The Cook County Public Defender's mission is to protect the fundamental rights, liberties, and dignity of each person whose case has been entrusted to us by providing the finest legal representation.
The Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender is one of the largest criminal defense firms in the Country, with over 500 attorneys and 600 employees overall, representing thousands of Cook County residents charged with every type of criminal offense and child protection violation. The Public Defender has the responsibility to staff courtrooms throughout the Circuit Court of Cook County. We represent clients in 14 separate locations, including 5 Suburban Courthouses, Juvenile Court, Domestic Relations Court, Traffic Court, 5 branch court locations throughout Chicago, and the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. Because the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender is committed to providing our clients the most responsive legal representation possible, given how broad the areas of law in which we practice and how diverse the Courts are throughout the County, the office is divided into divisions. Some of the divisions are organized by location: as in the Suburban Courthouses, while others are organized by practice type, such as the Child Protection and Juvenile Justice Divisions, both of which operate out of Juvenile Court. In addition to Divisions that work to represent clients in pending criminal, child protection and delinquency matters, we have specialty divisions. These divisions were created and are maintained to insure that we have specialists who can provide the most current legal and scientific tools and trial techniques in support of all of the clients of the Cook County Public Defender.
The Public Defender of Cook County is Sharone R. Mitchell Jr. The attorneys in the office work as her assistants. Only people who have cases pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County who are not financially able to pay for private legal representation can have the Public Defender appointed to provide legal services. Whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor, felony, traffic case, child protection violation, deliquent act or has petitioned for post-trial or post-conviction relief, the judge before whom the case is being heard makes the determination whether or not a person requesting to be represented by the Public Defender qualifies for our services. In order to determine eligibility, the judge may ask any prospective client to provide financial information, including but not limited to that person's income, employment, housing and other financial obligations. Once the judge has determined that a person with a case pending before the court is eligible to be represented by the Cook County Public Defender, an Assistant Public Defender from the appropriate division within the office is appointed to represent them.
Each Assistant Public Defender is an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois. The attorneys in the Law Office of the Public Defender range in age and experience, with some having recently graduated from law school and some having represented clients in the Illinois Courts for up to 40 years. They have been chosen over years from thousands of potential Assistants through a multi-layered application and interview process. They come from all across the United States, having graduated from Law Schools from New York to California. Each of the Assistant Public Defenders is supervised within the Division to which they are assigned by experienced attorneys and is held to high ethical standards by both the Office of the Public Defender and the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Each attorney must complete hours of training each year provided both internally, by the Professional Development Division, and from national criminal defense organizations. Every Assistant Public Defender's first obligation is loyalty to the clients they represent.
In addition to the attorneys, The Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender employs investigators, mitigators, case workers and support staff. Each person in the office has an important role to play in the representation of our clients. Among other duties, Investigators insure that witnesses are located and interviewed, They help to not just identify pro-defense witnesses but to provide information that can be used to contest the truth and accuracy of the State's case. They also provide support in the serving of subpoenas and court orders. Mitigators and case workers provide client support in the form of social histories and finding services needed to give our clients what they need in order to function in their communities. They are dedicated to making sure that each clients' dignity is respected. The members of the support staff in the office make sure that each attorney has what he or she needs to represent our clients. They are the backbone of the office. Besides providing documents such as motions and petitions, they help to maintain files and supplies. They provide contact with clients and their families. They facilitate communication between the Divisions and between attorneys, their clients, witnesses, and members of the community at large.