President Preckwinkle announces formation of Public Defender Selection Committee

Committee will include members from the legal community and individuals who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system

(Cook County, IL) – Today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the formation of a selection committee, chaired by the Honorable Patricia M. Martin, to help identify who will serve the next term as Cook County Public Defender. The Public Defender’s current six-year term will conclude on March 31, 2021. 

“The role of the Public Defender is critical to our criminal justice system, one that is charged with upholding the law and fiercely advocating for the clients they serve,” said President Preckwinkle. “When the last Public Defender’s term came to an end in 2015, I promised the residents of Cook County an open, transparent selection process. I remain committed to that promise and am confident that this process will produce the candidate best equipped to deliver high-quality legal representation to our residents who need it most.”

The committee will review resumes, interview highly qualified individuals, and present its top three recommended candidates to President Preckwinkle for a final decision. The President’s selected candidate for the position of Public Defender is expected to be submitted to the Cook County Board of Commissioners for its approval in March 2021.

Committee members include community leaders with substantial experience in the practice of law within marginalized communities. The committee will also include members who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system. A full list of Committee Members is as follows:

  • Honorable Judge Patricia M. Martin, retired
  • Julie L. Biehl, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Floyd Stafford, Heartland Alliance
  • Eddie Bocanegra, Heartland Alliance
  • Khadine Bennett, Director of Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs, ACLU of Illinois


The Public Defender's office has continued to expand its role as part of Cook County's commitment to comprehensive criminal justice reform.  The Public Defender has established an Immigration unit to protect some of the County’s most vulnerable residents.  In addition, representation by the Public Defender now begins as soon as a resident is brought into the police station.  

"My administration remains committed to providing poor people with the same legal rights the affluent have always been afforded,” said President Preckwinkle. “We have been successful in strengthening the office, setting new, progressive priorities from day one. I thank Public Defender Amy Campanelli for her partnership and look forward to building on the successes that have been realized so far.”

The President is seeking a highly qualified individual whose practice of law has clearly demonstrated experience in the representation of persons accused of crime, who is dedicated to providing high-quality representation to defendants and is committed to improving the quality of defense services in an equitable manner.

Preferred candidates must be both motivated and capable of leading a large staff charged with the crucial work of defending large numbers of individuals in need of first-rate representation. The Office of the Cook County Public Defender currently employs approximately 495 attorneys, 61 Investigators and 135 social workers, clerical workers and support staff.

Interested candidates must submit their resume and cover letters by January 22nd, 2021 by email to pdsearch@cookcountyil.gov or by mail to the Justice Advisory Council, 69 West Washington, Suite 1100, Chicago, IL 60602 Attention: Public Defender Search.

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