Brian Terrence Sexton
Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (McGinnis 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 believe I am uniquely qualified to be a Cook County Circuit Court Judge by virtue of my 30 years' trial experience with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, and, more importantly, by virtue of having worked the other side of courtroom for the past year as a defense attorney. I have personally prosecuted over 90 juries, of which 75 were first degree murder cases.
I led the successful prosecutions of the defendant who shot and killed Officer Brian Strouse in 2001, the defendant who shot and killed Officer Nathaniel Taylor in 2008, and the defendant who shot and killed Officer Thor Soderberg in 2010. I was the supervisor of the Cook County State's Attorney Gang Crime Unit for 5 years, where I served on the Executive Committee for Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federally funded initiative involving the U.S. Attorney's Office, ATF, the City of Chicago, CPD and various social service agencies.
We conducted "parolee forums" on our own time after work, going to the 11th and 15th police Districts and talking alongside AUSAs and ATF agents and CPD officers to parolees about the risk of federal gun prosecution while still offering them alternatives such as substance abuse treatment and job training. The program became such a success that it was expanded into the 7th, 9th, 10th and 6th police District. I became the Chief of the Narcotics Bureau in 2010.
As the Narcotics Bureau Chief, I supervised over 50 attorneys and managed many different diversion programs. In 2012, I and other Bureau heads instituted the Deferred Prosecution Program to include non-violent offenses and give offenders a second chance. As Chief of the Bureau, I worked with many federal and local law enforcement agencies.
Serving on the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug-Trafficking Agency) Executive Board, which funds many local and federal narcotics initiatives. I served as Chief of the Special Operations Committee and Financial Committee.
In 2016, I helped develop an initiative with CPD to provide drug diversion to narcotics users and low level offenders without having to go to court. In addition to the above, I was a faculty member for 15 years at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, S.C., training prosecutors across the country, and have continued to lecture extensively throught the country on trial advocacy. I've also served as a trial instructor in the Cook County State's Attorney's office for 20 years until my retirement last year.
Moreover, I've served as a mock trial judge in numerous law school trial team competitions for the past 20 years. I even coached a trial team at John Marshall Law School for 2 years until I couldn't take the time away from my children.
In the past year though, I feel as if I have discovered a whole new aspect of the law. Learning the ins and outs of traffic offenses, DUI's, dealing with the Secretary of State for a client's driver's license, helping victims of domestic abuse obtain plenary orders of protection, filing an appearance on a civil case as a plaintiff and another civil case as a defendant, helping an innocent owner recover possession of his forfeited vehicle- these are all new experiences for me since I retired from the State's Attorney's Office and I think I am a more well-rounded lawyer now than I ever was. In short, I feel that my legal and teaching experience would serve me well if I am asked to be on the bench.
I stay current on case law, and have always treated people in the courtroom- judges, opposing attorneys, clerks, sheriffs, defendants, litigants, the same as how I would want to be treated. For over 30 years, I helped victims of violent crimes, and now I try to help my clients get through their situations. Becoming a judge would be a natural extension of that public service.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
Most people are shocked how old I am compared to how young my kids are! I'm 55 years old and have two boys, 9 and 7, and one girl, 5 years old.
I coach a few teams and help drive them to their various events, and I invariably get a few comments from well-meaning people, saying "Aren't grandkids the best?" or "Grandkids are a handful, aren't they?" I feel like saying, "I wouldn't know", or explain that they're really my kids but it's happened so much I don't even try to explain anymore. It probably didn't help my cause that I have a huge bald spot on the top of my head.
When I worked in the State's Attorney's Office, they asked me what daddy did at work. To keep it simple, I just told them that I made sure the bad guys went to jail so they couldn't hurt anyone. Well, when I retired, I was driving my oldest son to his swim lesson when I got a call from a client who had just got arrested for a DUI.
Clearly, he had overheard my conversation because when I hung up, he just stared at me incredulously and said "You were talking to a criminal!" I explained to him that he wasn't a criminal, that I was just helping someone who had made a bad choice and wasn't really a bad person. I don't think he was buying it tho- my first job description must have been way cooler to a little boy than my present one! Now I'll just have to come up with a better one if I ever get a chance to become a judge. Any suggestions?