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Mandatory Arbitration FAQs
1. Where is the Arbitration Center? The Will County Arbitration Center is located at the Will County Court Annex Building, 57 N. Ottawa Street, 3rd Floor, Joliet, IL 60432.

2. If I have any questions regarding the process, whom do I call? Roger Holland, Court Administrator or Lisa Burton, Arbitration Administrator. We can be reached at (815) 774-4575. Please be advised that we can provide information on the arbitration process only. We cannot give legal advice.
3. What types of cases will be assigned to arbitration? A civil action shall be subject to mandatory arbitration if each claim therein is exclusively for money damages in an amount exceeding $10,000, but not exceeding the amount approved by the Illinois Supreme Court for that particular circuit. In Will County, the maximum limit is $50,000, exclusive of costs and interest. Attorney’s fees are considered a claim for relief and are included in the $50,000 limit. (Illinois Supreme Court Rule 86[b]). Cases may also be transferred to the arbitration calendar from other calls or divisions upon the motion of the court or any party.
4. Must I go through arbitration before I can go to trial? Yes. All eligible actions are subject to mandatory arbitration before a panel of three attorney/arbitrators. Any party participating in the arbitration hearing may, within 30 days following the hearing and upon payment of a $200 rejection fee ($500 if the award is over $30,000) to the Clerk of the Circuit Court and proper notice to all other parties, file a rejection of the award and proceed to trial before a judge or jury (depending on whether a jury demand had been properly filed).
5. What happens in cases where the claim is inflated to exceed the jurisdictional limit ($50,000) to avoid arbitration? Supreme Court Rule 86(d) provides that cases not assigned to the arbitration calendar may be ordered to arbitration at a status call or pre-trial conference, when it appears to the court that no claim in the action has a value in excess of the monetary limit authorized by the Supreme Court for that circuit (in Will County, the limit is $50,000), irrespective of defenses.
6. Could an action be filed in the Law Division and then amended to under the jurisdictional limit ($50,000) in order to qualify for arbitration? Yes. An appropriate motion to amend damages and to transfer an assigned “L” case to the arbitration calendar must be made before the law division judge, in accordance with the court rules.
7. If a case were filed as an arbitration case, but should be a law division case, how do I transfer the case to the “L” calendar? A case pending in arbitration may be transferred to the law division calendar by filing an appropriate motion with the Supervising Judge for Arbitration, in accordance with court rules.
8. What if a counterclaim is filed in a small claims case seeking more than $10,000 in damages? A small claims case may be transferred to the arbitration calendar upon the appropriate motion before the small claims judge.
9. What is done with a lawsuit when the defendant has filed bankruptcy? In a case where a defendant has filed bankruptcy, any party may move to have the matter set before the Supervising Arbitration Judge for a stay of up to at least six months.
10. For what types of cases will arbitration not be available? Generally, arbitration will not be available for the following: Forcible entry and detainer, Ejectment, Confession of judgment, Replevin, Detinue, Trover, Registrations of foreign judgments. However, if damages remain the only issue, the matter may be reassigned to the arbitration calendar.
11. When must I make a jury demand, if I so desire? Pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1105 (a), a plaintiff who desires a jury must file a jury demand with the clerk at the time the action is commenced. A defendant who desires a jury must file a jury demand not later than the filing of his or her answer. The fact that an arbitration hearing is mandated does not change the effect of this section of the Code of Civil Procedure.

12.  Who will be the Arbitrators that will hear may case?   Local rule provides that licensed attorneys in good standing (with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission) are eligible for appointment as arbitrators by meeting the following requirements:

a) Completing a court-approved training seminar on arbitration practices and procedures;

(b) Filing an application with the Arbitration Center and certifying that they have engaged in the practice of law for a minimum of one year; and

(c) Residing in, having an office in, or practicing law within Will County. Arbitrators’ applications must be approved by the Supervising Judge for Arbitration and the Arbitration Center. An arbitrator acting as Chairperson of the panel must have a minimum of five years active practice experience.

13.  Will I have a choice of Arbitrators?No. Arbitrators are selected to insure against prejudice or bias. When the arbitrators arrive at the center on hearing days, they review case files and identify files where they believe there is a conflict of interest. Whether there is a conflict of interest is a matter of discretion with each arbitrator, though they are bound by the Code of Judicial Ethics.   

14.  Do I have to pay the Arbitrators?    No. Arbitrators are paid by the State of Illinois from the Mandatory Arbitration Fund. This fund was created by the legislature and allows for an $8 filing fee ($10 in Cook County) to be collected on the first appearance filed by each party in a civil action within the Circuit.   

15.  How are Arbitrators chosen?    Arbitrators are chosen in advance of the hearing date. They also may be called on an emergency basis to substitute for attorneys who are unable to attend on the day to which they were assigned.  

16.  When will I know who will be the members of the panel who will hear my case? The panel members will introduce themselves to the litigants when the litigants enter the hearing room or the hearing.  

17.  Can I ask to change arbitrators if I think there is a prejudice, conflict or other problem? No. Arbitrators may recuse themselves if they feel there may be a conflict or withdraw if grounds appear to exist for disqualification pursuant to the Code of Judicial Conduct. (Illinois Supreme Court Rule 87[c]). There is no provision in the rules for a substitution of arbitrators or change of venue from the panel or any of its members.   The remedy of rejection of an award and the right to proceed to trial has been determined as the appropriate response to a perceived bias or prejudice on the part of any member of the panel or error by the panel, in determining its award.  

18.  What happens if an Arbitrator discovers a conflict after the hearing has started? If an Arbitrator discovers a conflict after the hearing has started and no arbitrator is available to take his/her place, the arbitration hearing can continue before the two remaining panelists if all parties agree. Otherwise, an emergency arbitrator will be called and the hearing recessed until the emergency arbitrator arrives. In the event that an emergency Arbitrator is not available, the case will be placed on the Supervising Judge’s motion call for re-scheduling.  

19.  If I do not understand the meaning of the award, may I contact the arbitrator?   No. The arbitrators are bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct and therefore cannot have any ex-parte communications with any of the parties.

 20.  When are arbitration motions heard?   Arbitration motions will be heard Monday – Friday at 1:30 p.m. before the Supervising Judge or his designee for Arbitration at the Will County Court Annex, Courtroom 117.  

21.  Who is the Supervising Judge?   The Honorable Bobbi Petrungaro.  

22.  If a case were filed as a law division case, but is really an arbitration matter, how do I put it on the arbitration-hearing schedule?   If a case is in the law division, it may be transferred to the arbitration calendar by making the appropriate motion before the law division judge to which the case was assigned or transferred.

23.  If a case were filed as an arbitration case, but is really a law division case, how do I transfer to the law division?   A case pending in arbitration may be transferred to the law division by filing the appropriate motion with the Supervising Judge for Arbitration in accordance with the rules.  

24.  If the case has been disposed of by default, summary judgment or stipulation of the parties, do I have to notify the Arbitration Center?   Yes. Supreme Court Rule and Local Rule provides that parties or their counsel shall give immediate written notification to the Arbitration Administrator of any disposition which affects the arbitration hearing date case which had been assigned. Sanctions may be imposed if you fail to alert the Arbitration Center of such a change in status.  Notices may be faxed to the arbitration center at (815) 774-4576.  

25.  Can arbitrators hear motions?   The arbitrators’ authority to hear motions is limited. Their authority and power exist only in relation to the conduct of the hearing at the time it is held. Thus, the arbitrators can hear and determine motions to exclude witnesses, motions in limine and rule on the admissibility of evidence. Any other motions pertaining to the case must be brought at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner before the Supervising Judge of Arbitration. Arbitrators MAY NOT hear and determine motions for continuance of the hearing. Motions for continuances must be brought before the Supervising Judge for Arbitration at the normal arbitration motion call.

26.  Do I have to bring all my witnesses or can I present certain types of evidence without the maker being present? It is up to each litigant to determine how the evidence is presented. Supreme Court Rule 90(c) provides that items such as hospital reports, doctors’ reports, drug bills and other medical bills as well as bills for property damage, estimates of repair, earnings reports, expert opinions, and depositions of witnesses are admissible without the maker being present. To take advantage of this rule, a written notice of the intent to offer those documents along with a copy of the documents MUST BE sent to all other parties AT LEAST 30 DAYS PRIOR to the scheduled arbitration hearing date.  
27.  If I file my documents in accordance with Rule 90(c), are they automatically admitted into evidence?   No. Any documents that are filed pursuant to Rule 90(c) are presumptively admitted, i.e., no further foundation needs to be laid for their admittance. However, the documents are still subject to objections according to the usual rules of evidence. Objections to 90(c) packets may be made before the Supervising Judge prior to the arbitration hearing or to the Chairperson at the commencement of the arbitration hearing.  
28.  Can I call the maker of a document my opponent seeks to introduce as a witness?   Yes. Supreme Court Rule 90(e) provides that any other party may subpoena the author or maker of a document admissible under Rule 90(c), at the expense of the party issuing the subpoena. They may examine the author or maker as if under cross-examination. The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure relative to subpoenas are applicable.  
29.  Can I subpoena people to appear just as I could in a trial?   Yes. Subpoena practice in arbitration cases is conducted in essentially the same fashion as that followed in non-arbitration cases. A subpoena to testify at an arbitration hearing is in essentially the same form provided for in the Code of Civil Procedure. It is the duty of the party requesting the subpoena to modify the form to show that the appearance is set before an arbitration panel and to give the time and place set for the hearing.  
30.  Do the same rules for witness fees apply to arbitration hearings as to a trial?   Yes. Witness fees and costs shall be in the same amount and shall be paid by the same party or parties as established by the Code of Civil Procedure and the Circuit Rules.  
31.  Can discovery take place after the hearing?   Usually, no. Supreme Court Rule 89 provides that discovery may be conducted in accordance with the established rules and shall be completed prior to the arbitration hearing. No discovery shall be permitted after the hearing, except by leave of the court for good cause shown.  

32. When will a hearing date be assigned? Cases will be assigned to the arbitration calendar by the Supervising Judge when all parties to the action have appeared before the court.

33. Who issues the summons? The Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court will issue an Arbitration Summons form, as well as any necessary aliases (with leave of the Court). If delayed service is anticipated, counsel should request a longer return date for the summons.

34. What happens if one of the parties does not appear on the Return date specified in the summons? Supreme Court Rules 181 and 286 govern appearances. If defendant fails to appear a default judgment may be entered (2-1301[d]). If plaintiff fails to appear, the Motion may be dismissed instanter without prejudice, or the court may continue the matter to a date certain for dismissal for want of prosecution. (735 ILCS 5/2-1302[a] and [b])

35. How long should a hearing last? The majority of cases heard by an arbitration panel will require two hours or less for presentation of evidence. Pursuant to local rule, if a party determines that more than the allotted two hours is needed, both the Supervising Judge and the Arbitration staff should be notified. The Supervising Judge may set the case on a special hearing date at 9:00 a.m. and the Arbitration Administrator will make the appropriate arrangements to accommodate the longer hearing.

36. Will I get any notice of the arbitration hearing date after it is set? No. However, the Arbitration Center will contact the plaintiff, as the master of the case, before the hearing to confirm that the case will go forward and to verify that a panel will be available to hear the case.

37. How will the Arbitration Administrator know that the parties are ready for the hearing? The attorneys for each party, or the party themselves if not represented by counsel, are required report to the Arbitration staff when they enter the Arbitration Center. The Arbitration staff calls the case when all parties are present and ready to proceed or at the designated time.

38. What should the parties do if they believe that the hearing will take more than two hours? If the parties determine that more than two hours are needed for the hearing, they should request same from the Supervising Judge at the time the hearing date is set and state in the order setting the hearing that it will be a four-hour hearing. Hearings will not be allowed to run longer than two hours without leave of the Court. A copy of this order must be provided to the Arbitration staff when it is entered. All cases requiring more than two hours must start at 9:00 a.m.

39. What if I want the hearing date extended? Must I seek the Supervising Judge’s approval? If both parties agree, must they come to court to change the date? The Supervising Judge may continue a hearing date for good cause shown. Motions to continue should be set on the motion call before the Supervising Judge. Notice of such a motion must be given to the Arbitration Administrator. If the motion is granted, the Arbitration Administrator must be notified of the new date and time for the hearing. The arbitrators CANNOT, for any reason, continue a case. Even if both parties agree to the continuance, the Supervising Judge must sign the order granting the continuance and assign a new hearing date.

40. What should I do if I am going to be late on the day of the hearing? Who do I call? The Arbitration Administrator or Assistant Administrator should be notified immediately if a party would be late on the day of hearing. If no notice is given, the hearing will proceed in accordance with the rules.

41. If I am late, will I still get a two-hour hearing? No. If the case starts after the scheduled time due to the fault of one of the parties, that party will be penalized by deducting that amount of time from his/her presentation. If the hearing starts after the scheduled time due to the fault of the Arbitration Center or one of the arbitrators, the parties will not be penalized.

42. What happens if one party does not show up? If a party fails to appear at the hearing, the hearing will proceed ex-parte and the appropriate award will be entered. The Administrator may wait fifteen minutes at his/her discretion for a party to appear before commencing the hearing. 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.

43. Is there a place where the attorney can confer with his/her client before the hearing? Yes. The Arbitration Center has a conference room for litigants’ use when they are not being used for deliberations. Also, any hearing room not in use may be used as a conference room.

44. What happens if one party mis-diaries the hearing date or time or appears at the wrong location and does not appear at the hearing as scheduled by the court? Refer to answer #11. The judgment entered on the ex-parte award may be vacated (Supreme Court Rule 91[a]); however, costs may be assessed against the party who did not appear. These costs may include, but are not limited to court costs, attorney’s fees, witness fees, stenographic fees, and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred by any party or witness.

45. What happens if a party does not comply with a Rule 237 subpoena? Supreme Court Rule 90(g), the provisions of Rule 237, and the sanctions provided in rule 219 are equally applicable to arbitration hearings. The arbitrators are instructed to note a party’s failure to comply with Rule 237 on the award. Rule 90(g) further provides that sanctions for failure to comply with a Rule 237 request may include an order debarring that party from rejecting the award.

46. What happens if one of the parties has failed to file an appearance or pleading? The arbitration hearing will proceed as scheduled. If an appearance is not on file, that party will not receive any of the court-generated notices. If a party fails to file any relevant pleading, such as an answer, the arbitrators may determine that all allegations in the complaint are admitted and proceed on the issue of damages only.

47. What happens if neither of the parties appear on the arbitration hearing date? The arbitrators will enter an award of $0.

48. What happens if one of the parties appears but does not present his/her case? Supreme Court Rule 91(b) provides that all parties to an arbitration hearing must participate in good faith and in a meaningful manner. If the panel unanimously finds that a party has failed to participate in good faith and in a meaningful manner, it may recite this finding on the award along with the factual basis for the finding. Any other party may bring a motion for sanctions before the Supervising Judge. Sanctions against the non-good faith participant may include those as provided in Rule 219(c), an order debarring that party from rejecting the award, and costs and attorney’s fees incurred for the arbitration hearing and in the prosecution of the petition for sanctions.

49. Should I leave my Rule 90 documents with the panel? No. As a courtesy to the panel, you should make three copies of your Rule 90 documents and any other evidence, which you plan to present to the panel. The Arbitration Center is not responsible for documents left with it and therefore litigants are encouraged not to leave any original documents at the Arbitration Center.

50. What happens to my exhibits after the hearing? The Arbitration Administrator stores them on the premises. Exhibits may be destroyed 7 days after entry of the Order of Dismissal, Notice of Rejection of the Award, or entry of a Judgment. The parties must retrieve their exhibits within the 7-day period to avoid their destruction. The Arbitration Center is not responsible for these documents and STRONGLY URGES all litigants to make copies of original documents and leave copies, NOT ORIGINALS, with the panel while they make their deliberations.

51. If, during the arbitration hearing, I disagree with an arbitrator ruling, may I stop the proceedings and go before the Supervising Judge for a ruling on the issue? No. Supreme Court Rule 90(a) provides that the arbitrators shall 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. Rulings on objections to evidence or on other issues, which arise during the hearing, shall be made by the chairperson of the panel. The remedy of rejection of the award and the right to proceed to trial is the appropriate remedy for a perceived bias or prejudice on the part of any member of the panel or error by the panel, in determining its award.

52. Will a court reporter be present to make a transcript of the hearing? A court reporter is not provided. However, any party may make arrangements for a stenographic record of the hearing at his/her own expense with the agreement of all parties present. If a party has a stenographic record made, a copy must be furnished to any other party requesting the same, upon payment of a proportionate share of the total cost of making the record. Testimony from the arbitration hearing has limited use in any later trial of the matter.

53. Will the determination of the award be made the same day as the hearing? Yes. The panel will make an award promptly upon termination of the hearing. The award shall dispose of all claims for relief, including attorney’s fees, costs and interest. The award may not exceed the sum authorized for that particular circuit (in Will County - $50,000 including any claim for attorney’s fees, exclusive of costs and interest.) The award shall be signed by the arbitrators. A dissenting vote without further comment may be noted on the award. The award is filed the day of the hearing with the Clerk of the Court. The Clerk of the Court is responsible for serving notice of the award and entry of the same to all parties who have filed an appearance in the matter.

54. Will the panelists announce the award to the parties on the day of the hearing? The panel does not announce the award to the parties. Litigants may call the Arbitration Center for the award after 2:30 p.m. on the day of the hearing. It is the duty of the Clerk of the Court, NOT the Arbitration Administrator, to mail a copy of the award to all litigants who have filed an appearance.

55. Is the award of the arbitrators binding? No. Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 93, within 30 days after filing the award with the Clerk of the Court, any party who was present at the arbitration hearing (either in person or by counsel), except a party who was debarred from rejecting the award, may file with the Clerk a written notice of rejection of the award and request to proceed to trial. Certificate of service to all other parties must be included in the Notice of Rejection. The party rejecting the award will also be assessed a $200.00 rejection fee ($500 if the award is over $30,000) at the time this notice is filed.

56. When does the 30-day period to reject the award begin to run? This 30-day period begins to run from the date the award is filed with the Clerk of the Court, usually the same day as the hearing. As the post-arbitration status hearing is typically set 45 days after the arbitration hearing, a rejection of the award CANNOT be filed at the post-arbitration status hearing.

57. What if I believe there is a mistake in the award? Supreme Court Rule 92(d) provides that when it appears from the record and the award that there is an obvious and unambiguous error in language or mathematics, the court, upon application by one of the parties within the 30-day rejection period, may correct the same. If such a motion is made, it will stay the proceedings, including the running of the 30-day rejection period, until the court decides the matter.

58. Is the arbitration award a final order? If not, how do I make it final? The arbitration award is NOT final. The Supervising Judge must enter judgment on the award to make it a final order. Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 92(e), if no rejection is filed within the thirty-day period after the hearing, any party may thereafter move the court to enter judgment on the award. Typically, judgment is entered at the status hearing. If the hearing was ex-parte, the party appearing may move at any time after the award has been filed with the Clerk of the Court for entry of judgment on the award. (See Supreme Court Rule 91[a]).

59. What happens if neither party asks that judgment on the award be entered? The Arbitration Administrator places the case on the arbitration post-hearing status call before the Supervising Judge, approximately 45 days after the arbitration hearing. The parties receive a copy of the order setting the post-arbitration status hearing with the award from the Circuit Clerk. Typically, one of the parties will move for judgment on the award at the post-arbitration status hearing.

60. May the parties dismiss the action after the hearing and the award are entered? Yes. The parties may voluntarily dispose of the matter at any time prior to entry of judgment. A stipulation to dismiss may even be presented at the post-arbitration status hearing. 61. What if the parties settle the matter within 24 hours prior to the hearing? If the parties settle the matter within 24 hours prior to the hearing, they have three options:

(1) One or both parties may appear at the Arbitration Center and present a stipulation to the panel. The panel then uses this stipulation as the award. This procedure allows the parties to work out the details of the settlement, (until the post-hearing status date) at which time they may either enter judgment on the award or dismiss the case;

(2) The parties may dismiss the matter by preparing a signed dismissal order and faxing the order to the Arbitration Center;

(3) The parties may prepare an order entering judgment and fax it to the Arbitration Center. The fax number at the Arbitration Center is (815) 774-4576.

Rejection of the Award and Trial De Novo

62. Is there a cost to reject the award? Yes. Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 93(a), WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER filing the award with the Clerk of the Court, and upon payment of a $200 rejection fee ($500 if the award is over $30,000) to the Clerk of the Court, any party who was present at the arbitration hearing (either in person or by counsel) and who has not been debarred from rejecting the award, may file with the Clerk of the Court a written notice of rejection and request to proceed to trial. The party filing the rejection of the award must also file a certificate of service of such notice on all other parties.

63. If I go to trial, can the arbitration panel that made the award be called as witnesses? No. Supreme Court Rule 93(b) prohibits an arbitrator from being called as a witness at any subsequent trial of the matter. 

64. May I advise the trial judge of the award? No. Supreme Court Rule 93 prohibits any reference in a subsequent trial to the fact that an arbitration proceeding was held or that an award was made. Yet, the award is part of the record, which the trial judge may review.

What is Mandatory Arbitration?


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 exclusively greater than $10,000 and less than the jurisdictional limit approved for that particular circuit by the Illinois Supreme Court. In Will County 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 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 $200 rejection fee which is filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The parties will then proceed to trial before a judge, as if the arbitration hearing had never occurred.

Counties with mandatory arbitration programs have experienced substantial savings in court time and speedier resolutions of small civil lawsuits than had previously been possible. The vast majority of arbitration awards in other counties are accepted by the parties and generally, litigants express satisfaction with the Arbitration Program. Members of the Will County Bar play a major role as arbitrators, in helping to reduce the length and cost of litigation in this circuit.