Kane County courts seek new public defender

  • Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress has resigned after eight years in the post.

    Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress has resigned after eight years in the post. Pool photo from Kane County Chronicle/Sandy Bressner, 2015

Updated 12/26/2019 5:10 PM

Kane County will need a new public defender in 2020, as Kelli Childress has quit.

She resigned Dec. 20, according to 16th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Clint Hull.


The circuit judges appointed First Assistant Public Defender Brenda Willett as interim public defender.

Hull said the job opening will be posted next week.

The circuit judges picked Childress in June 2011. Before that, she was the top assistant public defender in Lake County, worked as public defender in DeKalb County, did private practice, and early on was a Kane County prosecutor.

Willett has worked for the Kane County public defender's office for 24 years.

Childress took on some cases herself, including representing Burlington Township man Daniel Rak, who was found not guilty of murdering his father. She also represented Shadwick King of Geneva, who was found guilty of murdering his wife, but whose conviction was overturned by the 2nd District Appellate Court. Prosecutors have appealed that to the state Supreme Court.

Childress, along with Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon and several other department and office heads, was criticized by some county leaders for handing out budget surpluses as employee bonuses, including one to herself.

She also asked for more attorneys for the office; in 2016 she warned the county board that attorneys were spending just three hours, on average, on misdemeanor cases. The office was "triaging" cases to decide where to spend money and resources, leading to attorneys pressuring clients to take plea deals because the office could not afford to prove their innocence, she told the county board's judicial and public safety committee.

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