About Anita Alvarez
Anita Alvarez made history when she was chosen by voters in 2008 to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney. Not only did Anita become the first female and the first Hispanic State’s Attorney, she also became the first career prosecutor ever elected to this important public safety position.
Anita has spent her entire legal career in public service in the State’s Attorney’s Office representing the victims of crime in Cook County. After serving with distinction for more than 22 years, Anita entered the race for Cook County State’s Attorney in August of 2007 in what would be the first open primary election for the office in more than 50 years. Anita scored a dramatic upset in Cook County politics when she defeated five male opponents in a hotly contested Democratic primary and then soundly defeated her male Republican challenger in the general election.
Since taking office, Anita has delivered on many of the promises that she made to voters when she sought public office. In her first two years on the job, Alvarez has worked to stem the tide of gang and gun violence by drafting a new law that has increased criminal penalties for gang members arrested with guns. Gang members convicted under the new law face a mandatory prison sentence and are no longer eligible for parole.
In addition, Anita has stepped up the investigation and prosecution of public and government corruption; opened four new community-based prosecutions offices, and formed a mortgage fraud investigations and prosecutions unit. She also created a Human Trafficking Initiative that works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on individuals and human trafficking groups that exploit children. She also authored the Illinois Safe Children Act, a sweeping new law that enhances protections for juveniles caught in the sex trade and provides new legal tools for police and prosecutors to target those who prostitute children.
It is in the courtroom that Anita has felt most at home during the more than 20 years she has served in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She began her career as an Assistant State’s Attorney in 1986 and steadily worked her way up through the ranks, handling hundreds of felony cases ranging from homicide, narcotics, armed robbery, criminal sexual assaults and domestic violence. She has argued before the Illinois Appellate Court and tried more than 50 felony jury trials.
In September of 2011, Anita personally prosecuted the first of three men charged in the murder of a Chicago Police officer, securing a guilty verdict and a 125-year sentence. In December of 2011, Anita argued before the United States’ Supreme Court in the case of Sandy Williams v. Illinois, a case focusing on the prosecutor’s use of expert witnesses and testimony and the rights of a defendant to confront those who testify against them.
Prior to entering the race for Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita served as Chief Deputy State’s Attorney; Chief of Staff to the Cook County State’s Attorney; Chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau; Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Bureau, and Supervisor of the Public Integrity Unit. She also spent 3 ½ years in the Gang Crimes Unit where she prosecuted gang-related homicides.
Anita was promoted to the Supervisor of the Public Integrity Unit in 1996, where she was responsible for prosecuting city, county, and state employees who committed felonies and violated the public trust. She personally tried police officers on corruption charges. In 1999, she was promoted to Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Bureau where she supervised the prosecution of drug cases as well as long-term narcotics investigations in conjunction with Chicago and suburban police departments.
In 2001, Anita tried the case of the People of the State of Illinois v. Patrick Sykes, which was commonly referred to in widespread media as the ‘Girl X” Case. Her successful prosecution of Sykes resulted in his conviction for the predatory criminal sexual assault of a 9- year-old-girl who was left paralyzed, blind, without speech and confined to a wheelchair after the brutal attack in the Cabrini Green housing project.
Anita’s tireless work and dedication ensured that, despite the victim’s daunting physical challenges, she was able to come to court and fearlessly face her attacker. From the podium at her swearing-in ceremony as State’s Attorney, Anita acknowledged Shatoya Currie for her courage and perseverance in the face of monumental challenges.
Professional Commitment and Community Involvement
Anita is active in various bar associations and organizations. In 2009, she served as President of the Chicago Bar Association, one of the largest metropolitan bar organizations in the nation. She was also a founding member of the National Hispanic Prosecutors Association and served as its National President. Anita was chosen as a fellow in the 2004 class of Leadership Greater Chicago and served on their board from 2004 – 2006. Additionally, she serves on the Board of Trustees for Fenwick High School and is active in alumnae activities for her alma mater, Maria High School.
Anita has been honored by various groups and organizations throughout her career. In 2001 she was named Person of the Year by Chicago Lawyer Magazine. That same year, she was honored for her work in the Girl X case by the Council for Disability Rights for precedent setting advocacy. In 2002 she was the recipient of the Professional Achievement Award from Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 2005 Anita was named Person of the Year by the Latin American Police Association and also named States Attorney of the Year by the Illinois State Crime Commission. Anita is a frequent speaker and lecturer to many organizations and is asked to speak on topics ranging from legal issues, to community involvement, to telling her story to inspire students and show the value of education and hard work. Anita was also an adjunct professor at John Marshall Law School from 2002 to 2005.
A Chicago native, Anita was born and raised by working class parents in the Pilsen neighborhood. She attended Maria High School and received her undergraduate degree from Loyola University of Chicago. Anita earned her Law Degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Anita is married to Dr. James Gomez and she and her husband are the proud parents of four children.
As promised to a standing room only crowd at her swearing in ceremony, Ms. Alvarez serves the residents of Cook County by seeking “justice tempered with compassion.”
The State’s Attorney of Cook County is responsible for prosecuting all individuals charged with violating Illinois’ criminal laws within the county. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is the second largest prosecutorial office in the United States.
While the office provides a wide variety of criminal justice services, its main function is to prosecute crime and represent the victims of crime in the Cook County court system. The Assistant State’s Attorneys in the office present criminal cases to a jury or judge and advocate for justice on behalf of crime victims.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is the second largest prosecutorial office in the United States. In addition to this core mission, the State’s Attorney’s Office is charged with enforcing many civil laws that protect abused children, the elderly, the disabled, and consumers as well as laws that promote the public interest in the environment and the provision of utility services. The State’s Attorney also acts as legal counsel on civil law matters on behalf of Cook County government and its public officials.
Divisions of the office include:
- Child Support Enforcement Division
- Consumer Fraud Division
- Domestic Violence Division
- Financial and Government Fraud Unit
- Juvenile Justice Bureau
- Mental Health Division
- Narcotics Prosecution Division
- Public Integrity Unit
- Senior Citizens / Persons with Disabilities Division
- Victim/Witness Assistance Unit
Whether it’s running the Chicago marathon or running to become the Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez put everything she has into the race.
Born and raised in Chicago’s Pilsen community, Anita comes from humble beginnings. One of three children, she grew up in a close-knit family. Her father, was a waiter, passed away when she was 12 years old and Anita’s mother become the sole source of support for her young family. Anita’s mom found work as a seamstress to support her children.
“My Mom worked very hard as so many single parents do to support us and to keep balance in our lives. She always stressed the importance of education and she pushed me to study hard and to pursue higher educational opportunities,” Alvarez said.
Anita attended Maria High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side and then went on to work her way through college and law school. She graduated from Loyola University with a major in social work and then obtained her law degree from Chicago Kent College of Law.
Anita joined the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in 1986. At that time, she was just one of few women or minorities hired.
“It was challenging at times to walk into a courtroom as a young female attorney, but I loved being a prosecutor from the first moment I stepped into a courtroom and put my name on the record on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois,” Alvarez recalls.
As her career progressed, Anita began to successfully prosecute big cases involving gangs, violent street crime, domestic violence, sex crimes and public corruption and she began to rise through the ranks of the State’s Attorney’s Office.
In 1996, she became supervisor of the Public Integrity Unit where she obtained convictions against corrupt police officers and other public employees. Anita was then promoted to Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Prosecutions Bureau and supervised assistant state’s attorneys who were involved in prosecuting important cases against high-ranking gang and drug dealers. In 2001, she was named Bureau Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit, supervising prosecutors in the gang, arson, organized crime, cold case, auto theft, public corruption, financial crimes and professional standards units.
That same year, Anita prosecuted the case of “People v. Patrick Sykes,” in what became known in Chicago and around the nation as the “Girl X” case. Anita helped to secure a 120-year sentence against sexual predator Sykes, whose brutal attack on a 9-year-old girl in a Chicago housing project left the child paralyzed, blind, unable to speak and confined to wheelchair.
Like so many women, Anita works hard to maintain a balance between her personal and professional lives. She and her husband, Dr. James Gomez, are the proud parents of four children: a son who is 21, twin daughters who are 14, and another son who is 13 years old.
“It really is a balancing act on some days, running to soccer and hockey games after work and on weekends. But we get through it with a lot of optimism and a lot of humor, just like so many other families,” Anita said. “Somehow, the homework always gets done.”
Alvarez ran track at her alma mater Maria High School and the running bug has been with her ever since. She has raced in the Chicago marathon (personal best time of 4:12) and regularly competes in half marathons and other races in community sponsored races and events.
Anita entered the race for Cook County State’s Attorney in August of 2007 and she shocked the political establishment when she pulled off a victory in a six-way race in the primary election in February of 2008. She went on to handily defeat her Republican challenger in the general election the following November and is now heading into her re-election campaign for November of 2012.
In a speech before the City Club of Chicago, Anita summed up her feelings about her decision to step out of the courtroom and into the political arena.
“When I entered the race for Cook County State’s Attorney, I viewed it as more of a personal decision than a political one. Running for this office feels more like a natural progression of my career than it does a political opportunity. After all of these years I still feel a very deep commitment and a personal passion about the State’s Attorney’s Office and all that it stands for.”