Judges decide parental visitation in custody battles, property disputes, the price motorists pay for a lead foot or who gets what in a divorce.
Yet judicial elections, which bestow such powers on a select few, often receive little voter attention. In fact, election experts estimate 25 percent of voters who cast a ballot don't bother to weigh in when they get to a judicial race question.
Two respected DuPage County associate judges - Brian McKillip and Ron Sutter - are facing off in the GOP primary for a six-year term on the full circuit bench. Both are "highly recommended" and have high bar ratings in an Illinois State Bar Association poll.
Such races prove tricky for voters to make an educated decision because the candidates are barred from stating their personal opinions on issues such as abortion, the death penalty or gun control.
So each candidate instead is emphasizing his experience.
McKillip, 63, of Warrenville, is a 37-year attorney who worked in private general practice, which included being Glen Ellyn's village prosecutor for nearly 15 years until 1999 when he became a judge.
Sutter, 54, of Wheaton, practiced law for nearly 30 years. He served as an assistant DuPage County state's attorney through the 1980s while prosecuting everything from traffic tickets to murder and served as a felony supervisor when he left for private civil practice. Sutter became a judge in 2003.
Circuit judges shape the judiciary by voting on future associate candidates and participating in policy decisions. They also have more of a say in their courtroom assignments.