On the move again: Pratt leaving Public Defender’s Office to become Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge

Pratt and Jeremy Coleman

Public Defender Christopher Pratt, left, talks with Jeremy Coleman during his arraignment in December 2023 in Adams County Circuit Court. | David Adam

QUINCY — Christopher Pratt didn’t even get to use the new business cards he ordered.

Pratt, an attorney in the Adams County Public Defender’s Office since 2016, halted his campaign to run for state’s attorney in Hancock County when he was promoted from deputy chief defender to chief public defender in February after Todd Nelson resigned.

“I’ve just been whiting out the word ‘deputy’ and writing in ‘chief,’” Pratt said on Friday. “It’s not quite centered, but it gets the job done.”

After less than three months on the job, Pratt has yet another position.

Justice Lisa Holder White and the Illinois Supreme Court announced late Friday afternoon the appointment of Pratt as an at-large Circuit Judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Adams County.

Pratt, 46, will fill the vacancy created by the Illinois Courts Commission’s ruling in February to remove Judge Robert Adrian from the bench. The commission ruled that the Judicial Inquiry Board proved “by clear and convincing evidence” that Adrian gave untruthful testimony before the Board constituting “willful misconduct” in his handling of the Drew Clinton case in January 2022.

Pratt’s appointment is effective June 10 and will conclude on Dec. 7, 2026, after the November 2026 general election. 

“Mr. Pratt has served as a valuable member of the Adams County legal community for many years,” Justice Holder White said in a press release. “His experience, integrity, intellect and temperament make him well suited for this position.” 

A seven-person screening committee was formed to assess the qualifications of eight people who applied for the position. Josh Jones, an assistant state’s attorney in Adams County, withdrew his name from consideration for the position when he was appointed in late April to fill the associate circuit judge position that will be created with the retirement of Judge Debra Wellborn on July 2.

Pratt admitted he was concerned that his recent appointment as chief public defender might be a detriment to his application to become a judge.

“It was brought up in one of my interviews,” he said. “All I could say was that I don’t get to choose when opportunities become available. I’m going to do my best to get in the best positions that I can, and when those opportunities become available, I’m going to reach for them. I’m honored I’m humbled that I’m going to be given this opportunity after having just been given (the chief public defender’s) opportunity.

“I really don’t know how to express it. I’ve done what I can for the public defender’s office to try to keep it as a quality office and continue with quality people while bringing in additional quality people.”

Pratt said recently hired legal assistants started in the office this past week. He recently hired Betsy Bier and Kevin Bross to fill vacant public defender positions in the office, and he hopes to fill one more position before he leaves.

“I feel a little bad for them because I just hired them and now I’m leaving,” he said. “There were sort of mixed reactions in my office (on Friday). I think people were happy for me, but they may not be happy to see me leaving. I’ve been in the same position. We’ve had other talented attorneys leave our office over the last couple of years, and every time someone’s left, I’ve been saddened by that.

“I think there has been progress. That’s been a positive thing. I don’t think removing me from the equation will really impede the progress of the office. That’s the point of having a solid staff. While I am sad to leave, I’m confident that the office will be in good shape and will continue to offer high-level services to our clients and to the community. (The office has) been there long before me. It’ll be there long after me.”

Pratt’s investiture is scheduled for June 10 at the Adams County Courthouse.

Friday’s announcement gave Pratt a moment to reminisce about his professional career. He got a late start in beginning his work in law school, graduating at age 30. He spent 12 years working at Elder’s, a popular restaurant at 18th and State from 1970 until June 2019.

“It’s been a journey, but it’s all part of the story,” he said. “I’ve never focused too much on what might happen in the future. There’s always another file, there’s always another client, there’s always more work in front of you. So this may take a little while to sink in. I really appreciate where I am from and what I’ve done, and I didn’t get there alone. I’ve had tremendous support from my family, colleagues, co-workers and bosses.”

Before joining the public defender’s office, Pratt practiced law at Schmiedeskamp, Robertson, Neu & Mitchell LLP from 2009 to 2016. He has taught as an adjunct professor at Quincy University and Rutgers University School of Law and as a guest lecturer at the University of Illinois College of Law. 

Pratt earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois-Springfield and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law. His professional affiliations include the Adams County Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association. 

Christopher Pratt was interviewed by David Adam and Brittany Boll for Club Muddy on Dec. 15, 2023.

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