Donna More: Candidate profile
Office sought: Cook County state's attorney
Family: Married, one daughter
Occupation: Lawyer; Former Asst. State and US Attorney; former chief counsel to state agency (IGB); faculty at Kent and Northwestern Law; advocate for three successful pardons,
Education: Tufts University, BS, Political Science; Northwestern University, MA, Political Science; Georgetown University, Juris Doctorate
Civic involvement: Women's Board, Adler Planetarium; Board, Chicago Hope CEO Program; CBA Gaming Committee Chair (formed the group); President, 500-member International Association of Gaming Advisors; 2019 Crain's Notable Women Lawyers; 2018 Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence, 2018 Women Worth Watching, 2018 Trailblazer in Regulatory Compliance Law, Best Lawyers in America (2016-2020
Elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: No
Questions and Answers
1. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
I view the law and our Constitution as sacred guardrails that aid prosecutors in defending the helpless and protecting the freedoms equally shared among neighbors. As a former state and federal prosecutor, it is demoralizing to watch as the guardrails erode, and public trust is siphoned from the system.
I want to restore trust in the system. I'm running for State's Attorney to protect and defend families who are most vulnerable to violence, to advocate for victims seeking justice, to hold criminals accountable, and to lead community members and law enforcement together in the fight against crime, corruption, and hate. As State's Attorney, I'll uphold the law without fear or favor.
No more special deals for the rich, famous and politically connected. No one is above the law.
No more criminalizing poverty. Nonviolent offenders should not be kept in jail simply because they can't afford bail.
No more getting away with murder. I'll charge killers caught killing on video.
No more corruption. I'll rebuild the public corruption unit and go after crooked politicians.
End distrust between prosecutors and law enforcement. It's time to work together to fight crime.
2. How pertinent is the Jussie Smollett case to this election? If it should have been handled differently, how so?
The case is pertinent because it demonstrates the incumbent's susceptibility to outside influences and her lack of prosecutorial judgment. When she blew this high-profile case, she lost the public's confidence.
I would have approached the case on a deferred prosecution (DPP) basis. It is the appropriate course to deal with first-time, nonviolent felony offenders. DPP calls for an admission of guilt, payment of fees and costs, and bona fide community service.
For the latter, the defendant would have been required to visit with schools and youth groups to help students understand how fabricated hate crime allegations damage communities and future victims. Assuming defendant's compliance, charges would be dismissed in a year and possibly expunged. Finally, I would tell the public why and how the case decisions were made.
Foxx made no effort to hold the defendant accountable or be transparent: there were no admissions. An hour of envelope-stuffing at PUSH does not constitute community service. Giving up $10,000 in bail does not come close to covering the City's investigatory and legal costs. Foxx's handling of the case amounted to malpractice. Hopefully the special prosecutor will shed more light on her performance than she has been willing to share.
3. How pertinent is criminal justice reform to this election? What should the state's attorney's office be doing in regards to that issue?
It's in vogue today to talk about reform as a matter of social justice. But is it actually justice when emptying the jails and not charging offenders are solutions to past injustice?
In our own County, "catch and release" is seen as reform. Half of the murders that CPD solves are never charged. Foxx won't charge retail theft. Repeat gun offenders and carjackers are back on the street with astonishing regularity. Drug traffickers consistently walk without giving up assets or trails to suppliers. There is nothing progressive about these imminent threats to public safety, the kind that result when we don't hold people accountable or ignore due process and let violent criminals roam free.
I will insist that we strike a balance in the system that delivers incarcerations when warranted and second chances when merited and just. We will make it safe for witnesses to come forward. We will develop partnerships with private sector stakeholders to help people get back to work rather than go back to prison. We will work with mental health professionals to provide triage and affordable pretrial care for people who enter the system with mental health disorders.
4. What crime should be the office's top target. Drugs? Gang violence? Child sex abuse? Something else? Why? What steps will you take to address the priorities as you see them?
The job of chief prosecutor is to secure public safety. That will be my top priority. It will require a multipronged approach. It starts with following the law and showing by deed and promise that there is a partnership between police and prosecutors constituted and upheld for the good of the community. We need to prove to the public that we are intent on doing the right thing when it comes to charging, bonding, pretrial incarceration, trials, and sentencing.
I will reverse "catch and release" and other non-charging policies to ensure that we are dispensing justice on a case-by-case basis. We must end the practice of categorical dismissals of crimes. For example, Foxx refuses to charge retail theft under $1,000 even for repeat offenders, putting Chicago in top five of cities for organized retail crime.
I will make prosecutorial decisions based on the law without fear or favor. Politics, celebrity and money will not influence legal decisions nor will they bend the definition of "discretion" to the point of jeopardizing public trust and safety.
5. 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?
This job encompasses one function of County government that can be repaired by following the law and collaborating with the community.
No new taxes; no constitutional referendums needed to prevail. Just a dose of accountability, prosecutorial competence, and plain old common sense is required.
That said, the County needs to do a much better job with collecting judgments that return funds that can be redeployed for needed crime prevention and rehabilitation purposes. Federal prosecutors collect three times more money than the office budget.
We can improve by trailing cash assets of drug traffickers and confiscating them, by making public corruption a priority to help prevent loss of resources through theft of honest services, by ending conflicts of interest with law firms that have cases against the county, by revamping the office's approach to mental health, and by putting a stop to hiring outside lawyers to support a 700-lawyer, taxpayers funded organization.
6. Name one concrete program you'll create or personnel move you'll make to improve efficiency in the office or make it more successful. Explain how it will be funded and how you will overcome any obstacles to initiating it.
My vision has accountability at its core. People who commit crimes -- regardless of color, creed, position -- must be held accountable. If they aren't, the criminal justice system's very existence is in jeopardy. And so is the safety of the public.
Realizing the vision doesn't involve new funding resources and there are no obstacles to what I'd implement my first day in office.
I will start charging cases. I will reverse "catch and release" and other non-charging policies to ensure that we are dispensing justice on a case-by-case basis. We must end the practice of categorical dismissals of crimes.
I will insist that violent repeat offenders are held in pretrial detention, not let loose to roam our streets.
I will begin work immediately on creation of a separate and distinct diversion option to increase availability and enhance outcomes.
I will make law enforcement and elected officials trusted partners and unify the community to fight the County's epidemic of violence and crime. We will use smart charging and prosecutorial discretion to build trust, deter crime, and dispense justice.