Heather Wier Vaught is considered one of the most influential lawyers in the state.
Vaught, 39, serves as chief counsel to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. She also is the Parliamentarian for the Illinois House of Representatives and Ethics Officer for the House Democratic Caucus.
In her role as chief counsel, Vaught represents members in their official capacities and provides in-depth analysis of every legislative measure before the House of Representatives. As House Parliamentarian, she acts as the final arbiter on the interpretation of House Rules, issuing decisions on questions of parliamentary procedure and constitutional requirements. As the Ethics Officer to House Democratic Caucus, Vaught authors legal opinions and advises legislators on compliance with state ethics laws.
During her time with the Office of the Speaker, Vaught has served as the point person for many of the top legislative initiatives moving through the General Assembly, including concealed carry, pension reform, predatory lending and mortgage foreclosure prevention, as well as ethics and election reform.
In 2009, Vaught served as Assistant House Prosecutor for the Impeachment Trial of Governor Rod Blagojevich. Michael J. Kasper, of Fletcher, O’Brien, Kasper & Nottage, P.C., worked with Vaught on the Articles of Impeachment had this to say about her lawyering abilities, “While many lawyers prepare and litigate many trials, few must create a trial system from whole-cloth.” Kasper continued, “Ms. Vaught deserves much of the credit for the fact that Governor Blagojevich’s impeachment, trial and conviction were conducted with organization, and professionalism, and that the results were given widespread credibility by the media and public.”
She has also been appointed by the Attorney General as a Special Assistant Attorney General on several cases raising important constitutional questions.
Before attending law school, Vaught served as the communications manager for the president of the American Bar Association. Vaught graduated from the Northern Illinois University College of Law in 2005, where she was highly active.
Attorney Richard Prendergast has worked closely with Vaught over the past three years. Their work together has included collaboration on the Illinois redistricting litigation upholding the constitutionality of the redistricting process and legislative map adopted by the General Assembly following the 2010 census. They have also worked together on representation of members of the General Assembly on constitutional grounds in connection with efforts to subpoena their testimony and representation of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate in the recent constitutional challenge to the Governor’s efforts to withhold appropriations for the payment of legislative salaries.
“In my 45 years of practice, I have seldom encountered an attorney of any age with Heather’s capabilities and willingness to master challenging legislative constitutional issues,” Prendergast said.
State Representatives Kelly Burke, Emily McAsey, Elaine Nekritz and Ann Williams issued a joint statement about their thoughts on Vaught.
“To describe Ms. Vaught’s position as demanding is an understatement. Each legislative session, 8,000 bills are introduced ranging from complex taxation, social welfare to regulations,” the state representatives wrote. “Ms. Vaught reviews every bill introduced in the House or sent from the Senate and she must be able to cover a wide range of practice areas and conquer them.”
The state representatives added, “Heather Wier Vaught is one of the most influential lawyers in the state, regardless of age.”
Vaught awards include: Northern Illinois University College of Law Young Alum of the Year, the Edward Deitrich Award for Commitment to Civil Law, the Illinois State Bar Association’s Public Interest Law Student Award, the National Association of Women Lawyers’ Student Award, the NIU Outstanding Women Student Award, and the ABA Silver Key Award.