Breaking News Bar
updated: 2/10/2012 4:54 PM

Jessica O'Brien: Candidate Profile

Cook County Circuit Court (Simmons, Jr. vacancy) (Democrat)

Success - Article sent! close



Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

Jump to:

BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Chicago


Office sought: Cook County Circuit Court (Simmons, Jr. vacancy)

Age: 44

Family: Married with three children 5, 8 and 14 years old.

Occupation: Attorney: Special Assistant Attorney General with the Illinois Department of Revenue and Acting Chief Counsel, Illinois Lottery

Education: Master of Laws in Employee Benefits, received with honors, The John Marshall Law School, 2002 Juris Doctor and Master of Laws in Taxation, graduated with distinction, The John Marshall Law School, 1998

Civic involvement: President, Diversity Scholarship Foundation, NFP, Treasurer, Women's Bar Association of Illinois, Board of Governors, Illinois State Bar Association, Board Member, Chicago Bar Foundation, Board Member, Asian American Bar Foundation, Hearing Officer, Attorney Registration Disciplinary Commission, Commissioner, Illinois Supreme Court Character and Fitness Committee, First District, Volunteer, Women Everywhere, Board Member, Filipino American Bar Association.

Elected offices held: None

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Giving litigants a fair trial and treating them with the utmost respect and dignity, whether you are a line employee or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Key Issue 2

I view the court as the customer service center of the judicial system.

Therefore, a judge should ensure that she provides the public the best customer service.

This includes giving litigants a fair trial, treating them equally and with the utmost respect and dignity and ensuring that they have a chance to be heard, regardless of financial ability, race, gender, religion, etc.

Key Issue 3

Having been involved with the judicial evaluation process, I recall only one candidate who specialized in Taxation.

I offer the bench a unique set of skills and knowledge base that is very important in these

tough economic times.

I also offer the bench a diverse knowledge and application of many areas of law. In order to be an effective tax litigator, I have had to master corporate, business, estate planning, real estate and other areas of law.

In addition, I volunteered my own time to second-chair a medical malpractice, criminal misdemeanor, insurance defense and insurance subrogation jury trials, so that I could expand my trial litigation skills.

I am also an active volunteer for the Chicago Bar Association's Pro Bono program, where I represent indigent clients who have been previously charged with a DUI.

I represent them in summary suspension hearings in their efforts to recover their driver's license, so that they can continue to work and feed their families.

Further, in my work with the Illinois Department of Revenue, I was the first attorney to cross-train and practice in multiple areas of law namely, income tax (individual, partnership, corporations and not-for-profit organizations), sales tax, property tax, racing board, and lottery cases.

The public wants a judge that has a proven record of being able to quickly learn new areas of law and apply it fairly and effectively.

Questions & Answers

Do you favor the appointment of judges or do you prefer the election process' Please explain your answer.

Both processes have their advantages and disadvantages, but I favor the election process because it gives the voters a voice in the judicial system.

What special qualifications or experiences make you the best person to serve as a judge?

I have a unique background and legal experience which are particularly appropriate for the legal issues that are facing individuals and corporations in our current economic and polical climate.

I would bring to the bench a diverse substantive law expertise that is not common for people seeking judgeship.

Specifically, having specialized in taxation, I have a broad-based, solid foundation in many areas of law which are increasingly and directly affecting individuals and corporations. My practice has included transactional law as well as courtroom practice.

I have tried numerous cases before administrative law tribunals as well as juries.

In addition to my diverse substantive law qualifications, I have training and experience in the business world.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, I worked in the food service industry, starting as a bus girl and moving my way up the corporate ladder to the senior management position of Food and Beverage Trainer (responsible for the training of close to a thousand employees) and Acting Comptroller (responsible for the financial management of a multi-million dollar casino business).

Currently, I serve also in a dual position as Acting Chief Counsel for the Illinois Lottery and a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Illinois Department of Revenue.

As Acting Chief Counsel, I assist senior management with the management and operation of a multi-billion business that provides financial support to our public school system in the State of Illinois.

This background not only provides additional knowledge and experience for dealing with business and employment issues, should I be assigned to that type of court, but also provides me with the experience to effectively manage a court room and meaningfully participate in and improve the business operation of our judicial system.

In 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed me to serve as a ARDC hearing officer, which is a ?quasi-judge? position making recommendations on attorney discipline in addressing alleged ethical violations.

In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court once again appointed me as a member of the Character and Fitness Committee, which assists the Court in ensuring that applicants for law licenses have demonstrated sound character and integrity.

Having had a record of proven leadership and active community service, I am a candidate who truly believes in giving back to the community, and taking concrete steps to furthering genuine inclusion in the legal community and the community at large.

Judges are well regarded by many and, therefore, I believe that a judge should be engaged in his or her community so that the people that he or she serves will continue to believe in the integrity of our judicial system.

What are your thoughts on mandatory sentencing? Do you believe judges should have greater leeway when it comes to sentencing defendants' Why or why not?

Mandatory sentencing has its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, it could be a deterrent to criminals if they know what they are facing if convicted.

On the other hand, every case has its own sets of facts that will be different from the other, including different witnesses with their own credibility issues and other mitigating factors, which the sitting judge will be in the best position to determine for sentencing issues.

What are your thoughts on the use of drug courts, domestic violence courts, veterans courts, mental health courts and prostitution courts' Have they been effective?

Specialized courts are effective in that each of them has its own set of legal challenges and requires its own expertise in addressing the substantive issues involved in each case.

Do you support eliminating the ban on cameras and recording devices in Illinois courtrooms' Why or why not?

If costs and human issues were not factors in determining whether to eliminate them or not, I would not oppose eliminating these recording devices.

All court proceedings are open to the public and cameras and recording devices offer greater access to the public.

Further, maintaining these cameras provide accurate records of court proceedings.

With that said, the number of cases in the Illinois court system is massive and could be a financial drain on our judicial system.

I believe that certain court rooms should maintain cameras and recording devices; but for financial purposes, some courts can do without these cameras and recording devices.