FILE - Don Harmon, Illinois Legislature

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, heads up to the podium on the floor of the Illinois Senate during session at the Illinois State Capitol, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. 

(The Center Square) – Reminiscent of last year’s partisan redistricting process for statehouse and congressional seats, Illinois Democrats have advanced plans creating judicial subdistricts.

Lawmakers were in session Wednesday. They canceled scheduled session days Tuesday and Thursday.

State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, said creating judicial subcircuits in more urban settings will bring about better representation in the courts.

“These subcircuits will provide additional opportunities for diversity on the bench in these circuits,” Hernandez said during a committee hearing Wednesday.

Democrats released one proposal last month. They updated that Monday and further amended them twice in Senate Bill 928 before advancing them on Wednesday. The Senate took up the issue in House Bill 3138.

Subcircuits would be created in Cook, Will, Kane, Pike, Winnebago and Boone counties. There would also be new subcircuits in Madison and Bond counties and in Sangamon, Morgan, Scott, Jersey and Macoupin counties.

Democrats said the proposals also change at-large judgeships to resident judgeships in Champaign, Peoria and Rock Island counties.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said there’s been virtually no input from anyone in the judiciary he’s spoken to.

“This is politics at its worst form,” Butler said during the hearing. “This is a complete power grab by you, the supermajority, and by the governor to completely redo the court system in your little progressive ways and it's really a shame that this is how you’re conducting it.”

At the same time the House was hearing the proposal in a committee posted with little notice, a Senate committee also held a hearing posted with little notice.

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said the measure won’t create more judges. It will create a more diverse judiciary. He also said there were other considerations.

“Certainly partisanship is a component that is considered when evaluating the constructing of subcircuits,” Harmon said.

Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said the process has been neither transparent nor inclusive.

“It’s one thing to draw districts and so forth for partisan sake in legislative districts and such, but I think the judiciary, I think it’s just really concerning where this is going,” McConchie said.

If adopted by the General Assembly and approved by the governor, the subcircuits would take effect for some areas in the current year and others in 2024.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.