Springfield, Illinois – Today is Springfield Attorney Lindsay Evans last day as an Assistant Sangamon County Public Defender. Her departure from the office has been somewhat expected after she was passed over for the promotion to become the Chief Public Defender of Sangamon County.
The position of being the Chief Public Defender is an open application process, but many courthouse insiders knew that someone was already picked for the position before resumes were even submitted. One courthouse source, close to Springfield Leaks, who didn’t want to be named for this article said, “It’s politics, just look at what happened in the State’s Attorney’s Office. How did Dan (Wright) get appointed as State’s Attorney and has less experience than the other guys?”
Although many courthouse insiders knew that someone was already picked as the Chief Public Defender, Evans still applied for it. “I was optimistic, in recent years, the landscape would become diverse,” Evans said in her resignation letter to Judge John “Mo” Madonia. When Evans was passed over for the position and Judge Madonia publicly appointed Attorney Craig Reiser to become the next Chief Public Defender, Evans formally submitted her resignation on May 1, 2020.
Evans, who has been a Public Defender since October 2006, didn’t just resign with a simple resignation letter. She called out the “local chapter” of the court system. “Those of us familiar know that the “local chapter” of the world’s finest justice system caters not to the Constitution but to cronyism, family names, white male mediocrity, and party donors. Poor people and their constitutional rights are reduced to political capital used to curry favor with constituents and serve political ambitions,” said Evans.
Evans Resignation Letter says the following:
May 1, 2020
I am writing to resign my position as Assistant Public Defender in Sangamon County.
It has been an honor to serve. For nearly 14 years, I have whole heartedly embraced my duty to represent people whose lives have been destroyed by substance use, physical abuse, predatory policing practices, mental illness, and poverty. I have never regretted a single hour spent pursuing this endeavor, even when that work took me away from my family and jeopardized my wellness.
I have, however, grown to deeply regret the years I’ve spent playing a “bit part” in the continued devaluation of the local judicial system. Those of us familiar know that the “local chapter” of the world’s finest justice system caters not to the Constitution but to cronyism, family names, white male mediocrity, and party donors. Poor people and their constitutional rights are reduced to political capital used to curry favor with constituents and serve political ambitions.
I was optimistic, in recent years, the landscape would become diverse. To that end, I applied for judicial vacancies in an effort to bring attention to the consistent lack of women on the local bench. Routinely, the name of the selected candidate had been leaked before the application deadline had run. It appeared the power structure was unwilling or incapable of creating even the illusion of a legitimate, merit-based, and fair selection.
And when the Chief Public Defender was terminated, it was immediately clear that I would not be replacing him- my skills, dedication, and experience notwithstanding. I nonetheless applied for the vacancy. I felt then and feel now that I was the best candidate to replace Bob Scherschligt as Chief Public Defender. But the Court was not looking for a Chief Public Defender, at least not in the sense that the law envisions that title. The Court was looking for one of its own, willing to allow the Court to manage the Public Defender’s office. The Court, led by a judge with so little regard for defense counsel that he rarely permits assistant public defenders to speak on the record when cases are called on for trial, has little respect for the independence to which the Public Defender’s Office and its clients are entitled.
I cannot sell out my clients any more than I change my gender, religion or the high school from which I graduated. No salary or title could make me willing to compromise my duty to my clients.
The public defender’s duty is always to the client. It was never my duty to be liked by the Court. My duty was to my people, the law, and my ethical obligations. And if that earned me countless episodes of disrespect and disregard by the Court, that reality says more about the Court than it does me.
May 15, 2020, will be my last day.