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History on Trial: Historic Cases Project is a two-part project:

1) to uncover important cases from Illinois’s rich legal history and publish the data and documents on the Internet.

2) to publish a guidebook to assist individuals and groups who wish to present a historic case in a public venue.

Illinois has a long tradition of famous lawyers and famous cases, from Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln to Clarence Darrow. The Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission has contacted circuit clerks across Illinois to convene committees to search for cases that meet a certain criteria for deeper study and publication. These casefiles will be digitized, and information about these cases will be entered into a database resulting in the publication of the data and images for the entire world to research and examine.

With the recent success of History on Trial’s performances of Mary Surratt, Mary Todd Lincoln, Joseph Smith, and Alton School Cases, the Commission is in a unique position to share its knowledge with other groups who are interested in creating their own performances, whether it be a retrial or a re-enactment of a famous case. With the partnership of The Theatre School at DePaul University, the Commission will publish a guide-book to give readers step-by-step instructions on how to create an interesting and educational experience.

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Feel free to contact us about our Retrial Collection or upcoming retrials. We try to plan for these events 6-12 months in advance. If you have an idea, or think a certain subject matter would make for a retrail, let us know.

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About the Commission

Since 2009 we have been collecting, archiving, and researching the history of the Illinois Judiciary. Our collections range from artifacts to dockets to recent oral histories.


Honorable James R Thompson, Chairman
Honorable Kirk W Dillard
Kim B. Fox
Pauline Montgomery
Joseph A Power, Jr
William J Quinlan
Jane Hayes Rader
J. William Roberts
Michael J Tardy, Ex-officio