Athena A. Farmakis
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (8th Subcircuit (Liu Vacancy district)
Responses to our questions
Please submit an essay that explains your legal background, why you are qualified for this position and why you seek this position.
I have dedicated my legal career to serving the public as a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney. With 23 years of experience, I bring to the table a very unique, well-rounded and balanced career. Throughout my career, I have been a zealous advocate for victims of homicide, sexual assault, child abuse, and various other violent crimes. I have also led the prosecution in countless weapons, narcotics and animal cruelty cases.
My dedication and hard work has afforded me with extensive and broad trial experience in both criminal and civil matters where I have gained invaluable knowledge and skills of the litigation process. This litigation experience together with my supervisory positions and lead attorney roles in high volume courtrooms have demonstrated my ability to be an effective and efficient leader, case-load manager and fair decision-maker.
These qualifications would allow me to transcend to a similar skill set necessary to excel and to be a fair judge. I spent thirteen years in the felony trial division where I litigated complex felony cases on a daily basis. I tried 67 jury trials of which 28 were for defendants charged with first degree murder and hundreds of bench trials involving adult, violent and gang-related high profile cases.
In 2016 I successfully tried a media-sensitive case involving a wheelchair-bound defendant who provided a loaded handgun to his 14 year old niece who in turn shot and killed a fellow 14 year old girl over a social media dispute.
During my eight years as a first chair, I directly supervised less experienced attorneys who were assigned to my courtroom and was responsible for the prosecution of all of the murder cases assigned to the courtroom. I managed courtroom dockets between 300-400 cases and used my discretion to plea-bargain appropriate cases short of trial.
My experience extends into the appellate arena where I have written several briefs and argued before the Illinois Appellate Court. I am currently a supervisor in the Preliminary Hearings Unit of the Criminal Prosecutions Unit. I oversee and supervise felony cases presented for preliminary hearings on a daily basis and approve all felony charges.
In my supervisory capacity, I continue to try high profile murder cases in the felony trial division and Juvenile Justice Bureau. I also actively participate in continuing legal education trainings and have made several presentations as speaker, lecturer and panelist. I gained my balance and perspective as a prosecutor with my invaluable experience at the Juvenile Justice Bureau.
I spent nearly one-third of my career as a line assistant and supervisor implementing the principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice in prosecuting minors for criminal offenses. From 2012-2014, I held supervisory positions in the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Divisions at the Juvenile Justice Bureau. Those divisions prosecute minors for criminal offenses and protect minors from abuse and neglect allegations.
As a supervisor I helped newer attorneys navigate through all facets of handling felony and misdemeanor juvenile delinquency cases and petitions for abuse, neglect and dependency. I directly supervised bench trials and jury trials involving habitual and violent juvenile offenders facing harsher penalties. My juvenile experience allowed me and taught me to be a flexible and open-minded prosecutor. I was able to utilize and employ diversion and rehabilitative programs for non-violent juvenile offenders and to teach the principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice.
These principles balance the interests of the victim, minor offender and community to hold the minor accountable for his/her actions while incorporating community involvement to help repair and rebuild relations in the community. The model aims to integrate non-violent juvenile offenders back into the community.
I also sat on the Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board, a state board which oversees and promotes non-detention community based alternatives for non-violent youth. I am very active in my community and neighborhood associations and currently serve as the vice-president of my condominium association in Lincoln Park where I have lived for the past 16 years.
I love dogs and cherish my volunteer work at animal shelters and organizations serving the underprivileged youth. I also enjoy being active and am a regular cyclist, runner and tennis player. I am involved and support numerous local bar associations including the Women's Bar Association and Hellenic Bar Association where I currently serve as an officer and have chaired the Judicial Evaluation, Law Day and Career Corner committees.
I also served on the Diversity Scholarship Foundation's scholarship committee. My involvement in these committees underscore my commitment to bettering the judicial system through diversity and by exposing and encouraging our youth to explore careers in the legal arena. My community involvement further highlights my commitment to people and issues outside of the courtroom.
I have taught law related topics at area middle schools as part of the Constitutional Rights Foundation's "Lawyers in the Classroom" program and have served as a substitute trial advocacy instructor and mock trial judge at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. My extensive and broad based experience as a prosecutor has earned me the reputation amongst my peers as being a very competent, fair and successful litigator.
I have been found highly qualified, qualified or recommended by all of the reviewing bar associations and have been specifically praised for my legal ability, work ethic, knowledge of the law, temperament, professionalism and fairness by the Chicago Council of Lawyers and Chicago Bar Association. My work ethic exemplifies the intangible qualities necessary to be a good judge.
I always aim to be fair, use common sense, am a good listener and know the importance of using my discretion as a prosecutor wisely. These are all important attributes a jurist should hold when making decisions affecting the people of Cook County.
I would like to continue my public service as a Cook County Circuit Court Judge to administer justice and resolve our county's legal disputes. Given my experience and qualifications, I believe I can make a difference in maintaining the public's trust and confidence in the legal system by serving as a fair and impartial judge.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
I attribute much of my scholastic and career success to leading a full well-rounded life.
Growing up my parents exposed me to many extra-curricular activities. I was a competitive figure skater, gymnast and practiced dance. I played the piano and was on my high school tennis team. All of these activities taught me discipline and made me appreciate the importance of time-management in order to succeed in the classroom. I was the valedictorian of grade school and high school. While in college, I decided to try out to be a Chicago Bulls Cheerleader, a "Luvabull."
My desire to continue to explore new opportunities drove me to cheer on one of the best teams to ever play in the NBA. During tryouts we were tested on our dance skills and had to go through several interviews to test our communication skills.
As Luvabulls we were representing the Chicago Bulls and were expected to represent the team with poise, knowledge of the game and integrity. I was honored to be selected to join the Chicago Bulls Luvabull team. I was a Luvabull for three years and resigned after I graduated college to start law school. My experience as a Luvabull was priceless.
Aside from being courtside to watch Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen "woo" the crowds at the Chicago Stadium, I built life-long lasting friendships with the women that danced beside me. My best memories were looking up into the crowd during a game and seeing MY two biggest cheerleaders in my life (My Mom and Grandmother) waiving down at me and looking so proud. They would sway back and forth together and sing with the crowd during those exciting play-off games. And they cheered me on just like they had done at my figure skating competitions and tennis matches growing up.
Little did I know at the time, my Luvabull experience was preparing me to excel in the courtroom. Performing on such a large stage in front of so many people instilled an unmatched confidence within me. I utilize that confidence every time I stand up in front of a jury to give a closing argument. I learned that "the show must go on." If a mistake was made during a dance routine, it was imperative to pick up your steps and get back in sync.
I carry that resilience into the courtroom where trials can be unpredictable and uncertain at times. As a Luvabull I communicated and interacted with people from all walks of life. I continue to use those interpersonal and communication skills when I interview victims and witnesses and prepare my trials. My extra-curricular activities growing up and my Luvabull experience helped shape my scholastic, personal and professional life. I hold all of those memories close to my heart.
I still always look for new challenges and new activities in which to participate. My Mom can often be heard asking me: "Athena, do you ever stop?" My most recent response has been: "No Mom, I'm running for Judge."