Family: Wife, Barb, three children
Education: Sangamon State University; DePaul University College of Law
Occupation: Attorney, sole practitioner
People might not have a brush with the State’s Attorney’s office or it might only be through a family member. People, though, may look to the State’s Attorney as the chief prosecutor for the county and also look to that person to keep the public trust and uphold the law. How do you view this office? And as an office that is on the ballot, what should a person specifically be looking for in terms of the best candidate for the office?
The State’s Attorney is the chief prosecutor for the county. As an elected official and within his/her jurisdiction, he/she exercises complete and independent discretion in determining what criminal charges to file and against whom. The public places extraordinary trust in his/her discretion. Decisions must be made in the best interest of the entire community if our system of justice is to remain credible.
I suggest that people look at the criminal justice experience a particular candidate brings to the office. Titles in themselves do not ensure proper qualifications and judgment. It’s through our experience that our judgment is formed and tested.
Talk about your experience, especially your prosecutorial experience. Some highlights? Other highlights in the courtroom outside of that area?
With respect to my prosecutorial experience, I was employed by Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for over eight years. During that time, prosecutors go through a kind of journeyman apprenticeship exposing them to every aspect of the criminal justice system. And of course this is done in the context of an 800 lawyer office in one the busiest criminal court systems in the country. Most of that time is spent in the courtrooms, exercising judgment about other people’s lives moment to moment and learning the art and science of trial law. Outside of the courtroom and at all hours of the day or night, prosecutors assist law enforcement agencies in their investigations; listening to sexual assault victims, taking statements from offenders, and ultimately determining what if any charges will be filed. During my time in Chicago, I prosecuted thousands of criminal defendants and tried hundreds of cases from retail theft to murder. I’ve relied on that experience every day since.
I then came to Springfield and was chief of the criminal division for Sangamon County State’s Attorney where I tried over a dozen jury trials involving violent crimes. Following that, I became a partner at the local firm of Brown, Hay & Stephens. And subsequent to that I was appointed Executive Inspector General for the Comptroller by both Dan Hynes (D) and Judy Baar Topinka (R). For the past twelve years or so I have been practicing criminal defense, the last year as Public Defender for Christian County.
Talk about your fit in the office. Someone who might be tough on crime or willing to tackle the cases more difficult to prosecute? Thoughts on diversion? Mentoring? Special courts?
If given the opportunity, I anticipate being hands-on, encouraging young lawyers to make the most of the opportunity. I believe this will help move cases along and avoid backlogs. And obviously there is a crisis of over-incarceration so prosecution deferral programs of all types should be available in appropriate circumstances. Violent crimes should be aggressively pursued. And finally, there needs to be a constant vigilance in recognizing inequities both glaring and subtle.