Illinois law allows a party in civil cases to have a judge removed from their case. That removal (substitution) can be done for cause in cases where the judge is not properly impartial at any time in the case, or without there having to be any reason at all at the beginning of a case.
Substitution of a Judge for Cause in an Illinois Civil case
735 ILCS 5/2-1001(a)(1) et. seq. provides that when the judge is a party or interested in the civil action, or his or her testimony is material to either of the parties to the action, or he or she is related to or has been counsel for any party in regard to the matter in controversy. In any such situation a substitution of judge may be awarded by the court with or without the application of either party.
That portion of the Illinois Compiled Statutes allows for a judge to be removed from a case when the judge is not able to be impartial. That would include situations where the judge is too close to a party, cannot be fair to a party, is a necessary witness, etc.
Substitution without cause of a Judge for Cause in an Illinois Civil case
Illinois law also allows for a judge to be removed from a civil case without a party to the case having to show any cause for that removal. This is a powerful tool, as removing a judge “for cause” is rather difficult in practice. Under 735 ILCS 5/2-1001(a)(2), a judge can be removed from a case as long as certain requirements are met. Those requirements include that the substitution Motion be made soon enough once the case starts, that the judge not have taken any substantial action on the case, etc.
A note on Substitution of Judges in Illinois Civil Cases
The judge who presides over a case can have quite an impact upon the case. For that reason, it is often wise to substitute a judge from a case when appropriate. However, that substitution is difficult to achieve when done for-cause later in a case, and only one judge can be substituted from a civil case in Illinois as a matter of right. That means that substitution decisions are tactical decisions that are best made by the attorney and client working together. Clients who attempt substitution on their own and then retain an attorney often create a situation that is less-than-ideal, resulting in harm to their case. The same is true in cases where a client attempts to represent themselves, misses the opportunity to substitute a judge, and then has to continue with that judge for the rest of their case.