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NAME: Mara Georges AGE: 37 TITLE: City of Chicago Corporation Counsel MISSION: Set policy for and oversee the work of nearly 300 attorneys in 13 divisions. When in college, Georges aspired to a career in medicine despite her father, Pete Georges, being a Cook County Circuit Court judge. But, the beloved dad’s death in 1983 turned out to be a defining moment in his daughter’s own life. “It wasn’t until after he died that I decided to go into law,” Georges said. “I thought it was a profession that my dad held in such high esteem and I would follow in his footsteps.’” While attending the University of Loyola School of Law, Georges got to brief and argue a case before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. At that time, she was also working for the Chicago law firm of Rock, Fusco & Reynolds (now known as Rock, Fusco & Garvey) where she met the lawyer she calls her mentor, Brian L. Crowe, a former Cook County judge who later become a partner at Rock, Fusco and then City of Chicago Corporation Counsel. “I can never speak highly enough of Brian Crowe,” Georges said. “Brian was the one who taught me so much, how to try a case, how to get business, and how to practice law successfully.” To be sure, the testing grounds were littered with learning opportunities. One of Georges’ more interesting cases while at Rock Fusco was representing the Church of Scientology in U.S. District Court. She and Crowe won the 1997 jury trial in the case involving a defamation complaint by the church against the now defunct Cult Awareness Network. When Crowe was tapped later that year by Mayor Richard M. Daley to be the city’s top lawyer, he brought Georges along as his first assistant. She succeeded him in the position in July 1999. “We both learned the office and the job as we went,” Georges said. “It’s been a great year and there’s been interesting issues. There is a lot of action here. We just move from issue to issue.” GUN MANUFACTURER LITIGATION: Although Georges said that the current trend was for the lower courts to allow lawsuits against gun dealers and manufacturers to proceed on public nuisance grounds, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Schiller dismissed the city’s $433 million action in September. City of Chicago and County of Cook v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., et al., No.98 CH 15596. The city has since filed its notice to appeal the dismissal. Georges said the City of Chicago has been out in front on the issue of holding gun makers and sellers liable for what guns are used for, but conceded that similar lawsuits filed in other states have progressed more quickly. Still, she remains undaunted. “The mayor has said that if this lawsuit doesn’t work we’ll come back with another one,” she added. “When you talk with people out in the community and ask them what their biggest concern is, it’s violence, specifically gun violence. The mayor came to the law department and challenged us to address gun violence.” ANTI-GANG LOITERING ORDINANCE: A month before Georges became Corporation Counsel, the U.S. Supreme Court in Chicago v. Morales, No. 97-1121, found unconstitutional the city’s 1992 ordinance against loitering that was meant to combat gang violence. Under her watch, the ordinance was rewritten and passed by the city council in February. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in a concurring opinion striking down the ordinance just what the city needed to do to have one that would be legal, Georges said. “We took that roadmap she established and incorporated it into our ordinance,” Georges added. “The police department has been very judicious in implementing the ordinance. There’s been extensive training and the superintendent has been involved with community groups in making a determination as to hotspots (of gang activity) and why it’s necessary (to implement) in certain places.” As a result, Georges said, her staff is confident the new ordinance will “withstand any challenge that may come up.” ORGANIZATION: The corporation counsel’s office has about 300 attorneys spread out among 13 divisions. Among those divisions are the finance and real estate division; municipal prosecution; building and land use litigation; employment litigation; commercial and policy litigation; and aviation and regulatory litigation. The Labor Division prosecutes city employees for rules violations, and the Individual Defense Litigation division represents police officers in misconduct cases. Although the office had different divisions when Georges arrived there, she and Crowe designed the office’s current organizational structure. “The office touches the gamut of municipal law,” Georges said. “We do every kind of municipal law there is to do from bond transaction to contracts to complex litigation to much more routine litigation.” She speaks proudly of the torts division, which won 20 out of its first 21 cases this year. “That’s an incredible record and that speaks to how hard-working they are and how skilled they are,” Georges said. OUTSIDE COUNSEL: Georges said there are three instances in which her office will use outside counsel: bond issues are required to fund a municipal project, a conflict of interest exists within her department, and whenever the city does not have the needed resources to handle a given legal issue or lawsuit. “Every once in a while we get a case that’s so huge, that requires so much attorney time, we can’t do it in-house,” Georges said. A recent example of that type of complex litigation was a settlement reached in lawsuits filed in connection with the Loop Flood of 1992. The city reached a $21.7 million settlement with businesses — and their insurance companies — damaged when an underground tunnel was flooded with water from the Chicago River. In that case, Jenner & Block and Carney & Brothers were the two law firms handling the city’s side in the litigation. But, the city works with a number of outside law firms, Georges emphasized, and thereby spreads its business around. IN THE COURTROOM: Since her job involves attending a lot of meetings, Georges said she enjoys the chance to go to court to break up her routine. “Sometimes a judge will want to see me on a case and so they’ll ask I come over,” Georges said. “That’s what I like to do. And I try to get over to court to watch people once in a while or to listen to an oral argument.” BEST THING ABOUT BEING A LAWYER: “It’s a degree that will always allow you to support yourself,” Georges said. “No matter what happens you can always put a shingle out there and earn a living. You can write wills for people and represent them on traffic tickets. It’s a tangible thing you’ve always got.” FAMILY: Married with no children; lives in Chicago. LAST BOOK READ: “It’s Not About the Bike,” by two-time Tour De France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.

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