David Shestokas's Responses to Chicago Tribune Questionaire
As a candidate for Illinois Attorney General I receive many questionnaires from the media and public interest groups. This post has the questions from the Chicago Tribune in bold followed by my answers.
As the Michael Madigan indictment illustrates, corruption remains one of this state’s most pressing, entrenched problems. What should the Illinois attorney general’s role be in rooting out corruption?
The Public Integrity Bureau ironically was established under Lisa Madigan with a mission to investigate and prosecute criminal cases referred from other governmental entities or from one of Illinois’ 102 state’s attorneys with cases from forgery, official misconduct, theft of government funds or bribery.
Among the federal allegations against former Speaker Madigan is bribery. Apparently, no governmental agency made any referral to the Public Integrity Bureau regarding the Speaker, hence no state charges. Reliance on referrals from other units of government is too restrictive a policy for pursuing corruption. The Public Integrity Bureau should include citizen referrals as well.
If elected, what anti-corruption initiatives would you undertake? What would be your approach toward the problem?
As described above, expanding the referral base of the Public Integrity Bureau to include citizens would allow the Bureau to not only pursue cases referred by other government units but when appropriate refer properly screened cases to local State's Attorneys for prosecution that originated with citizens. The referral avenue should be a two way street, providing citizens multiple places to present knowledge of official misconduct.
The Illinois attorney general’s office has an important role in ensuring the Chicago Police Department’s compliance with the court-mandated consent decree. What is your assessment for how well CPD and the city of Chicago have complied with the consent decree, particularly the ongoing set of deadlines they must meet to achieve implementation and compliance?
The most recent report of the Independent Monitoring Team issued on April 11, 2022 discusses compliance issues, but throughout the nearly 1400 page report there is a recurring theme describing difficulties in assessing compliance, data collection and definitions.
For example, a goal of a million+ Positive Community Interactions annually under the heading Community Policing can't be measured for lack of record keeping, imprecise definition and no input from community members.
Most of the major elements of the decree have preliminary compliance. The hold up in compliance across the board appears to be budgetary and experience in the ranks. A three year extension was just agreed to primarily because meeting the goal of one sergeant to 10 officers takes money and time to achieve.
Without the proper supervisory personnel implementing most of the decree reforms is problematic, and having more supervisors costs more money and having enough personnel with experience to assume supervisory roles is a matter of time on the job.
Promotions to "sergeant" of inexperienced officers to meet a goal is clearly irresponsible.
With the practical limitations attached to having the appropriate number of competent supervisors to totally implement all aspects of the decree, it would appear the recent extension to be reasonable.
So far, CPD’s history with consent decree compliance has been marred by a consistent pattern of missed deadlines. What would you do to improve the speed with which CPD and the city complies with the consent decree?
As discussed in the previous question, a review of the recent IMT report indicates that a significant element of missed deadlines is inadequate provision of supervisors. While at first glance recruiting experienced supervisors from outside may sound attractive, an intimate knowledge of the city and its unique characteristics with experience on Chicago streets are likely something a "sergeant" needs to earn the respect of those he commands.
Rising violent crime continues to be Chicago’s top priority. Is there a role that the attorney general’s office should play in the fight against violent crime—in Chicago and elsewhere in the metro region and state?
The Illinois Attorney General Act defines the first duty as: "First - To appear for and represent the people of the State before the supreme court in all cases in which the State or the people of the State are interested"
Every criminal complaint is captioned: "The People of the State of Illinois v. Defendant". The State or the people of the State are interested in every criminal case. The Attorney General has a role in seeing that the people of the State are properly represented in criminal cases, and should monitor State's Attorneys who decline to prosecute cases of serious crime.
As Attorney General I would have a "hotline" available to front line law enforcement for communicating to the Attorney General's office cases in which the officers believe the State's Attorney has made an error in failing to charge a serious matter.
The OAG will review such cases and when appropriate, file charges. As the new VA Attorney General Miyares advised VA citizens: "If your local … prosecutor won't enforce the law, I will".
As a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney I was involved in over 400 felony investigations and prosecutions and more than 10,000 misdemeanors. The next criminal case either of my primary opponents prosecute will be their first.
At least 19 states have passed laws restricting access to voting. Many other states have introduced similar legislation. Do you believe such laws help or hinder the electoral process? Please explain your answer.
This question begins with a presumption: "restricting access". The premise assumes the purpose of all 19 states is to restrict something as opposed to insure the accuracy of the outcome.
The "consent of the governed" is the primary organizing principle of the United States, derived from the Declaration of Independence. Without a voting process that is designed to accurately determine the consent of the governed, the country loses its legal legitimacy. The more faith people have in the outcome, the more people will participate.
As the question does not define "restricting access" I'm left to speculate, but if restricting access includes matters like being certain of a person's identity and is a citizen, resident and of proper age or ballots are not left in insecure locations like "drop boxes" I would not call such provisions restrictions.
I do feel that having turned Election Day into election season is harmful to the electoral process in several ways. Extended early voting and mail in voting have voters making decisions often while campaigns are incomplete and the knowledge needed to make informed decisions among the electorate is not fully developed.
Beyond that, once upon a time, voting was the single communal act we performed as a nation, all coming together on a single day with a central purpose at a single moment. In these times of a purposely polarized electorate the loss of the communal act is another crack in our status as "one nation". The existence of an "Election Day" is of great value in creating a sense of unity. Turning voting into a solitary act done at a kitchen table, a walk to the street and raising the flag on your mailbox serves to isolate not unify.
Article VI of the Constitution provides a structural example of how the Founders strove to impart a sense of nationhood, not destroy it. Every office holder in the land, from fire fighter to president is required to take an oath to support the Constitution. It is to be a reminder that despite the distances, ethnicities, accents, and politics we are to share a common goal: "To secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity." Voting should be a communal act to serve as such a reminder.
There is value in everyone participating in the act of voting at the same time, with the same access to information to make informed decisions. The ultimate goals should be accuracy and faith in the result. What some refer to as "restrictions" are often designed to assure that the consent of the governed is accurately obtained and in so doing build a sense of community.
Do you believe there was fraud committed in the 2020 presidential election, and do you believe the results of that election should have been overturned? Please explain your answer.
Those are two questions. I worked in a legal capacity in PA during Oct. /Nov. 2020. As to PA specifically I am personally aware of votes cast from uninhabited condemned buildings. I represented more than 60 voters in electoral board hearings who had been forced to cast provisional ballots being told they had voted by mail when they had not. I was in court in Williamsport and testified as to irregularities in Allegheny County before the PA Senate. I had organized 70 people to "observe" ballot processing in Allegheny that were kept in a small corral without meaningful observation.
One observation we could make in that 40000 square foot warehouse was that the envelopes containing mailed ballots were opened prior to being brought into the "observation room". I personally observed fraudulent and illegal activity in PA. So as to part one of the question and PA, the answer is yes. There is substantial evidence that as to AZ, WI, MI and GA as well.
As to the second question, I have always rejected the term "overturned". The term implies changing a correct result into something else. I am aware of a 2018 election for Sheriff of Macon County, IL in which the properly elected Sheriff was sworn in June, 2021. Though 2.5 years after the election, I do not refer to the originally certified result as overturned, but rather the correct result was discovered through the legal process and given effect. An election is not over until any legal process that follows is complete.
With that in mind, I do not say that the 2020 result should be overturned. Upon sober reflection what I can say accurately is that the true result is unknown, and that there were artificial time pressures to terminate the legal processes that if allowed to proceed would have accurately determined the true winner.
The judges that dismissed cases out of hand (I was scheduled to testify in one), the courts and executive officers that contrary to the Constitution without authority rewrote election law, and the state legislators that abdicated their constitutional duty all lead to the conclusion that the actual "winner" is unknown.
Give us the best example of when you displayed independence from your party or staked out an unpopular position.
I have done multiple interviews on the 2020 election and have often been asked about the decisions of Vice-President Pence on January 6, 2021. While the common position among Republicans is that Pence somehow betrayed President Trump and the country when he proceeded with the certification of the electoral votes I have explained from a legal and constitutional perspective Pence had no authority but to accept the electoral votes presented to him.
The only evidence Pence had to act upon were the submissions of electoral votes by duly authorized authorities of the states. He had no competing votes to decide between. Though in several states, Trump electors had met outside state capitals while the recognized electors met inside, there was no legal authority attached to those meetings. Pence could not rely upon news reports or his own personal belief of the correctness of the votes presented to him, he had only those votes to count.
This was very unlike 1877 when there were competing electoral votes submitted by legitimate state authorities and Congress created a commission to evaluate the authenticity.
Despite my own reservations about the accuracy of the election, Pence had no legal authority to do anything other than count the votes presented. In a variety of forums I have made my position on the subject clear, despite most in the audience wanting me to denounce the Vice-President in some fashion.
I believe this is an indication of how I would conduct the Attorney General's office, with fidelity to the law not my personal preferences.
Sum up why should voters nominate you and not your opponent(s). (Please limit this to policy and approach, not a biography recitation.)
At most events when candidates speak the first issue everyone mentions is crime. At my turn, I point out the only office on the November ballot with existing authority to address crime with speed is the Attorney General. I have articulated a plan and explained that the resources and law are all in place. I am the only candidate with a plan, criminal justice experience and access to others with valuable skills for implementation.
The Resources: The current Attorney General acts as the personal lawyer of the governor or various state agencies. Unlike the US Attorney General, who is nominated by and serves at the pleasure of the president, thus executing the president's policies (protestations of impartiality notwithstanding), the Illinois Attorney General is elected by the people.
Despite that reality, Mr. Raoul conducts "lawfare" against citizens attempting to vindicate statutory or constitutional rights. One example is the case I filed against the Board of Elections for the Illinois Conservative Union, asking the Board to comply with federal law. Raoul basically responded that the Board does not have to follow the law. The AG filed frivolous motions to dismiss and absurd requests for felony records of the four grandmothers who are plaintiffs. The question of law has been decided in our favor in 12 other states, but the AG plows ahead treating the citizens as irritants, not constituents.
There are many Assistant Attorneys General engaged in such activity against Illinois citizens. I will resolve such cases as appropriate, freeing the Assistants to address improperly unprosecuted criminal matters across the state.
The Plan: Assistants freed from litigating against Illinois citizens will now be tasked to monitoring problem local prosecutors like in Lake and Cook Counties. Within the office specific Assistants will review referrals from law enforcement. Sheriffs and police will be encouraged to refer cases they feel were improperly dismissed to the detriment of public safety. Either possible result is positive. First, prosecutors like Kim Foxx and Eric Rinehart, knowing they are monitored, may not so cavalierly dismiss cases contrary to the public interest. Second, when the AG must step in, justice for the people will be pursued that would have been ignored.
The Experience: As mentioned previously, I have been involved in over 400 felony matters and 10,000+ misdemeanors. The next criminal prosecution either of my opponents pursues with be the first.
I am well acquainted with career prosecutors and criminal justice professionals with access to the talent needed to address criminal issues across the state.
The Special Duty of the Attorney General: JUSTICE
The general obligation of an attorney is to zealously represent the interests of the client. There are a few jobs in the law when the obligation is significantly different.
I have had the privilege and honor to stand in a courtroom and address the judge thusly:
"Good morning your honor, David Shestokas on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois."
It is a special experience to do that, knowing that your duty is directly to JUSTICE.
That is the primary duty of the Attorney General.
That is a duty neither of my opponents has ever had.