Amy P. Campanelli was sworn in as the tenth Public Defender of Cook County on April 1, 2015. Ms. Campanelli’s appointment was the culmination of 27 years of representing the indigent accused. Ms. Campanelli started as an Assistant Public Defender in November 1987 assigned to the Juvenile Division. Three years later she moved to the Felony Trial Division. In 1998, Ms. Campanelli temporarily left the Office, but continued to take criminal cases in private practice. Five years later, in 2003, she returned to the Office as an Attorney Supervisor assigned to the Felony Trial Division.
Ms. Campanelli became the Chief Public Defender of the Bridgeview Courthouse in 2008. She became the Capital Case Coordinator for the Office in 2010. While coordinating all death penalty litigation resources in the Office, she oversaw a budget of over $2.75 million annually, organized jury focus groups, and spearheaded a two-day capital litigation conference with experts from around the globe. After the death penalty was abolished in Illinois, she served as Deputy Chief of the Homicide Task Force and Deputy Chief of the Felony Trial Division. In 2012, Ms. Campanelli became the Deputy Public Defender in charge of all five Suburban districts in Cook County, a position she held until her appointment as the Public Defender.
Over the years, Ms. Campanelli has been a frequent lecturer and trainer on mental health issues, trial advocacy, trial preparation, and therapeutic courts. Ms. Campanelli is committed to reducing incarceration of her clients by supporting smart, fair, and non-discriminatory criminal justice reform at every stage of the process, and through a holistic client-centered approach.
The Office of the Cook County Public Defender was founded September 25, 1930. From its founding with six attorneys, the Office now has a staff of over 650, providing representation in felony, misdemeanor, traffic, domestic violence, juvenile justice, child protection, appeals, and post-conviction cases. Courtroom staff are complemented by attorneys with specialized forensic knowledge and technological skills.
On becoming the Public Defender, Ms. Campanelli identified four primary initiatives – bond court reform, strengthening problem-solving courts, community outreach, and professional development. Strides have continued to be achieved in all four categories, with cooperation and collaboration from the other criminal court stakeholders.
In addition, Ms. Campanelli worked with the Chief Judge of Cook County to secure the right of public defenders to enter police stations and represent those under arrest and in police custody, whenever the person arrested requests to talk with an attorney.
Among other accomplishments while in office, Ms. Campanelli’s support for continuing legal education and training has been manifested through more than 150 training programs provided yearly, including a three-day continuing legal education seminar offered every August. Further, recognizing the importance of fair and sensible legislation, Ms. Campanelli has bolstered the Office’s involvement with local and State legislators through a stronger legislative, policy, and strategic planning presence.
Ms. Campanelli received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana and her Juris Doctor from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Ms. Campanelli is a lifelong member of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority. She is married to Patrick Campanelli, and they have three children: Paul, Annabelle, and Emily. Ms. Campanelli is the second female to serve as the Public Defender.