Why it is important to carefully choose a courthouse
By Parag P. Bhosale
When you have reached a point in a legal dispute where there is hope for a settlement or the filing period is about to expire, a lawsuit must be filed. How does your attorney decide which court he’s going to file it in? It’s not as simple as just picking the closest courthouse.
First, your attorney must determine which venue is best for your type of case. If you have the type of case that involves a federal law or a constitutional issue, it might be best to file in federal court. Federal courts tend to have fewer cases, so they attract litigants that want their cases to move faster without delay. Federal judges are appointed for life by the president, so they tend to be less swayed by public opinion and focus more on the law. Federal courts also can hear so-called “diversity” cases—cases where the parties are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Federal judges also press the parties to try to agree to a settlement conference early on, so they don’t waste time and money on legal fees and other litigation costs. On the other hand, most attorneys spend a bulk of their time in state court, so they are more comfortable with state rules and procedures. Federal courts have very formal and precise rules and deadlines, so some attorneys aren’t comfortable filing their cases there.
Second, your attorney must determine whether the potential jury pool will be favorable to your claim. The jury pool is obtained from the local registered voter rolls and secretary of state drivers’ records. If your case is the type that may need to be tried in front of a jury, your attorney is going to want that jury to be made of up people who are sympathetic to your claim. Cook County is known to have a jury pool that is quite liberal, which is good for personal injury plaintiffs. Conversely DuPage County is known to have a conservative jury pool, which is good for anyone being sued. So, these factors must be considered carefully before the case is filed.
Knowledge of the local politics doesn’t just apply to the jury pool—it also applies to the judges. In state court, most judges are elected. That can affect how they rule on their cases and manage their dockets—no judge wants to be seen as plaintiff-friendly in a conservative jurisdiction. Getting a reputation like that could result in them losing their next election. So, this must be considered as a factor before filing.
But just because your case may be best filed in a certain county doesn’t mean it won’t be transferred out. You must have a sound legal basis for filing in that jurisdiction. Under Illinois law, you can generally file your case in any county where the incident or dispute arose or the county where the party you are suing is located. This isn’t always clear. Some large companies and businesses have locations in several counties. Your attorney will have to research these facts prior to filing.
Even though you may properly file your case in a given county, the party you are suing can ask the court to transfer it to another county because it is more convenient for all parties and witnesses involved to have it proceed somewhere else. Again, this is something your attorney will have to consider before filing, because a transfer of a case could unnecessarily delay the case and build up additional costs.
An experienced litigation attorney will spend time with you to explain the pros and cons of choosing the venue in which they file your case. The attorneys at Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale Ltd. have decades of experience in most of the courts in Northern Illinois. Contact one of our litigation attorneys to discuss your options. by clicking on the free case evaluation button below.