Meet the Public Guardian

Robert F. Harris
Cook County Public Guardian

Biography

Robert F. Harris was appointed the Cook County Public Guardian by the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy C. Evans, on December 1, 2004. The Cook County Public Guardian’s Office is the only law office of its kind in the country that combines the legal representation of abused and neglected children, children in custody/divorce cases, and disabled elderly wards. In the Juvenile Division, the office represents abused, neglected or dependent children as their lawyers and guardians ad litem in Cook County’s juvenile court. In the Domestic Relations Division, the office acts as the child representative in hotly contested custody cases. In the Adult Guardianship Division, the office acts as guardian for mostly elderly, adult wards who are disabled due to Alzheimer’s or other cognitive functioning. As guardian of the estate, the office manages $70 million dollars of the wards’ assets and has recovered nearly $30 million of assets that were stolen from the wards prior to the office’s involvement. The staff of over 268 employees is comprised of approximately 130 lawyers, but also includes case managers, paralegals, bookkeepers, investigators, a nurse, a psychologist, support staff and others that help the office to fulfill its statutory responsibilities for their clients and wards.

Harris began his career with the Office of the Public Guardian as an entry level attorney in 1991. While in law school, he worked at the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic to represent residents of the Cabrini Green Housing Complex in civil, criminal and juvenile matters. Prior to going to law school, Harris worked for several years as an engineer with Westinghouse Electric Corporation and Honeywell, Inc. He graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and from DePaul College of Law with a Juris Doctorate.

Harris has locally and nationally presented, lectured or acted as a panelist on issues regarding children or the elderly for organizations such as Chicago Kent College of Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Northwestern University Law School, DePaul University College of Law, University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, National Association of Counsel for Children, Annie E. Casey Foundation/Casey Family Services, Chicago Bar Association, American Bar Association, and National Black Child Development Institute.

Harris has appeared in both print and broadcast media including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Defender, Chicago Law Bulletin, WVON-AM, CNN, Prime Time, ABC, NBC, FOX, CLTV, Chicago Tonight and N’Digo Magapaper. He has received several awards and certificates for his work with children and the elderly from organizations such as DePaul University College of Law (Outstanding Service to the Profession Alumni Award), Reclaim A Youth Foundation, Cook County Juvenile Court Child Protection Division, Habilitative Systems, Inc., Cook County Bar Association (Ida B. Platt Award), National Association for Elder Law Attorneys (John J. Regan Writing Award) and was recognized as a community leader in Who’s Who in Black Chicago. He has served on several boards and was a 2007 Fellow in Leadership Greater Chicago.