John S. Fotopoulos
John S. Fotopoulos
Diana L. Embil
Diana L. Embil
Patrick K. Coughlin
Patrick K. Coughlin

In the days leading up to the March 18 primary election, the Daily Law Bulletin will publish responses to questionnaires sent to candidates in all contested Cook County judicial races. Campaign finance information comes from Illinois State Board of Elections reports.

Name: Patrick K. Coughlin

Age: 44

Residence: Orland Park

Political party: Democrat

Current position: Deputy chief of the narcotics prosecution bureau, Cook County state’s attorney’s office

Past legal experience: Since graduating from law school, I have only worked at the state’s attorney’s office. Prior positions include the complex narcotics unit (supervisor), felony trial division and child support division.

Chicago Bar Association evaluation: Highly qualified

Illinois State Bar Association evaluation: Qualified

Campaign funds available July 1 to Dec. 31: $20,771

Campaign funds spent July 1 to Dec. 31: $8,501.92

Law school: DePaul College of Law, 1996

Campaign website: coughlinforjudge.com

Family: I’ve been married to Kate (Brett) Coughlin for more than 20 years. We have three children — Marley, 17, Sarah, 14, and Liam, 12.

Hobbies/interests: I enjoy playing golf but I only get out a couple of times a year (and it shows).

Have you ever run for office before? No.

Why should voters support your candidacy? My entire legal career has been devoted to representing victims of crimes and working to make our communities safer. I have been found highly qualified by The Chicago Bar Association and qualified or recommended by all of the members of the Alliance of Bar Associations. Should I be elected judge, I will strive every day to earn and inspire the confidence of the public in the equitable administration of justice.

Why do you want to be a judge? We need qualified people on the bench who are seeking the office out of a sincere desire to serve the public. I have represented the people of Illinois for 17 years as an assistant state’s attorney, and I wish to continue that service as a judge, ensuring that an individual’s rights are protected and that justice is always served. I believe that I have achieved the necessary legal knowledge and skills to be a judge of the Cook County Circuit Court.

What was the most interesting case you handled as a lawyer? I prosecuted a criminal drug conspiracy that involved wiretaps on eight phones resulting in conspiracy indictments against more than 60 individuals. To my knowledge, this is one of the largest prosecutions ever brought in the Cook County criminal courts.

During the investigation, one of the main targets was kidnapped and held for ransom because of a covert seizure by the police of more than 600 grams of heroin. The police rescued the person, but it made for a rather interesting prosecution since the “victims” of the kidnapping were also defendants named in several of the drug conspiracy indictments.

What would you consider your greatest career accomplishment? My greatest accomplishment is having my work as a prosecutor recognized by various law enforcement agencies. I have been honored to receive the Law Enforcement Excellence Award from the Chicago Crime Commission, the Excellence in Law Enforcement Award from Cook County Crime Stoppers, a Special Commendation Award from the Chicago Police Department, a Certificate of Appreciation from the Drug Enforcement Administration and an Award of Appreciation from the Chicago Police Department.

What qualities do you plan to bring to the bench? I am an avid legal researcher and I try to stay current with changes in the law. I am confident that I possess the necessary legal knowledge, ability, and judicial temperament needed for the bench. I also believe that I can be an effective manager of the courtroom, having supervised nearly 50 attorneys in the state’s attorney’s office.


Name: Diana L. Embil

Age: 65

Residence: Flossmoor

Political party: Democrat

Current position: Cook County Circuit Court judge, 15th Subcircuit. Appointed by Illinois Supreme Court, effective February 2013.

Past legal experience: Jones, Ware & Grenard, attorney, 1985- 1986; attorney, self-employed (maternity), 1986-1987; St. Paul Insurance Co., senior claims adjuster, 1987; Columbia Casualty Insurance Co., claims analyst, 1987-1989; Illinois Appellate Court, judicial law clerk (Justice R. Eugene Pincham, deceased) and staff attorney, 1989-1990; Illinois Supreme Court, judicial law clerk (Justice Charles E. Freeman), 1990-1997; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — Region 5, assistant and associate regional counsel, 1997-2013.

Chicago Bar Association evaluation: Qualified

Illinois State Bar Association evaluation: Qualified

Campaign funds available July 1 to Dec. 31: $27,530.12

Campaign funds spent July 1 to Dec. 31: $19,008.71

Law school: University of Wisconsin, 1985

Campaign website: voteforjudgedianaembil.com

Family: Frank Embil, husband; Oni (daughter) and Steve Austin (Kailah and Jaciel, granddaughters); Rah (son) and Ashwak Embil (Summer, granddaughter, and Ahmin, grandson); Cyril (son) and Meaghan Embil (Claire, granddaughter); Thema (daughter) and Kristopher McDonald (Harper, granddaughter, and Myles, grandson).

Hobbies/interests: Outdoor activities including swimming, bicycling, gardening and, recently, kayaking. My husband and I enjoy art, traveling to Ghana, West Africa, and relaxing in Idlewild, Mich., a historical community in Manistee National Forest.

Have you ever run for office before? No.

Why should voters support your candidacy? My actual experience as judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, and my past legal experience, notably with the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts and the U.S. EPA, have afforded me the opportunity to develop excellent legal analytical, writing and decision-making skills, and exercise the judgment necessary to continue serving as a judge.

I have worked in government and the private sector, for federal and state governments and handled matters in diverse areas of law, both substantively and procedurally.

In addition, I understand what ordinary families face every day because I have worked hard like them as a library clerk, a bank clerk, a public school teacher and an auto and property insurance claims adjuster before I attended law school while raising a family.

Lastly, I am committed deeply to providing excellent public service and fulfilling humbly the tremendous responsibilities of a judge.

Why do you want to be a judge? I want to remain a judge because I believe I am contributing beneficially to our society. The position of judge is a unique and powerful platform for effecting positive change in the lives of many, especially young people.

I am very fortunate to hold this position and know that I stand on the shoulders of legal giants and trailblazers. Considering how I arrived at this point in my career, the skills and experience that I have to offer and the need for good leadership in our society, I feel obligated to give back to our community and continue providing excellent public service as a judge.

What was the most interesting case you handled as a lawyer? The most interesting case was United States v. D & L Sales Inc. (W.D. Michigan), which I handled as an associate regional counsel working for the U.S. EPA. This Superfund site case resulted in a consent decree judgment between the EPA and two parties, the U.S. Department of Defense and its departments, agencies, etc., which paid $5.65 million, and D & L Sales, which performed environmental response actions to address groundwater and soil contamination, including implementation of institutional controls, to allow for recreational/commercial and residential reuse of the site.

The EPA, in turn, released a CERCLA lien covering the site, which is now part of a redevelopment project by Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc., encompassing parts of Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and Benton Charter Township, Mich.

This case and two smaller companion cases concerned the disposal by DOD of World War II-era aircraft gauges and dials, resulting in radium-226 contamination of warehouse buildings and soil and involved numerous legal issues and collateral administrative actions, including overcoming DOD’s useful products defense; ensuring the viability of a monetary recovery under the Federal Judgment Act; investigating multiple corporate relationships; application of a new CERCLA liability exemption; federal takings litigation; a CERCLA lien proceeding; a CERCLA administrative response action agreement; land reuse and brownfields issues; evaluating multiple litigations brought by local citizens concerning nearby properties; and dealing with multiple stakeholders.

What would you consider your greatest career accomplishment? I consider my greatest career accomplishments to be my work on the Illinois Supreme Court’s decisions and opinions in People v. Cruz, 162 Ill. 2d 314 (1994) (reversed and remanded); and People v. Lawson, 163 Ill. 2d 187 (1994) (reversed and remanded).

These two are among 13 cases of men released from death row that contributed to the 2000 moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. The Commission on Capital Punishment also scrutinized these 13 cases in formulating reform of Illinois’ capital punishment system to ensure that it is fair, just and accurate. I am also pleased and honored to have served our legal community for eight years as a member and secretary of the Illinois Minimum Continuing Legal Education Board.

What qualities do you plan to bring to the bench? I bring excellent legal skills, a calm and even temperament, innate patience, an ability to listen with an open mind, self-awareness, integrity, a sense of humility, enduring optimism and faith in mankind and a strong and abiding sense of fairness.

I am committed to the rule of law in our society and providing justice for all in accordance with our constitutional guarantees. In addition, many years served, in part, as a hard-working attorney/mother have equipped me with refined managerial and organizational skills.

My judicial philosophy is similar to my philosophy of life — be the best person that you can be, be honest, humble, hardworking, balanced, patient and fair and treat everyone as you wish to be treated.


Name: John S. Fotopoulos

Age: 43

Residence: Orland Park

Political party: Democrat

Current Position: Owner of the Law Office of John S. Fotopoulos P.C.

Past legal experience: About 14 years at Law Office of John S. Fotopoulos P.C.

Chicago Bar Association evaluation: Qualified

Illinois State Bar Association evaluation: Not qualified

Campaign funds available July 1 to Dec. 31: $0 (Reported giving $10,000 to his own campaign on Feb. 10)

Campaign funds spent July 1 to Dec. 31: $0

Law school: The John Marshall Law School, 2000

Campaign website: fotopoulosforjudge.com

Family: Married to Cary with four children — Maria, Spyro, Peter and Alex

Hobbies/interests: I am a sportsman and enjoy spending time in the field with my father and children.

Have you ever run for office before? I have previously run for trustee in the village of Orland Park.

Why should voters support your candidacy? I have been in private practice my entire career. I understand what an attorney goes through on an everyday basis.

Why do you want to be a judge? The legal profession has been great to my family. I want to give back to the citizens of the state of Illinois.

What was the most interesting case you handled as a lawyer? I am presently handling the case of James Ryan v. Andy Shaw and the Better Government Association, et. al.

What would you consider your greatest career accomplishment? The opportunity to represent a sitting judge. In my opinion, there is no bigger compliment.

What qualities do you plan to bring to the bench? I hope to bring my experience as a private attorney. I am also committed to invest the time and energy necessary to complete the people’s business.