The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit (Rock Island, Whiteside, Henry and Mercer counties) is one of several circuits in the State authorized by the Illinois Supreme Court to operate a mandatory arbitration program. The Fourteenth Circuit started its arbitration program in 2001.

Court-annexed arbitration was established in Illinois as a mandatory, but non-binding, form of alternative dispute resolution. The program is a deliberate effort on the part of the judiciary, bar, and public to reduce the length and cost of litigation in Illinois.

The program applies to all civil cases seeking money damages greater than $10,000 up to the jurisdictional limit authorized by the Supreme Court. In the Fourteenth Circuit, that limit is $50,000. Cases may also be transferred to the arbitration calendar from other court calls or divisions. These arbitration eligible cases are litigated before a panel of three attorney/arbitrators in a hearing resembling a traditional bench trial. Each party makes a concise presentation of its case to the panel of arbitrators who will then deliberate on the issues and make an award on the same day as the hearing.

The parties to the dispute then have 30 days to decide whether or not to accept the arbitrators’ award. If one party is not satisfied with the panel’s decision, they may reject the award by paying a rejection fee of $200 for awards of $30,000 or less, or $500 for awards greater than $30,000. The Notice of Rejection is filed with the Circuit Clerk. The parties will then proceed to a trial before a judge or jury as if the arbitration had never occurred.

Counties with mandatory arbitration programs have experienced substantial savings in court time and speedier resolution of small civil lawsuits than had been previously possible. The parties accept the majority of arbitration awards and generally litigants express satisfaction with the Arbitration Program. Statistics are kept and available to assist attorneys and litigants in evaluating whether to accept or reject the award.