Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT ARE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS? 
The Cook County Department of Administrative Hearings began in May 2009. The Department’s goal is to provide expedient, independent and impartial hearings of alleged Cook County ordinance violations. The cases the Department hears are civil in nature and are not criminal proceedings. Cases previously heard by Cook County Circuit Court will be heard by the Cook County Department of Administrative Hearings in order to reduce litigation expenses. Our court does not investigate, file, prosecute or initiate your case. We are separate and distinct from the County Agency/Department that is making the allegation against you.

HOW IS OUR HEARING SYSTEM DIFFERENT THAN THE CIRCUIT COURTS?
Our hearings are less complex than a Circuit Court trial, however we still follow a basic structure to ensure fairness and due process of law. Our hearings do not use strict and complex rules of evidence and procedure. We use plain language as opposed to legal terms. Our hearings are more time and cost effective than the Circuit Courts for both parties.

WHO DECIDES IF I HAVE TO PAY A FINE?
Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) will decide your case. Our ALJ’s are attorneys appointed to preside over the Department of Administrative Hearings cases. ALJ’s are independent contractors and not employees of Cook County. They are required to be licensed attorneys for a minimum of 5 years and in good standing with the State Bar of Illinois. ALJ’s also undergo a series of trainings on administrative proceedings, as well as how to be fair and impartial. ALJ’s are specially trained to assist a pro se Respondent (i.e., someone representing themselves without an attorney) with procedural matters such as when and how to file a motion.

WHO ARE THE PARTIES?
The Petitioner: The Cook County Department that is making the allegation against the respondent(s). The County may be represented by the States Attorney’s Office. The burden is on the County to prove by a preponderance (more likely than not) of the evidence that the violation occurred. Unlike in criminal proceedings where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Respondent: The party alleged to have violated an ordinance in Cook County. This can be an individual or a corporation. Respondent(s) may represent themselves or hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing.

DO I HAVE TO APPEAR AT MY HEARING?
In some cases you may avoid attending your hearing by making payment before your hearing date. Please check your copy of the complaint for further information. Payment of fines can be made at the Department of Revenue cashier station located at 118 N. Clark Street, 11th Floor, Chicago, IL. Make sure you get your receipt for proof of payment.

WHAT HAPPENS AT THE HEARING?
The date, time and location of your scheduled hearing is on your notice of violation, ticket or complaint. You may want to arrive a few minutes early to ask any questions. Once you enter the hearing room please have a seat and wait for further instructions.

The Administrative Law Judge will give opening remarks regarding their role in the proceedings, what to expect during your hearing and the order in which the cases will proceed. When your case is called please say “Here” or “Present.” Any testimony that is given under oath or affirmation and your hearing will be audio and/or visually recorded. Please remember to speak clearly.

Both sides will be given an opportunity to present evidence and argue why they should win their case. The County bears the burden of establishing that the violation occurred in every case. It is not required by law for the investigator or enforcement officer to attend the hearings. Therefore, the County may attempt to meet its burden without the investigator who witnessed the alleged violation being in court.

The County must allege the following at your hearing:
l Name and address of the respondent (if known)
l The type and nature of the violation
l The date and time the violation was observed
l The names of witnesses to the violation
l The address of the location or property where the viola tion is observed

Please remember to bring any (all) witnesses and tangible evidence (photos, receipts, etc.) that will help you explain why you should win your case. Any (all) tangible evidence admitted will become property of the Department of Administrative Hearings.

You may send an attorney or authorized representative to represent you at your hearing. If you, your attorney or an authorized representative fails to attend, a default judgment may be entered against you. Please see “What Happens If I Miss My Court Date?” for more information on default judgments.

WHAT DECISIONS ARE MADE AT THE HEARING?
The Administrative Law Judge will determine whether the County has met its burden of proof that the violation occurred as the County alleges. If the ALJ rules in your favor you will not have to pay a fine. If you are found liable, you will be assessed fines, penalties and costs as set forth by Cook County Code. The ALJ will never impose incarceration (a jail sentence). The ALJ will give you a written copy of their order. Make sure you receive your copy.

If a fine is assessed against you, you will be expected to pay your fine on the day of the decision unless you arrange a payment plan. All fines should be made payable to the Cook County Department of Revenue and can be paid at the Cook County Department of Revenue cashier at 118 N. Clark St. on the 11th Floor, Chicago, IL.

CAN I APPEAL IF I DON’T WIN?
Yes, you and the County both have 35 days to appeal the ALJ’s decision to the Circuit Court of Cook County at the Richard J. Daley Center, 55 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I MISS MY HEARING DATE?
The County may seek a default judgment against you. If a default judgment is entered, you will also be mailed a Notice of Default. You have 21 days from the mail date stamped on the default order to file a Motion to Set Aside the default judgment based on good cause (emergency or an illness). There is no time limit to file a Motion to Set-Aside a Default Judgment if your reason for not appearing at your original court date is based on your not being properly noticed. You may contact the Department of Administrative Hearings if you have any questions. Please also visit the forms tab here.



Please make sure to file your motion between 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM at 118 N. Clark St., Room 1140 Chicago, IL 60602. You may file your motion by mailing It to our office at the address provided on the Form. You must call the office to obtain your verification number and new Hearing date at (312)603-2120 within 3 business days of mailing your Motion to Set-Aside the Default Judgment. If you choose to fax the Form to our office, you must call our office at (312)603-2120 the following business day during office hours to obtain your new Hearing date and verification number. The verification number is for your records. At the new Hearing date, it will be determined whether your motion will be granted. If your motion is granted you will then have an immediate hearing on the original allegations made by the County Department issuing the citation.

WHY WAS A DEFAULT JUDGEMENT ENTERED AGAINST YOU?

A Cook County agency believed that an ordinance violation occurred and that you were responsible for the violation. The agency filed papers charging you with the ordinance violation, and certifying that it either mailed to you or handed you a Notice of a Hearing (“Notice”). The Notice sets forth a time, date and place for your hearing. You did not appear at the Hearing nor did you send anyone to represent you at your Hearing, therefore, a Default Judgment was entered against you.

HOW WAS THE DEFAULT JUDGEMENT ENTERED?
Because you did not attend the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge entered a Default Judgment against you, based on the evidence presented. The Administrative Law Judge also assessed a fine and costs against you. The County usually requests that the maximum fine be imposed in default matters. The order is similar to a circuit court judge’s order, in that it can be used to place a lien on your property, garnish your wages and/or affect your credit.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SET ASIDE A DEFAULT JUDGEMENT?
If you: 1) missed your hearing date for a good reason; or 2) did not receive the notice of the hearing, you may file a written Motion to Set-Aside a Default Judgment with the Department of Administrative Hearings.   If you received notice of the original hearing, your Motion must be filed within 21 calendar days of the mailing date stamped on top of the default judgment order.

How to File Your Motion to Set Aside

Option 1 - Go to the Downtown Office of Administrative Hearings
The other side of this notice contains the form Motion to Set-Aside a Default. You can file the motion on Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at: Cook County Department of Administrative Hearings, Information Desk, 118 North Clark Street, Room 1140, Chicago, IL 60602. You will be given the time and date on which your motion will be heard.

Option 2 - Fax a completed Motion and Copy of Order
You can fax to the Department of Administrative Hearings the following papers: (a) a copy of the enclosed default order, and (b) a completed copy of the Motion to Set Aside. The fax number is (312)603-2125. On the business day following your fax, you must call (312)603-2120 to verify that your fax was received by the Department. During that phone call you will be given the time, and date of your hearing to set aside the default judgment.  You should receive a paper verification of your motion in the mail within 3-5 business days, if you do not receive a paper verification please call (312)603-2120. NOTE: Motions are NOT granted automatically. You MUST file your motion ON TIME and you MUST provide Good Reason why you did not respond to the Notice of Violation.

Option 3 - Mail a completed Motion and Copy of Order
You can mail to the Department of Administrative Hearings the following papers:  (a ) a copy of the enclosed default order, and (b ) a completed copy of the Motion to Set Aside. The mailing address is: Department of Administrative Hearings, 118 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60602. The forms must be received within 21 days of the mailing date stamped on top of the default judgment order. For your records, you may want to obtain confirmation from the United State Postal Service that you in fact mailed your Forms to us. Three business days after mailing your Motion to Set Aside, you must call (312)603-2120 to obtain your new time and date of the hearing for your Motion to Set Aside the Default Judgment entered against you.Your will also recieve a notification of your Hearing date in the mail within 3-5 days. If you do not receive your notification please call
312-603-2120.

If you are not disputing the default judgment and seek payment information,
please call (312)603-6870

 



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