Chief Judge Evans appoints Robert F. Harris as Cook County Public Guardian

Released On 11/17/2004

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans today announced he has appointed Robert F. Harris as the Cook County Public Guardian effective December 1, 2004. Currently serving as the Chief Deputy Public Guardian, Mr. Harris, a 13-year veteran of the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, has held every legal and administrative position in the office. He will replace Patrick T. Murphy who was recently elected a circuit judge.

Chief Judge Evans said, "Mr. Harris’s combined experience in law and administration, in addition to his broad knowledge of the Office of the Public Guardian and proven leadership skills, will enable him to achieve a smooth transition."

"I am confident that Mr. Harris has the demonstrated ability and compassion to ensure the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian will continue to advocate for the best interest of the at-risk individuals and families served by the agency," continued Chief Judge Evans.

Outgoing Public Guardian Patrick Murphy said, "Robert is a wonderful human being with marvelous skills and broad-based experience as my chief deputy, and will perform well as Cook County’s Public Guardian."

As the Chief Deputy Public Guardian, Robert Harris supervises the Juvenile Division which represents 18,000 children as their lawyers and Guardians ad Litem in abuse and neglect proceedings. Mr. Harris oversees a staff of 120 lawyers, 18 paralegals, 30 child advocates and 24 support staff, accounting for two thirds of the total Public Guardian staff of 300. Mr. Harris supervises both union and non-union employees.

Legal positions held by Mr. Harris in his 13-year career with the Office of the Public Guardian include staff attorney, lead attorney, courtroom supervisor, and lobbyist. He has served as the lead attorney representing children in highly publicized cases and has set case and trial strategy for trial lawyers in the division. His other duties have included serving as the legislative coordinator to research and to lobby for the enactment of child welfare legislation in the Illinois state legislature. He also drafted and proposed amendments to the Illinois Juvenile Court Act and lobbied for welfare reform in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Harris’s administrative experience has included labor negotiations, acting as the chief union negotiator on behalf of the office for union contract renewals. Also he has worked in budget management, preparing the annual budget presentation to the Cook County Board. He also worked in the office unit responsible for the purchase of capital equipment, and has participated in all phases of human resources, including hiring, promotions, disciplinary action, and termination.

Chief Judge Evans received many letters in support of Robert Harris including those from Diane Geraghty, a law professor and director of Child and Family Law Programs at Loyola University Chicago, and attorney Richard Cozzola, a former Deputy Public Guardian of the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian’s Juvenile Division. Professor Geraghty praised Harris as a "well-regarded attorney, a sound administrator, and a person who is completely devoted to his work and to his clients."

Mr. Cozzola noted that he hired Harris in 1991 during his tenure with the Office of the Public Guardian. He commended Mr. Harris as "honest, thoughtful and hard-working." Noting he has since worked with Harris in a number of settings, Mr. Cozzola said, "In every instance his work has been professional, ethical and considered." He concluded that Harris "would make an outstanding Public Guardian."

Prior to joining the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, Mr. Harris was employed by Westinghouse Electric from 1981 through 1983 as a quality and manufacturing engineer assigned to major projects in the Defense and Motor Controls Divisions. From 1983 through 1986, he was employed by Honeywell, Inc. as a systems sales engineer overseeing a team of employees to draft and present contract proposals.

Mr. Harris graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. He received his Juris Doctor in 1991 from DePaul University College of Law.ft




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