The state of Illinois delegates to its local governments the responsibility for funding and administering indigent defense services in adult criminal trials, though the state provides some reimbursements. The state has no entity to exercise oversight of the delivery of indigent defense services.

The state of Illinois funds and administers almost all indigent defense services for adult criminal cases in its appellate courts, with only one county handling appeals within its jurisdiction. A state commission provides oversight of state-administered services only.

  • 102 Counties Primarily Locally Funded

  • 102 Counties Locally Administered

  • 102 Counties with No State Oversight

  • 101 Counties State Funded

  • 1 County Locally Funded

  • 101 Counties State Administered

  • 1 County Locally Administered

  • 101 Counties with a Commission With Statewide Authority

  • 1 County with No State Oversight

Illinois counties are responsible for administering trial-level indigent defense services. State law requires Illinois's larger counties to have a public defender office; smaller counties can choose to have a public defender office (every county has done so). Counties are responsible for funding their public defender offices, though the state reimburses two-thirds of the county chief public defender’s salary, subject to funding by the state legislature (all other staff are county funded). Counties can also contract with private attorneys to provide representation in conflict cases. Local judges appoint private attorneys and local courts pay them on an hourly basis at county expense.

In all counties except for Cook County (Chicago), the circuit court judges of the county select the public defender, determine the number of staff in the public defender office, and review all expenses. In Cook County, the county board appoints the public defender. The state of Illinois has no entity providing oversight of trial-level indigent defense. There is the Office of the State Appellate Defender, which provides appellate representation statewide; this agency is also authorized to provide training, investigative, and expert support to county indigent defense systems, subject to funding by the state legislature.

The state-funded Office of the State Appellate Defender (OSAD) provides representation in adult criminal appeals in the vast majority of appeals statewide. One county public defender office, the Cook County (Chicago) public defender, funds and administers appellate services in its cases. OSAD delivers appellate services primarily through five district offices, each covering one of the state’s appellate court districts. Each office is managed by a deputy defender and staffed with attorneys. OSAD can also maintain a panel of private attorneys to appoint on a case-by-case basis, or as a last resort contract with private attorneys.

The state supreme court appoints the state appellate defender to lead OSAD. The state appellate defender commission oversees the office. The judicial branch appoints most of the commission’s nine members. The commission recommends policies and regulations for the state appellate defender to promulgate. OSAD also handles juvenile appeals and is authorized to provide training, investigative, and expert support to county trial indigent defense attorneys, subject to state funding.

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Questions Open/Close

What rules must counties follow when establishing a public defender office?

Does a public defender association fill any obligations avoided by the state?

How is the state appellate defender selected?

Who serves on the commission?

In which branch of state government does the appellate indigent defense system reside?