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Chicago Arbitration Pilot Project Will Be Permanent

Sunday, November, 6, 2016

Originally planned as a two year pilot program, the mandatory arbitration for lower-value Law Division cases in Cook County Circuit Court will now be permanent as of October 1, 2016. The Illinois Supreme Court gave the official permanent approval for the Law Division’s Commercial Litigation Arbitration Program, used to settle cases that involve employment disputes, breach of contract, and other commercial matters. The program mandates all cases involving these matters that have alleged damages of less than $75,000 should be settled through arbitration.


Parties involved in these disputes are assigned an arbitration date within four months of the defendant filing its answer to a lawsuit. During those four months, parties remain in the court conducting discovery and attempting negotiations. Settlements are permitted during this time. The circuit judge overseeing the program believes it has served these case well, in part, because “… it’s hard to get everybody’s attention in a small case. In a smaller case, it’s harder to bring it to the front of the file drawer. This does that because you’ll be going in front of an arbitrator, and everybody has to think about it.”


Many who support the program believe it is ideal because it does not delay anything. Even though there is a four month period between the initiation of the lawsuit and the time arbitration is scheduled, that time is spent preparing the case to present to the arbitrator. Many believe the key to the program’s success is in the fact it does not delay anything. The arbitration sessions occur in a less formal setting and provides time for litigants and attorneys to discuss the details of the case with less intimidation.