Jury is in? Cook County public defender not in line for second term

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli is not among the finalists for the six-year term that begins at the end of the month, sources told the Sun-Times.

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Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli speaks during a news conference outside the Richard J. Daley Center in July.

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli speaks during a news conference outside the Richard J. Daley Center in July.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Finalists have been chosen to run the Cook County Public Defenders’ Office — and the current occupant didn’t make the cut.

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli is not among the two top contenders for the position, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The director of the Illinois Justice Project and the practicing attorney of the Northside Transformative Law Center are on the short list, sources said.

It was not immediately clear why Campanelli was not among the finalists.

She said she had no comment when reached late Friday.

Campanelli has served in the position since 2015 and said last December she would seek a second, six-year term to “continue to advocate that the criminal justice system be just for all.”

Her current term ends at the end of the month.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle nominated Campanelli for a six-year term in 2015, saying she’d “proven herself to be a relentless advocate for her clients.” 

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2020.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2020.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

But a second-term was never a certainty.

Preckwinkle opened up the option of picking a new public defender in December, forming a selection committee to review resumes, interview candidates and recommend three candidates to Preckwinkle for a final decision.

“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,” Preckwinkle said in a December statement. “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.”

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse last year.

Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse last year.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Though candidates were invited to apply, Preckwinkle could have chosen to keep Campanelli on in the role.

Instead, the finalists include Sharone Mitchell, who has worked at the Illinois Justice Project since 2016 and was previously a trial attorney with the public defender’s office, according to the justice project’s website.

The other contender is Emmanuel Andre, attorney at the North Side Transformative Law Center, whose legal services include community defense, victim rights and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services cases, reentry planning and expungement, according to the center’s website.

It was not immediately known why just two candidates were nominated.

The office has a staff of 600 — 500 of them lawyers representing clients in courtrooms in 14 locations in the Cook County Circuit Court system.

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