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Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic nominee profile

She was elected to her first term as state’s attorney in 2016.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic nominee and incumbent.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Candidate profile

Kim Foxx

Running for: Cook County State’s Attorney

Political party affiliation: Democrat

Political/civic background: I served as Assistant State’s Attorney for 12 years. I have also served in the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office, where I worked as a senior attorney advocating for children, navigating the child welfare system. Prior to being elected Cook County State’s Attorney in 2016, I served as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s Chief of Staff.

Occupation: Cook County State’s Attorney

Education: I attended Southern Illinois University, where I earned my BA in Political Science and my JD from the SIU School of Law.

Campaign website: KimFoxx.com

Facebook: @kimfoxx2020

Twitter: @KimFoxxForSA

Instagram: @kim_foxx

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ72Bka40KRPNlcEIOLu9-A


The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for Cook County State’s Attorney a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues. Kim Foxx submitted the following responses:

How should the street violence of the summer of 2020 reshape the state’s attorney’s office approach to crime?

2020 is an anomaly, from everything associated with COVID-19, to the socio-political uprisings related to George Floyd. The fact is if you look across the country you are seeing other cities (Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, etc.) who are also experiencing increases in crimes and gun violence. Regardless of the reasons, this violence is unacceptable. My office has put a top priority on prosecuting violent crimes. Serious acts of violence include cases of gun violence, homicide, sex crimes, aggravated battery, violence against police officers, robbery, domestic battery, and kidnapping. These cases represent 28% of the cases prosecuted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The conviction rate on these cases has increased by 81% to 83% under the Foxx Administration. Working in partnership with our law enforcement and groups who live and work in our communities, my office has embedded ourselves into these communities to have our ears to the ground and stay engaged with what’s happening across Cook County. It is important to remember that my office is the last stop. Some of the changes needed may need to happen before individuals reach our office.

Please address the criticism of the office by police Supt. David Brown, who has said there are “zero consequences” for those who are arrested on certain gun charges. He says this has allowed the people behind gang gun violence to get back on the streets and commit more crime.

Unfortunately, the criticism by Supt. David Brown is not based on facts. There is no statistically significant data that supports a correlation between individuals looting and individuals that are “let out” on bail or bond by the sheriff or the judge. It does not serve anyone to pretend there are simple answers to the recent uprisings. My office has been committed to prosecuting our most violent offenders, including people arrested on gun charges. In the first three years since taking office, my office increased the prosecution of violent crimes, securing over 2,700 more convictions related to violent felony offenses than my predecessor in the last three years of her tenure. Additionally, violent crimes rates have dropped year after year during this same time period. Our jails hold people who are a threat to public safety, including those who are violent and use weapons because of the threats they pose to society. We need to continue to strengthen our policies so that we are targeting disparities in our system and crafting effective measures that ensure public safety. For instance, it is unfair that people charged with violent offenses could pay their way out (with bond), yet people charged with non-violent offenses could not pay their way out and were held in jail. Part of breaking the pattern of violence is getting into our communities where violence is a “part of life,” to interrupt these trends means offering alternatives to people who have historically lacked access to opportunities. At the end of the day, Supt. Brown, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and my office need to work together to ensure our most violent offenders are taken off our streets and put in prison, so our communities can be safe.

Kim Foxx submitted the following responses before the March primary:

On January 29, 2019, the actor Jussie Smollett reported to the Chicago Police that he had been attacked by two white men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck. None of this proved to be true. What did the Cook County state’s attorney’s office do right or wrong in this case? What would you have done differently?

When I took office in 2016, it was the bloodiest year in Cook County in decades. In assembling and reviewing the data of criminal prosecutions, it was clear that the State’s Attorney’s Office was spending the overwhelming majority of our prosecutorial resources on non-violent offenses. Under my leadership, we have prioritized the prosecution of violent offenses and expanded the use of alternatives to prosecution and diversion in cases that are lower level and nonviolent in nature by 25%. The Smollett case was evaluated in the same manner as other cases involving similar events and defendants with similar criminal histories. Due to the public interest, in this case, our office should have taken more care to inform the public about how the case was reviewed and ultimately handled. I fell short of my own standard for transparency and accountability in the way this matter was communicated, and continue to learn so that we can always improve.

When is it appropriate to recruit the FBI and United States attorney’s office for assistance in cases that usually fall under state jurisdiction?

State and local enforcement should always work with federal agencies to ensure public safety by building the strongest possible cases and holding our most violent offenders accountable in the best forum. Since taking office, strengthening our relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and all federal law enforcement agencies has been a top priority, demonstrated in part by my creation of the Gun Crimes Strategies Unit (GCSU). This ongoing and unprecedented partnership with the USAO, FBI, DEA, and ATF to reduce violence and build safer communities has yielded significant results, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. In fact, where we have a prosecutor embedded on the ground in the Chicago Police Department’s 11th district (Harrison), there has been a 433% increase in Armed Habitual Criminal arrests, a Class X felony. Each of our GCSU prosecutors is cross-designated as a Special Assistant United States Attorney, meaning they can try a case in either federal or state court depending on which venue offers the most appropriate charge and sentence. (You can learn more about our innovative GCSU program and the results here: https://www.cookcountystatesattorney.org/news/innovative-state-s-attorney-s-office-program-results-dramatic-increase-repeat-gun-charges)

The advantage of involving federal authorities in certain cases is that these agencies have higher levels of time and resources to spend on individual cases as compared with the relatively limited resources of State’s Attorney’s Office, which handles more than 200,000 misdemeanors and tens of thousands of felonies each year. The U.S. Attorney’s Office handles a fraction of those numbers. Additionally, federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI are specially trained to conduct proactive investigations into complex matters such as fraud, corruption, and cybercrime. When a case involves conduct or offenses that are complex and require additional resources or target prolifically violent individuals, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office should consider offering assistance to local authorities. If a case involves egregious behavior that warrants a severe sentence (such as the manufacture, delivery or possession of child pornography), the federal system may offer a more appropriate venue based on federal mandatory minimum sentences.

Ultimately, federal authorities should work together with the state’s attorney to ensure that individuals who pose a threat to public safety and trust are held accountable, which often means federal assistance in investigations or federal adoption of cases.

Federal investigators are conducting a wide-ranging probe of Chicago area officeholders, including aldermen and state legislators. Why do you think these cases were not investigated and prosecuted by the state’s attorney?

As noted above the US attorney’s office has the time and resources to conduct long-term investigations particularly of political figures. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and its resources are primarily used to combat violent crime. The states attorney’s office handles the volume of 40,000 felony cases and over 200,000 misdemeanor cases on an annual basis while our office of Public integrity unit of does investigate and handle allegations of misconduct by elected officials it is not of the same breadth in scope of that is offered by the US attorney’s office and it’s investigated bodies. Where appropriate this office has investigated elected officials and prosecuted them when appropriate. Additionally, our office provides resources and support involved in investigations to the US attorney’s office and the FBI handles regarding elected officials as well. There are instances in which our office may begin an investigation and subsequently tender that investigation to the US attorney’s office for prosecution.

What should the office’s priorities be?

Upon taking office, my team and I set out our “Mission, Vision, and Values” and this guides our work every day. We pledged to do justice in pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities. We committed to creating a safer, stronger Cook County and approaching every case with integrity, demanding accountability, and increasing our presence in the community. We said that our success would not be measured in convictions, that we believed in doing what’s right and fighting for the best, most fair outcomes, whatever form that takes, based upon the facts, evidence, and the law. And we owned and asserted our responsibility to address the historic inequities in our criminal justice system.

Over the past three years, I have focused on prosecuting violent crimes instead of low-level offenses, bringing greater accountability to police-involved shootings, leading on criminal justice reform to right the wrongs of the past, and holding the Cook County State’s Attorney Office to an unprecedented level of transparency.

In 2016, Cook County experienced the most violent year in decades. There were 3,550 shootings and 761 murders. 34 of them were children. But the most prosecuted felony - the issue on which we spent the most time and resources - was (non-violent) retail theft; upon taking office, we quickly created the Gun Crimes Strategies Unit - which places prosecutors directly in the police districts experiencing the highest levels of violence where they work alongside law enforcement to target the drivers of violent crime. Violent crime has decreased every year since, and we’ve seen some of the most progress in GCSU districts. Let us be clear: this is progress, not a success, but working closely with our partners, we are moving in the right direction.

In addition, we have made tremendous strides in criminal justice reform, most notably our work to help pass the most equitable cannabis legalization law in the country and our efforts to expunge records and begin to reverse the impact on the failed war on drugs that disproportionately harmed communities of color.

We have also expanded our work in conviction integrity. Chicago was once called the “False Confession Capital of the United States.” Today, our proactive Conviction Integrity Unit is a national model. Since 2016, we have vacated more than 80 wrongful conviction cases.

We have also worked to reform the bail system, which has long penalized people of color simply for being poor. We have done this, along with other reforms, alongside a decrease in both violent crime and incarceration (the Cook County jail population is now at a historic low), demonstrating that public safety and reform need not be a choice, but in fact, we must do both.

Finally, the work of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office used to be opaque. There was no way to compare facts, only cite anecdotes. Now, we are the most transparent prosecutor’s office in the country and the first to provide the citizens we serve online access to every felony case dating back to 2011. Our dashboard provides detailed information on more than 350,000 felony offenders, how we prosecute each case, and the outcomes, so the public can see for themselves our efforts to create safer and just communities.

Many of these strides were reported last October by the Marshall Project, the Chicago Reporter, and the Chicago Sun-Times. When re-elected I will continue the work that has made Chicago not only a safer place but a national leader in criminal justice reform as well.

How would you describe the relationship between the state’s attorney’s office, the Fraternal Order of Police and suburban police departments? What should the office do, if anything, to improve these relationships?

Anyone who takes the oath to become an officer of the police has willingly signed up to put themselves in harm’s way, to protect and to serve the public. Police departments are an integral part of the safety of our communities. Most civilians will never know the weight of making the types of split-second decisions that can result in taking a life or saving one’s own, but our communities also must trust those who are policing them. The reality is that even though all of us in law enforcement are entrusted to protect and serve, we must also acknowledge that many of our communities have been profiled, discriminated against, and at times been put in terror by some who have abused their power. In my first years in office, we have been working side by side with both the Chicago Police Department and our suburban police departments in trying to make our communities safer. We have placed prosecutors directly in those police districts experiencing the highest levels of violence where they work collaboratively with both local and federal law enforcement to target the drivers of violent crime. In addition to those select districts, we have strengthened our partnership more broadly, creating a Felony Review manual to assist police in presenting stronger cases for review to achieve better outcomes, conducting frequent training, and keeping open lines of communication. Our work is about collaboration so that we can be smarter and more effective in how we curb crime and violence, while also restoring trust in those communities who have been living in fear.

Bail reform in Cook County has been praised for reducing the number of people held in jail while awaiting trial, but it has been criticized for making the public less safe. Do you support these changes? Why or why not? What steps should be taken next?

Our top priority is public safety, which is why defendants who pose a threat to that safety or present a risk of not returning for the trial are detained. Our pursuit of justice and the constitution also requires our recognition that individuals are presumed innocent before trial.

For me, public safety is best served when we are detaining those who actually pose a threat to our communities rather than jailing those who are simply poor and unable to post bond for a nonviolent offense. Not only do we cost taxpayers millions of dollars per year through the current system, but it does not serve public safety. This is one of the first ways we begin to make our criminal justice system fairer. We have to really begin to look at how do we bring equity and justice to criminal justice. No one is above the law but when we have operated in a state where 60% of those incarcerated in the county jail are simply there not because of their crime but because they can’t afford bail, then we rob them of the trust that the system is providing equal justice in the eyes of the law.

What professional experience would you bring to the job of state’s attorney that would best qualify you to handle the office’s wide variety of criminal and civil cases?

I’ve been practicing law for over 20 years, and I am currently serving in the role of Cook County State’s Attorney. Prior to being elected to the State’s Attorney office, I served as Chief of Staff to the Cook County Board President. For over a decade I worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney and also served as a Senior Attorney in the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office.

Each candidate for state’s attorney has notable political supporters and donors. What would you do to assure that they do not have undue influence in your office?

We evaluate each case based on the facts, the evidence, and the law. We have also added an extra layer to ensure that we are operating with the highest integrity; in 2017, I hired the State’s Attorney’s Office’s first-ever Chief Ethics Officer. The role of the ethics officer is to ensure that the State’s Attorney and her assistant attorneys operate at the highest ethical standards.

What would you do to shorten the delay between charge and trial for defendants in Cook County Jail?

One of the biggest changes we have made to shorten the delays we have seen between charges and trial length is implementing our discretion chart. This chart works to empower line ASA’s to be decision-makers and to craft the best, fairest outcomes in their cases. Through this effort, cases have been handled more efficiently by diverting some to specialty courts while reducing the felony cases backlog. Additionally, the number of two-year-old cases has decreased by 5%; and the number of two-year-old murders has been reduced by 13%.

The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office collects judgments that return to taxpayers three times more money than the budget of the office. The Cook County state’s attorney’s civil division recovers far less money. Why is that? What would you do about it?

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Civil Action Bureau (CAB) serves the County’s 5.4 million residents with limited resources. Under my watch, the Civil Actions Bureau has increased personnel to nearly 80 Assistant State’s Attorneys which has enabled us to increase the number of cases we handle to over 25,000 a year. Furthermore, we’ve seen an eleven percent increase in revenue from the previous fiscal year. Previously, CAB attorneys had been handling more than two and a half times the caseload of their peers. Under my leadership, we’ve reduced that caseload, increased efficiency, and productivity, while increasing revenue. In the last few years, our CAB team has also defeated unfair federal immigration policies that attacked our most vulnerable citizens’ rights, defeated a 2nd amendment threat to Cook County’s common-sense assault weapons ban, and demanded accountability from opioid manufacturers, Uber, and Facebook, who put people at risk.

What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.

I most admire Ida B. Wells. Ida B Wells was a civil rights and women’s rights activist. As a journalist she sought to expose the horrors of racial violence of the south in the deep racial divide in Chicago. She was steadfast in her believe that African-American leadership was critical to the advancement of our communities in particular the leadership of African-American women.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

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