Anita Alvarez made history when she was chosen by voters in 2008 to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney. Not only did Alvarez 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.
Alvarez has spent her entire legal career in public service in the State’s Attorney’s Office representing the victims of crime in Cook County. 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, Alvarez has stepped up the investigation and prosecution of public and government corruption; opened three 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 Alvarez 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. 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, Alvarez 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 from 2002 to 2005 was an adjunct professor at John Marshall Law School.
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.