Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx announced on Monday the appointment of four new bureau chiefs as well as an incoming reorganization of the state’s attorney’s office.
In a phone interview, the county’s top legal official, six weeks into her term, also reiterated a commitment to priorities she campaigned on, including elevating the role of her office’s Civil Actions Bureau and starting a unit to address gun violence. But that takes time, she said.
As part of her efforts to bolster the county’s civil legal team, Foxx named Chaka M. Patterson, a Chicago-based partner at Jones Day, as the Civil Actions Bureau’s chief. Patterson will take over sometime next month, Foxx said.
That group within the state’s attorney’s office, which handles litigation and other civil matters on the county’s behalf, consisted of 83 assistant state’s attorneys according to the fiscal year 2017 county budget.
Patterson has experience practicing law in both the public and private sectors — a quality that made him stand out, Foxx said. His experience also includes a five-year stint at Exelon Corp. and five years between Jones Day and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP. That background, Foxx said, allows him to bring “the best practices of both universes together in our civil bureau.”
But it was Patterson’s government work that could serve as a guidepost for the future of the bureau under Foxx’s watch. From 2003 to 2006, Patterson served as the chief of the Illinois attorney general’s special litigation bureau. The litigation this bureau pursued “brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in resources to the state,” Foxx said.
Foxx said she plans to use the office in different ways, beyond things like defending county ordinances or representing county officeholders and agencies in litigation.
“We’re going to be looking at innovative ideas and thoughts on how we can use our bureau to actively go after those who are harming the county, or where we’ve been aggrieved and seek remuneration for that. That’s one of the things we have to be proactive about,” Foxx said, noting the office’s fiduciary duty to the county.
“Chaka has a proven track record in having done this, and that’s why we’re excited to have him on board, and again, it speaks to the seriousness in which we take our Civil Actions Bureau,” she added.
Patterson deferred all comment to the state’s attorney’s office.
Jones Day initially announced Patterson’s departure in a Friday press release that touted the departure of 14 attorneys who are leaving the firm for government jobs. Twelve of them will serve in the Trump administration and the federal government.
Foxx also continued to express interest in creating a “gun unit” within the office that would handle the caseload of gun crimes. However, she demurred from indicating who would lead this team and how it would fit within the larger office.
Foxx noted the former chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau — Michael P. Golden — is now working with the Chicago Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and is “embedded” in the areas that have been the hardest hit by gun violence.
The data that is collected will shape the creation of the gun unit.
“[W]e’re starting by saying, yes we want a unit, but we want a unit not just in name but in practicality,” Foxx said.
Additionally, Foxx said her leadership team is in the process of reorganizing the office. She said a new chart, which will outline “executive leadership roles” and reporting ties,” will be published in “the coming days.”
This hasn’t stopped Foxx from starting to fill out the rest of her executive unit. She declined to specify other appointments she will make in the future, indicating it is too early to make those assessments.
“We are moving at a rate that is judicious and thoughtful,” Foxx said.
During the interview, Foxx said she has promoted Joseph G. Magats, a deputy chief, as new chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau. Risa R. Lanier, an assistant state’s attorney, was promoted to deputy chief.
“Joe’s been in the office for 25 years. … I will be his fifth state’s attorney,” Foxx said. “And through it all, Joe has maintained a level of credibility and work ethic and expertise that his colleagues, and those who come up under him, can be inspired by his work ethic.”
Foxx also praised Lanier’s work ethic, saying she has built a career trying the bureau’s most difficult cases.
Both Magats and Lanier will take over their new roles next week. On Feb. 6, former Cook County Circuit Judge Maryam Ahmad will join the office as the chief of the Juvenile Justice Bureau.
Ahmad previously worked at the office as an assistant state’s attorney from 2007 to 2010, including the juvenile division.
Ahmad, who was appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court in November 2014, lost a Democratic primary race in March for one 1st Subcircuit vacancy and mounted a write-in vacancy for a different 1st Subcircuit race in the Nov. 8 general election.
“I am thrilled to continue serving the people of Cook County as one of their attorneys,” Ahmad said. “My background in higher education, criminal defense, criminal prosecutions, and the judiciary will enable me to assist the state’s attorney in her efforts to create an office that is dedicated to public safety, advocates for victims, and engenders trust in the justice system.”
Foxx also shared that Jennifer F. Coleman, previously a supervisor in the state’s attorney’s office, and Steven A. Block, a former federal prosecutor, were promoted to lead the Narcotics Bureau and Special Prosecutions Bureau respectively.
Both Coleman and Block began their new roles earlier this month.
These appointments will join the team Foxx assembled early on in her tenure: Eric H. Sussman, the first assistant state’s attorney; April M. Perry, Foxx’s chief deputy and the office’s chief ethics officer; Jennifer M. Ballard, Foxx’s chief of staff and the office’s diversity officer; and Kathleen A. Hill, the office’s director of policy, research and development.