In Illinois, the law is clear and succinct about whether or not you can change your judge. Each party is entitled to one substitution of judge without cause as a matter of right as long as the judge has not ruled on any substantive matters in the case and trial/hearing has not begun. “Without cause” simply means that you can request the substitution for no reason at all – you don’t have to disclose the reason you’d like to substitute that judge.
You can also petition for a substitution of judge for cause. “For cause” is the opposite of “without cause” and means that you’re requesting the substitution for a specific reason and you’re going to tell the court the reason why. Substitution for cause can happen at any time but is only granted to specific reasons, such as prejudice or malpractice. You must submit a petition to the court and another judge will review your petition and rule on whether or not you will get your substitution.
The reason that you cannot change judges after a substantive ruling has been made is known as the “test the waters” doctrine. Courts are opposed to the idea of “judge-shopping” and don’t like the idea that a party might only decide to change judges after receiving an unfavorable ruling. If a judge is obviously prejudiced or biased, you can request a substitution at any time, but you must prove your case that the judge is biased, etc. Winning a case for substitution of judge for cause is usually very difficult and are rarely granted.
For more questions and help navigating your case, call Kiswani Law and speak to one of our attorneys at 708-210-9247.