Four days into her role as the new Cook County state’s attorney, Kimberly M. Foxx this week laid out her larger policy priorities for both civil and criminal law and identified her leadership team.
In a sit-down interview with the Daily Law Bulletin, Foxx named five individuals who have or will join the office leadership. She also discussed some of the policy goals she has set for the next four years, as outlined in a 12-page report her transition team released Monday.
Eric H. Sussman, a partner at Paul Hastings LLP, will be Foxx’s first assistant state’s attorney. Sussman is a former federal prosecutor who handled white-collar criminal cases. He is married to Cook County Circuit Judge Carrie E. Hamilton, a fellow former prosecutor.
April M. Perry will join the office Jan. 1 as Foxx’s chief deputy and the office’s chief ethics officer. As an assistant U.S. attorney, Perry argued before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that former Chicago police commander Jon Burge had lied about the torture regime he led in the department.
Jennifer M. Ballard, a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, will also pull double duty as Foxx’s chief of staff and the office’s diversity officer. Ballard, who handled employment law matters for clients including Law Bulletin Publishing Company, placed second in a six-way Democratic primary race for a vacancy in the 7th Judicial Subcircuit in March.
Kathleen A. Hill, a senior policy adviser for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, will become the office’s director of policy, research and development. Prior to that, she was an assistant state appellate defender and an attorney at Loevy & Loevy — a firm that handles civil rights and police-misconduct litigation.
Foxx said the research and development components of Hill’s job are a new add-on to the traditional policy director role.
“How do we build out those initiatives into programming, additional research and how does that inform the work that we’re doing.” Foxx said. “It’s not just policy, we’re going to have a strong research and data component to that as well.”
Foxx’s leadership team will be supported by her transition team — a rotating group of academics, former prosecutors, defense attorneys and victim advocates — who published a list of different potential reforms in managing criminal prosecutions, civil actions and a massive legal staff.
The transition team’s report lays out 23 different policy recommendations and “first steps” Foxx can take on accountability, transparency, public safety, criminal case management, juvenile justice and civil actions.
In separate interviews, Lori E. Lightfoot, a partner at Mayer Brown LLP, and Pam Rodriguez, CEO of the Chicago-based Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, highlighted the number of reforms that will make the state’s attorney’s office more transparent.
The report signals that Foxx’s office will make more data available to the public as well as bolster the public image of the office to improve trust with the community.
“She recognizes that’s the challenge, and I think she has specific ideas to address that challenge,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot is also the president of the Chicago Police Board and chairwoman of the city’s Police Accountability Task Force, however, she said she was only representing herself on Foxx’s transition team. Charise N. Valente, the general counsel for the Chicago Police Department, was also on the team.
The transition team was co-chaired by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last month, and Harvard Law School professor Ron Sullivan. They did not return requests for comment.
The report said the office will develop a strategic plan to handle the city of Chicago’s gun violence with other criminal justice stakeholders. But one of the first steps the office will take is to assess its cash bail practices.
Foxx was critical of the bail practice, but declined to say if the assessment would lead to the office abandoning it entirely.
“I haven’t formulated what the alternative to cash bail will be,” Foxx said. “I can tell you, in its current iteration, it’s become a system not so much about protecting public safety or ensuring someone will return for their court date but more about the inability to pay.”
She added: “I can’t unilaterally change the bail system. Judges impose bails, we make recommendations. I can’t eliminate the cash bail system. What I can do, as a public safety stakeholder, is say, ‘What are our alternatives?’ and set up protocols for my office to make recommendations that are in the best interest of public safety that may not require cash bails.”
Last month, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart proposed that the Illinois General Assembly abolish the cash-bond system
And in October, the Illinois Supreme Court pledged over the next several years to examine and pilot new ways for courts to consider release before trial.
While it wouldn’t necessarily lead to the elimination of cash bail, the high court wants every circuit court to be using evidence-based assessment tools. Foxx voiced support for that effort.
Foxx also wants to use her office’s Civil Actions Bureau in a more “proactive” way. The office represents the county in any civil lawsuit filed against it, ranging from liability to workers’ compensation claims.
For instance, the report envisions the Civil Actions Bureau going after wage theft and consumer fraud in the county.
But Foxx also signaled her interest in using the Civil Actions Bureau in conjunction with its criminal prosecution operations. She cited work by the Los Angeles city attorney of using civil courts in California to pursue office buildings tied to gang activity under nuisance-abatement causes.
“Using the civil bureau as a compliment to the criminal bureau to deal with some of the issues of violence is something I am very interested in,” Foxx said.
For now, however, Foxx and her staff are getting acquainted with the office. A spokeswoman for Foxx said she and her team will be doing “several tours” this week around the different bureaus of the state’s attorney’s office.
“We’re going to be looking at what the universe looks like in terms of policies and practices here,” Foxx said. “What I will say is that we will be working with my attorneys … on intensifying our training, to help restore some of the discretion that had been diminished over the past couple of years by the office, to empower the state’s attorneys to be able to make frontline decisions in a way they haven’t been able to do in recent years.”