibility of evidence, and to decide the law and facts of the case. 

      Generally, the order of hearing is as follows:

      1. Plaintiff's Opening Statement
      2. Defendant's Opening Statement
      3. Plaintiff's Case-in-Chief (party presents evidence to support its claim)
      4. Defendant's Case-in-Chief (party presents evidence to support its defense)
      5. Plaintiff's Closing Argument
      6. Defendant's Closing Argument
      7. Rebuttal (response to opposition's evidence)

      In the case that a settlement is reached before the day of the arbitration hearing, you should present a motion to dismiss or strike the hearing before the Supervising Arbitration Judge. Arbitrators do not have authority to enter dismissal orders or settlement agreements so this would need to be entered before the date of the hearing.   

      If the parties settle right before the hearing or they don’t have time to see the Supervising Judge to present a motion to dismiss and neither of the parties present their case at the arbitration hearing, the arbitrators will find in favor of the defendant. The arbitrators may make a notation on the award that parties did not present their case due to a settlement if a party is present to represent this to the arbitrator(s).  

      IMPORTANT: An order dismissing and settling the case may only be entered by the Supervising Arbitration Judge.  Arbitrators cannot enter dismissal orders or settlement agreements. It’s the parties’ responsibility to send all orders that impact arbitration hearings to the appropriate Arbitration Center location so that the case may be taken off the docket. 

      Arbitration hearings are set court dates that can only be stricken, changed or cancelled by the Supervising Judge. You do not have the right to stop a hearing because you don’t agree with a ruling arbitrators make during the hearing and you can’t appeal the ruling to the Supervising Judge. If you believe the arbitrator(s) made errors or did not hear your case fairly, your remedy is to reject the award within the time limits set by the appropriate rules covering your case.  

      IMPORTANT: Please note that the time given to reject an award from the Municipal Division and the time given to cases from the Law Division is different. Make sure you review and comply with the time limits in the appropriate rules that govern your case. 

      No. According to the Code of Judicial Conduct, arbitrators are not allowed to communicate with the parties.

      The arbitration center forwards the original awards to the Clerk of the Circuit Court, who is responsible for serving notice of the award to all parties. Remember to notify the Clerk’s Office of any address or email changes to ensure that they will get you the award. For Municipal Division cases where awards are issued immediately following the hearings, the arbitration staff can show you the result once they have the award and have it processed. Please note for Law Division cases, the arbitrator has two business days to complete the award so arbitration staff can’t show you the results the same day. 

      IMPORTANT: The arbitration center cannot make copies of awards for parties.

      Any party present at the arbitration hearing may file a written notice of rejection of the award with the Clerk’s Office.

      IMPORTANT: If you reject an arbitration award you will have to pay a rejection fee unless you have been deemed indigent by the court. Please make sure that you are following the procedures for rejection from the appropriate rules governing your case and note well that Municipal Division rules and forms are different than Law Division rules and forms. 

      If you cannot afford to pay the rejection fee, you can fill out an application to be deemed an indigent person by the court under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 298. If you have a case in downtown Chicago, you will need to go to either the First Municipal District Presiding Judge’s Office or the Law Division Presiding Judge’s Office, depending on which program is assigned your case. If your case is pending in a suburban courthouse, this application must be filed in the Presiding Judge's Office of the appropriate courthouse where your case is pending.  If your application to be deemed an indigent person is accepted and entered by the court, the rejection fee may be waived.  

      IMPORTANT: There are federal guidelines, which need to be met, in order for you to qualify for the waiver of the fees.

      No. A judge must enter judgment on the award to make it a final order. The judgment is entered at the Judgment of Award Call that is listed on the bottom of the award form. 

      IMPORTANT: If neither party appears on the Judgment of Award Call, the case will be dismissed for want of prosecution.

      Yes. The parties are allowed to voluntarily dispose of the matter at any time prior to entry of judgment. Dismissal orders are entered by the Supervising Arbitration Judge before which your case is pending. A dismissal order may be also entered on the Judgment of Award Call. 

      IMPORTANT: If a defendant moves to dismiss the matter, he needs to attach an original stipulation to dismiss to the dismissal order (an agreement to terminate the case signed by the parties).

      No. Arbitrators are prohibited from being called as a witness at a trial of the case they arbitrated. 

      No. Any references to the arbitration proceedings cannot be made at trial.  However, the award is part of the official court record and could be reviewed by the trial judge. Additionally, if a party brought a court reporter to an arbitration hearing and the court reporter recorded the testimony of a party or witness, the transcript of that testimony could be used at trial to impeach the party or witness.