Democratic candidate for Cook County Circuit (6th Subcircuit (Lopez Cepero 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 worked for the Cook County Public Defender's Office for a total of seventeen years, two years as an administrative assistant and fifteen years as an attorney.
I have spent all or part of every work day in civil and criminal courtrooms representing indigent defendants. I have gained invaluable courtroom experience because of my employment with the office. I have worked closely with, listened to and learned from my clients, co-workers, judges, clerks, Deputy Sheriffs, State's Attorneys, Guardians ad litem, private attorneys, probation officers, social workers, treatment providers, court interpreters and court reporters.
I understand the importance of building relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. I know that each member of the courtroom staff has a different role to play and that those roles, and the limitations and restrictions of those roles, need to be respected by everyone. I have taken advantage of the many assignment opportunities available to me as a Public Defender, both to grow as an attorney and to widen my base of experience.
I have worked in courtrooms designated specifically for the following types of cases, Child Protection (Abuse and Neglect), Juvenile Justice (Juvenile Delinquency), Traffic/Misdemeanor, Domestic Violence, Preliminary Hearings, and Felony. I have advocated for the use and expansion of, detention alternative programs for juveniles.
I have also worked in the specialty/treatment courts, Drug Court, Veteran's Court and Mental Health Court. These courts are designed for criminal defendants with no history of crimes of violence. These individuals are at great risk, due to their criminal backgrounds, of receiving a sentence of incarceration. Instead of prison, the treatment courts allow these individuals to receive probation and, most importantly, gives them the help and guidance of a team of professionals designed to help them address not only issues of drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness, but also homelessness, and unemployment.
My work in these specialty/ treatment courts has given me yet another opportunity to serve as an advocate of restorative justice, restoring individuals to productive members of society. I have met with clients, both in and out of custody, and also with their families. I understand and appreciate their frustrations with the court system. All of the relationships that I have built over the years have been based on trust.
Every relationship I have built with clients, whether successful or tenuous, has given me greater insight as to the motivations for their behavior. While the vast majority of inmates in the Cook County Jail are Latino and African-American, that same diversity is not reflected in the legal profession and is reflected even less in the judiciary of Cook County.
While it is important for litigants and the general public to view the judiciary with reverence, it is also important for them to be able to relate to the judiciary in order to increase the probability of effective communication, and in turn, compliance with court orders. I was born and raised in Chicago and, despite increased violence in the city and its surrounding communities, I have chosen to remain here.
I have devoted my entire career to protecting the Constitutional rights of individuals and I know that I can have more of an impact, on a greater number of people, if I am elected to the judiciary.
Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.
It was never my dream to run for political office, or to become a judge. My decision to run for this office was made after careful reflection upon my career as an attorney with the Cook County Public Defender's Office and realizing how my experience could be beneficial for a Circuit Court Judge. I am running because of my experience and my strong belief that the judiciary in Cook County should be more diverse and more representative of the communities it serves.