Matt Stanton is the Democratic candidate for the Lake County States Attorney. Stanton has a family and criminal law practice and also teaches at Chicago-Kent College of Law. He is critical of the current administration of the Lake County States Attorney’s office and has a positive platform for change if he is elected.
Stanton did not dream of becoming a lawyer from a young age. In fact, he did not attend college or law school until he was in his thirties. Stanton worked at a variety of labor-related jobs including cement finisher, baggage handler and sign painter while raising a young family. His life took a turn when a car accident permanently changed the course of his life.
Christmas Eve Tragedy
On Christmas Eve, 1985, Stanton and his family were hit head-on as they traveled to celebrate the holiday with relatives. As a result of this accident, his wife who was pregnant, gave birth to a daughter who was born 3 months prematurely and his two-year-old daughter was permanently disabled. This devastating experience changed Stanton’s life. His marriage did not survive the aftermath of the accident and led to divorce. In turn, Stanton sought full custody of his 5 children. As Stanton could not afford a lawyer to represent him for much of the court proceedings, he represented himself in court and taught himself the law regarding divorce and custody. Ultimately, Stanton was granted custody of his children.
Stanton’s personal experience with family law led to his desire to go to law school. However, he first needed to obtain a college education which he managed while raising his family and working part-time jobs. He then attended law school at the University of Illinois at Champaign for a semester and subsequently transferred to Chicago-Kent College of Law, attending classes at night while working as a substitute teacher, among other jobs, during the day. Stanton managed his busy schedule by prioritizing his life by keeping his family first, work second and law school third. He thrived in law school winning awards for his work in law school as well as working as a teaching assistant. Along the way, he also hosted radio shows with legal themes.
Lake County States Attorney
There has been much notoriety regarding the Lake County States Attorney in recent years due to a number of cases where the defendants were wrongly convicted and later exonerated. The current States Attorney, Mike Nerheim, ran for election on a platform of reform from the previous administration. However, Stanton believes that Nerheim has not lived up to that promise of reform. He cites a Better Government Association study that though Nerheim promised to review office personnel; of 144 States Attorney employees interviewed, none were replaced from the previous administration. Stanton cites an atmosphere of arrogance and condescension in that office and believes the office needs a shake-up and could be run in a better way. Stanton believes that the true duty of a prosecutor, according to the American Bar Association Canon of Ethics, is to dispense justice and as such, the States Attorney needs to be interested in the truth.
Matt Stanton wants to challenge the culture and mindset of the current States Attorney’s Office with positive programs. Stanton has never worked for the State’s Attorney but has 2 models in mind for instituting reform for the office. The States Attorney’s Office in Winnebago County, Illinois and Dallas, Texas are examples where these offices were reformed. Stanton also wants to institute a deferred prosecution program in Lake County to provide an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders as crime has been on a downward trend for the last 10 years, yet the rate of incarceration is up. Additionally, Stanton wants to promote accountability in the States Attorney’s Office by basing raises and promotions on merit. In past years, the States Attorney’s Office was considered a proving ground for young attorneys to learn the law, but not a lifetime job as it is for many lawyers with the States Attorney Office now.