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The Rockford Judicial System

The 17th Judicial Circuit Court, which encompasses Boone and Winnebago Counties and includes oversight of Rockford, IL, is one of 23 judicial circuits in the state of Illinois. It is comprised of 11 circuit judges and 14 associate judges, and is led by chief judge Joseph G. McGraw. Collectively, the mission of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court is to serve the public by providing access to a fair and efficient system of justice in accordance with the law that fosters public trust and confidence.

Three of the four 17th Judicial Circuit Court buildings are located in Rockford, including the Winnebago County Courthouse (400 W. State St.), Winnebago Country Criminal Justice Center (650 W. State St.) and Winnebago County Juvenile Justice Center (211 S. Court St.). Thomas A. Klein is the Winnebago County circuit clerk, a position in which Klein is charged with being the keeper of the court record. The fourth facility is the Boone County Courthouse, which is located at 601 N. Main St. in Belvidere, IL. Linda Anderson, the circuit clerk in Boone County, is responsible for maintaining records of all traffic, criminal and civil cases filed in the county.

In addition to the chief judge, circuit judges and associate judges, the office employs many other departments including trial court and other support administration, court reporting, trial court, law library, jury commission, the department of court services, and alternative dispute resolution. During 2015, the 17th Judicial Circuit Court saw 81,589 cases filed, all except 1,678 were closed that calendar year.

Winnebago County Clerk

Margie M. Mullins serves as the Winnebago County Clerk, an elected official whose office serves as the administrative arm of county government. Mullins and her office have responsibilities that include vital records and licenses, elections, tax extension and redemption, and county board record maintenance. Some of the most common documents administered by the Winnebago County Clerk’s office include marriage licenses, birth certificates, death certificates, liquor licenses and amusement licenses.
The tax division annually calculates tax rates within districts, each within the legal limit of the law or the vote of the people. The county clerk also maintains all records of the Winnebago County Board. Moreover, residents can file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request through the office of Winnebago County Clerk.

Stanley J. Roszkowski United States Courthouse

The Stanley J. Roszkowski United States Courthouse is located in downtown Rockford at 327 S. Church St., and it is the western division facility of the U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois. One of two such facilities in northern Illinois (the eastern division is headquartered in Chicago), the Stanley J. Roszkowski U.S. Courthouse is where federal court hearings are held in the Rockford area.
The 200,000 square foot Rockford facility was officially dedicated in 2011. With five courtrooms and office space for court-related agencies, it is a model for sustainable design and construction. The courthouse was named in honor of Roszkowski, who served as a U.S. District Judge in northern Illinois for more than 20 years.

Structure of the Federal Legal System

The federal government legal system is structured into four sections in Illinois, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Illinois, the U.S. District Court for Central District of Illinois (courthouses are in Peoria, Rock Island, Springfield and Urbana) and the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Illinois (courthouses are in Benton and East St. Louis). The Northern District includes 18 total counties between the eastern and western divisions. Eight counties are to the east, while the 10 western division counties—where Rockford is located—include Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago.
The U.S. District Court for Northern District of Illinois is led by a chief judge (Ruben Castillo) and clerk of court (Thomas G. Bruton), and it includes 33 district judges and 12 magistrate judges.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney

The Winnebago County State’s Attorney serves the county as it pursues justice. Its many duties include upholding the law regarding the commission of crimes in the county by vigorously and fairly prosecuting those responsible for such behavior.
Joe Bruscato has held the position of state’s attorney in Winnebago County since 2008 when he was first elected to office. He won a second term in 2012 and is up for re-election again in 2016. The state’s attorney office, located at the Winnebago County Courthouse (400 W. State St.) in Rockford, employs 12 including Bruscato, a criminal bureau, a civil bureau, an investigations department and administrative support arm.

Winnebago County Bar Association

The Winnebago County Bar Association (WCBA), including Rockford and surrounding area legal professionals, was established in 1906 as a promoter and supporter of the practice of law and the administration of justice according to the highest standards. Located at 1 Court Place in downtown Rockford, WCBA also serves its members through education, collegiality and opportunities for public service.
WCBA has nearly 20 subcommittees, including children’s advocacy, community service and environmental. Additionally, the WCBA has established the Winnebago County Bar Foundation that awards grants to applicants that further strengthen or uphold American jurisprudence within Winnebago County.

Winnebago County Public Defender

The Winnebago County Public Defender is located at the Winnebago County Courthouse at 400 W. State St. in Rockford. The Public Defender, appointed by a judge when an individual cannot afford an attorney, represents individuals who have been charged with criminal offenses (felony, misdemeanor and traffic), In cases of juvenile delinquency or child abuse and neglect, a public defender may also be assigned by a judge.
The office includes a staff of 36, including the public defender, first deputy public defender, 30 assistant defenders and four investigators.

Law Enforcement Offices in Winnebago County

Federal: Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service
State: Illinois State Police District 16
County: Cherry Valley Police, Durand Police, Machesney Park Division Police, Pecatonica Police, Rockford Park District Police, Rockford Police, Rockton Police, Roscoe Police, Loves Park Police, Department, South Beloit Police, Winnebago County Sheriff, Winnebago Police

Crime and Punishment

The Winnebago County Justice Center serves as the primary correctional facility in the Rockford area. The justice center, located downtown at 650 W. State St., housed on average 690 inmates per day in 2015 (per Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office).
The region also features the Juvenile Detention Center, which opened in 1992 and has since expanded to 48 beds. The facility is located at 5350 Northrock Drive.

Major Crimes Per Year in Winnebago County

(2014 Illinois State Police Uniform Crime Report)

  • 21 Criminal Homicides

  • 473 Robberies

  • 1,512 Aggravated Battery/Assault

  • 89 Arsons

  • 181 Rape

  • 2,305 Burglaries

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