New Kane County public defender pledges communication, courtroom presence
Rachele Conant has been appointed as the next Kane County public defender, replacing Kelli Childress, who resigned abruptly in December 2019.
Conant, who has worked as an assistant public defender in Kane County since 1996, will have her first official day Monday. She pledged continued, open communication with her staff and a continued courtroom presence.
"I'm absolutely thrilled and excited," Conant said Wednesday. "There were a number of excellent candidates and it's an honor to be chosen to represent the office."
During her tenure, the 50-year-old DeKalb resident has worked in every courtroom where assistant public defenders are assigned, including mental health hearings at Elgin State Mental Health and Mercy Hospital in Aurora.
Conant said she has a good relationship with the judiciary and state's attorney's office. She said she's open and approachable with colleagues and works to ensure "they walk away knowing their voice was heard."
For the last eight years, Conant also served as a supervising attorney to mentor and help younger attorneys prepare and argue cases.
Conant said she will keep a regular court call and sees a continued courtroom presence as part of her job as a leader.
"I think it's really important for attorneys to see the public defender in the courtroom," she said
Childress would take select criminal cases, and her predecessor, David Kliment, who is now a judge, had a regular court call.
Conant has ideas for initiatives and changes in the office but first wants to meet 1-on-1 with each assistant public defender. That could take weeks because staffing has been scaled back to three lawyers each day in her office and overall courthouse operations are limited through April 20 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Conant is a member of the Kane County Bar Association and has served as vice chair to the Kane County Juvenile Justice Council.