Eileen O’Neill Burke: 2024 candidate for Cook County state’s attorney


Party: Democrat

Office Sought: Cook County state’s attorney

City: Chicago

Age: 58

Occupation: Retired Appellate Justice

Previous offices held: N/A

Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?

I’m running for State’s Attorney because the criminal justice system isn’t working for anyone right now — not victims, witnesses, or defendants — and we need to make it better. With thirty years of working in the criminal justice system as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and judge, I’ve seen the system from all sides, and I know I can make a difference.

I want to completely reimagine what it means to be a State’s Attorney through a robust restorative justice bureau that gets people’s lives back on track coupled with a felony prosecution division that is the best-trained trial lawyers in the country.

I was born and raised here, I met my husband here, and we raised our four children here. My family has been here for generations. I want my children to live here and raise their children here. But I want them to live in a county that is safe.

What experiences and background would you bring to the office and what would your priority be?

I served as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney for 10 years, handling felony appellate cases while supervising other appellate cases and working in juvenile court and felony review. I then worked as a criminal defense attorney, representing defendants in every courthouse in Cook County. I was elected to the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2008. In 2016, I was elected to serve in the First District Appellate Court. I issued over 800 written decisions in civil and criminal cases, I reviewed over 1,800 trial court decisions.

My priority is to increase public safety while protecting everyone’s Constitutional rights. This will be accomplished by creating the best-trained prosecutors in the nation who are well-versed in both the law and courtroom skills. We also want to have an effective program where we can get people we can back on track, using tested programs that have significantly fewer repeat offenders. My goal is to get our crime rates down, by effectively enforcing the law.

How do you rate the impact of recent criminal justice reforms initiated by the state? If you see problems, what can be done at the local level to address them?

Illinois is the 1st state in the nation to try to change the way we approach pre-trial detention through the SAFE-T Act. Now instead of cash bond, the criteria is whether someone is a danger or not. That’s where the criteria should be. But the act significantly changes the State’s Attorney’s role in Pre-Trial Detention. Now in order to hold anyone, the State’s Attorney must file a petition to detain. If that petition is not filed, it does not matter what offense the defendant is charged with, the Judge has no authority to detain without the State’s Attorney filing that petition. It has become exponentially more important that the State’s Attorney knows what they are doing and implements structure, training, and criteria for when the State’s Attorney’s Office is seeking detention.

Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the state's attorney's office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?

The current staffing shortage and low morale are having a clear negative impact on the criminal justice system that we must address on day one. Not only are prosecutors and staff stretched too thin, but victims aren’t getting the attention and efficiency they deserve, nor are defendants awaiting trial. We need to hire paralegals to get through the discovery backlog so that cases can proceed to trial in a timely fashion. We also need to recruit young lawyers, and law students who want to clerk with the office, as well as make lateral hires from law firms for lawyers who want to learn how to try cases.

This involves directing funds and resources toward recruiting new attorneys and additional staff members, like victim-witness coordinators, investigators, and paralegals.

Please list any elected office you’ve ever run for and what the result of that election was. Have you ever been appointed to fill an unexpired term?

10th Sub-Circuit Judgeship: Elected in 2008

1st District Appellate Court: Elected in 2016

What makes you the best candidate to represent your party to seek this position?

Our criminal justice system is not working. As a former prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and judge, I have spent more than thirty years seeking justice for the people of Cook County from every corner of the courtroom. I believe that my experience, sound judgment, and record of fairness can make things better at a critical time.

We can uphold the law and protect people’s constitutional rights at the same time. Above all, I know that no State’s Attorney can be successful without earning the trust of the public. I will lead an office with the highest standards of professionalism, and I look forward to sharing my vision with voters to make the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney the best prosecutor’s office in the country.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.