Task Force On Police Accountability (2015-)
Chicago Police Board (2015-)
Attorney, Mayer Brown (2006-)
Chicago Department of Procurement Services (DPS), Interim First Deputy Procurement Officer (2005)
Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), General Counsel and Chief of Staff (2004-2005)
Chicago Office of Professional Standards (OPS) of the Chicago Police Department, Chief Administrator (2002-2004)
U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, Assistant US Attorney (1996-2002)
Attorney, Mayer Brown (1990-1996)
Hon. Charles Levin, Michigan Supreme Court, Law Clerk (1989-1990)
Clout and Influence
A trial attorney, investigator and risk manager known for her “independent streak” who has moved between corporate litigation and public service, Lori Lightfoot landed a gig at the Chicago Police Board as the country and soon, the City, would turn its eyes intently to police accountability. She would be tapped again in the wake of the December 2015 Laquan McDonald shooting video release to head up the six-member Task Force on Police Accountability. She is no stranger to high-profile political or law enforcement cases.
Lightfoot, an Ohio native who got her B.A. at the University of Michigan and J.D. at the University of Chicago Law School, worked as a clerk under the Hon. Charles Levin in Michigan’s Supreme Court (his cousin is U.S. Sen. Carl Levin). After a one year stint under Levin, she joined Mayer Brown, one of the world’s largest legal firms, in 1990 and stayed there until 1996. Her work included corporate litigation, and she also participated in the successful litigation of a Congressional redistricting case, Hastert v. Board of Elections, which resulted in the first majority Latino Congressional district in the state.
In 1996, Lightfoot became Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, where she played a lead role in the investigation, charging, trial, conviction and sentencing of 15th Ward Ald. Virgil Jones, as part of the Silver Shovel Investigation. Lightfoot remained an AUSA until 2002, when then-Supt. Terry Hillard asked her to serve as Chief Administrator at the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS), the precursor to the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).
According to her Mayer Brown bio, from 2002 to 2004 Lightfoot managed a 100-person office of civilian investigators at OPS who investigated police-involved shootings, excessive force and misconduct allegations; coordinated joint federal and state investigations; and helped with a redesign of the disciplinary process, creation of a management intervention program for problem employees, and targeted tracking of litigation costs associated with complaints. Following her term at OPS, she worked for a year as Chief of Staff and General Counsel at OEMC, where she managed homeland security concerns in Chicago, including 311, traffic, emergency management, and 911.
In 2005, in response to a M/WBE scandal at the Department of Procurement Services, Mayor Richard M. Daley tapped Lightfoot and Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey for a total redesign of the department’s certification program. At the time, James Duff, the mob-connected head of Windy City Maintenance, was found to be conning the city out of millions. In the course of the investigation, Lightfoot investigated Tony Rezko (former fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich), Elzie Higginbottom (black community fundraiser for Mayor Daley), and F.H. Paschen (head of one of Chicago’s biggest construction companies).
After her time working for the city, in 2006 Lightfoot returned to Mayer Brown, where she served as outside counsel for Bank of America, and in several police-related cases. In 2006, she defended CPD when four men said they’d been beaten by off-duty cops outside the Jefferson Tap bar. In 2009, she won acquittal of a police officer charged with aggravated battery and other charges in relation to an off-duty incident. Lightfoot and her team at Mayer Brown were also brought on to the Christina Eilman case. According to the Chicago Tribune, she “was arrested at Midway Airport in 2006 during a bipolar breakdown, held overnight by Chicago police and then released without assistance several miles away in a high-crime neighborhood where she was abducted and sexually assaulted before plummeting from the seventh-floor window of a public housing high-rise. She suffered permanent brain damage and other injuries that doctors say will require constant care for the rest of her life.” The city eventually reached a $22 million settlement with Eilman’s family.
Earlier that same year, Lightfoot was one of four contenders put forward by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to fill the position of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Jonathan Bunge, Gil Soffer, Lightfoot, and Zach Fardon’s names were all submitted for White House consideration, and Fardon won out.
In June of 2015, Mayor Emanuel appointed Lightfoot to replace Demetrius Carney as head of the nine-member Chicago Police Board, which decides disciplinary actions involving allegations of serious misconduct made against CPD. In December 2015, in the fallout over the Laquan McDonald case, Lightfoot was tapped as one of six members of the Mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force.
- University of Michigan, B.A.
- The University of Chicago Law School, J.D.
Important Political Events
- 1996, becomes Assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois
- 2002, starts work for the City of Chicago, working at OPS in CPD, OEMC, and DPS
- 2006, returns to Mayer Brown, where work includes corporate litigation and defense of CPD officers
- 2015, appointed to Police Board
- 2015, appointed to Mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force