Erika Harold: Candidate Profile
Name: Erika Harold
Office sought: Illinois Attorney General
Family: No answer
Occupation: Attorney, Meyer Capel, PC
Education: Harvard Law School, J.D., June 2007; Boykin C. Wright Memorial Award for appellate advocacy; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, A.B. in Liberal Arts and Sciences, May 2001; Phi Beta Kappa; Chancellor's Scholar
Civic involvement: Commissioner on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism; Member of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality; Board of Directors of Prison Fellowship, the world's largest outreach to inmates and their families
Elected offices held: No answer
Questions & Answers
What personal background and experiences particularly qualify you for the role of attorney general?
I graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007, where I won a Boykin C. Wright Memorial Award for appellate advocacy. Following graduation, I worked in Chicago as an attorney in the litigation groups of Sidley Austin LLP and Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C., representing businesses in complex commercial litigation matters, including civil RICO, class action and fraud disputes. I also advised religious institutions in constitutional matters. In 2013, I returned to my hometown of Urbana, Illinois, and joined the litigation group of Meyer Capel, P.C., where I handle complex commercial matters and disputes involving large trusts and estates. The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed me to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality and as a Commissioner on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. Additionally, for the past eleven years, I have served on the national board of directors of Prison Fellowship, which advocates for bipartisan criminal justice reform measures and provides vocational and educational opportunities for inmates to rebuild their lives upon being released.
Since 2002, I also have been a national advocate for measures to protect students from harassment. In recognition of my advocacy, I was named one of Fight Crime, Invest in Kids' "Champions for Children" and received a leadership award from the National Center for Victims of Crime. As someone who has been the victim of harassment and understands the feeling of being powerless, I would fight to make sure that every Illinoisan--regardless of position or background--was vigorously represented.
What do you consider the chief responsibility of the state attorney general and how would you conduct the office to achieve it?
The chief Constitutional responsibility of the state Attorney General is to ensure that the Office's statutory responsibilities are effectively and efficiently fulfilled. The Attorney General's Office has numerous statutory responsibilities, including: (1) enforcing consumer protection, environmental, and anti-discrimination laws; (2) representing Illinois in legal cases in which the State or its citizens have specific interests; (3) assisting State's Attorneys with the execution of their duties; (4) protecting the public's interests in the provision of electric, natural gas, water, cable, video and telecommunication services; (5) providing advice regarding the interpretation and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act; (6) administering provisions of the Charitable Trust Act and the Violent Crime Victims Assistance Act; and (7) representing State officers in actions involving the performance of their official duties. Accordingly, during the transition period, I would meet with the leaders of the Divisions/Bureaus/Units within the Attorney General's Office that are tasked with fulfilling these statutory responsibilities and assess caseload, resource and personnel allocation, and key challenges that are specific to the respective Divisions. Upon being sworn in, to the extent necessary and feasible, I would realign existing resources and personnel to ensure that the Office's statutory obligations were being fulfilled as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Is the office of public information public access counselor important? What should be the attorney general's role in ensuring that state and local governing bodies operate in an open and transparent manner?
The Office of Public Access Counselor is important because it helps to ensure compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA), which are essential to achieving transparency and accountability in government. The Public Access Counselor should continue its role of facilitating FOIA and OMA trainings, helping to resolve disputes over documents on an informal basis, and issuing binding opinions regarding compliance. The Attorney General's Office also should continue to issue its Public Access Counselor Annual Report, delineating the number of requests for assistance it received during the prior year and summarizing the resolution of such requests, along with any binding opinions that were issued. This reporting and disclosure furthers the goals of governmental transparency and accountability. Furthermore, to the extent such data is not currently being collected and reported, the Public Access Counselor should request that each public body that is covered by FOIA and the OMA quantify and report the amount of staff time and resources that is dedicated to responding to requests. When enacting FOIA, the General Assembly expressly recognized that the Act "imposes fiscal obligations on public bodies to provide adequate staff and equipment to comply with its requirements." Accordingly, when assessing issues of burden, making recommendations regarding resource allocation, and developing best practices for public bodies, it is important for the Public Access Counselor and Attorney General to have quantifiable data from which to draw. This data also should be included in the Public Access Counselor Annual Report.
How aggressive should the attorney general be in seeking consumer protections through the courts?
The Attorney General should be proactive in using the Office's statutory authority--whether under state or federal law--to protect consumers from fraud and abuse. This should be done by initiating legal action in court or reaching legal settlements outside of court that would protect consumers. To the extent specific consumer protection issues encompass several states, the Attorney General should not hesitate to join multi-state legal actions, provided that any agreement reached provide Illinoisans with a proportional share of the settlement funds obtained. Moreover, the Attorney General should utilize the Office's public platform to highlight issues of which consumers should be aware, such as identify theft, financial scams and predatory commercial practices.
How efficiently do you think the attorney general's office operates currently. What, if anything, would you do to streamline the office?
One way in which the Attorney General's Office could be run more efficiently is through the strengthening of the Office's relationships with State's Attorneys. The Attorney General is tasked with assisting State's Attorneys with specified aspects of their duties, and the Attorney General and the State's Attorneys have shared jurisdiction over certain issues. However, various State's Attorneys have advised me that their respective Offices do not have the type of collaborative relationships with the Attorney General's Office necessary to fully effectuate both Offices' mandates. Accordingly, I would work to strengthen those relationships so that the Attorney General and the State's Attorneys could work more efficiently and effectively together to address issues such as public corruption and the opioid epidemic.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
In addition to ensuring that the Office's statutory responsibilities were being efficiently and effectively fulfilled in a nonpartisan manner, I would prioritize: (i) enhancing the Office's efforts and investigative tools to combat public corruption; (ii) coordinating statewide efforts to address the opioid epidemic in Illinois; (iii) collaborating with the legislature to draft and enact workers' compensation and criminal justice reform measures; and (iv) protecting Illinoisans from harassment, including peer-to-peer harassment in schools and sexual harassment within State government and the workforce at large.
I also would work to foster a culture of nonpartisanship throughout the Office by setting forth rubrics for decision-making that are based on the rule of law, a balancing of the interests of all Illinoisans (regardless of background or political affiliation), and an independence from other branches of government, both at the State and Federal level.
In addition, here are a few questions meant to provide more personal insight into you as a person:
What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?
Deciding to transfer high schools after being racially and sexually harassed. I felt torn between staying to advocate for myself and leaving to protect myself.
Who is your hero?
Chuck Colson. After being incarcerated, Colson founded Prison Fellowship, the nation's largest outreach to inmates, and built a bipartisan coalition for criminal justice reform.
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
The 1st. Protecting the press and the rights to speak, assemble, worship and petition the government protects democracy and the individual's right to participate therein.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
Having been raised in a multiracial family, I was taught to treat each person with respect and dignity, regardless of their background.
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
In losing my first political race, I learned to graciously handle defeat. Even in defeat, you must live out the virtues on which you campaigned.