Former Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli says she has no regrets

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After a six-year term in office, Amy Campanelli was not re-appointed as the public defender by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. That office provides legal representation for people who can't afford private attorneys.

Despite groundbreaking programs and reforms, Campanelli was recently replaced in a decision by the woman who appointed her.

"I wanted to be reappointed. I thought I had more to give and more to do, but it just wasn't in the cards," former Cook County Public Defender Campanelli told the I-Team. "I never expected more than one term."

During her six years in charge of the county's public defender office, Amy Campanelli oversaw 700 employees and an 80-million dollar annual budget. Her office represented defendants in some of the most notorious criminal cases the past six years, as she fought social justice battles, helped achieve bond reform and equity of legal services for those with few resources.

Campanelli said President Preckwinkle did not tell her why she was being replaced.

Preckwinkle's selected replacement, Sharone Mitchell, was confirmed last month. He is a long time Cook County attorney who has pledged to back criminal justice reforms.

We asked Preckwinkle why Campanelli was replaced and in a statement Preckwinkle said only that she is grateful for her service and thanks Campanelli for all she has done to improve and expand the provision of justice in Cook County and that she is particularly proud of the work they accomplished together surrounding initiatives such as the immigration unit and improved legal representation for arrestees at police stations. All items Campanelli is passionate about.

"There's a long way to go because look at what look what we're seeing, we're seeing people being killed on the streets, because they're running away. Even if they're armed. You don't get to say, he may have shot someone. Was Adam Toledo running to shoot someone, therefore, I get to shoot him. Now, you don't get to say that. And you never get to say that," said Campanelli.

The I-Team interview was in Campanelli's new office, the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, a neighborhood non-profit with big ideas to expand to other parts of Chicago. Her new position is vice president of restorative justice at a place where she can continue working for racial equity and holistic solutions for people who get jammed up in a complicated legal system.

Full Statement from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

The Cook County Public Defender serves a vital role in our justice system that is intimately connected to the neighborhoods most affected by crime and decades of inequity and sees firsthand the needs of our communities.

I thank Amy Campanelli for all she has done to improve and expand the provision of justice in Cook County. I'm particularly proud of the work we accomplished together surrounding initiatives such as the immigration unit and police station representation. I am grateful for her six years of service in this role.
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