About Diane

Diane Marie Pezanoski for Cook County Judge

Hi!  I am Diane Marie Pezanoski and I am running for Cook County Judge in the Democratic Primary on March 17, 2020.

I have received positive ratings from all of the participating bar associations, including a “Highly Recommended” rating from the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, a “Well Qualified” rating from the Chicago Council of Lawyers, and a “Highly Qualified” rating from the Chicago Bar Association.

I have over 30 years of experience working as a lawyer.  After graduating from Northwestern University Law School in 1985, I worked for three years as a litigation associate at a private law firm, handling complex antitrust, federal securities, and commercial and contracts cases.

Law school graduation granma Jane with Diane Pezanoski for Cook County Judge and family

Although I was successful at the private law firm, I was drawn to public service and sought out a position with the City of Chicago Law Department, where I have served Chicago and its residents for over 30 years.  I started as an Assistant Corporation Counsel in 1988 and, through my hard work and dedication, steadily rose through the ranks to my present position as a Deputy Corporation Counsel.

In my current position, I supervise 25 attorneys in the Aviation, Environmental, Regulatory and Contracts Division of the City Law Department, which handles a wide variety of practice areas, including aviation, environmental, construction, commercial, contracts, constitutional, false claims, and regulatory areas.

During my City career, I have worked on many significant cases, including the 2011 challenge by the incumbent master concessionaire to the City’s award of a contract to a new master concessionaire at O’Hare Airport’s International Terminal, and the successful defense against challenges to the City’s adult use ordinances, and ordinances banning advertising boats on the Chicago River and regulating news boxes on City streets.

In my current position, I devote much of my time to pursuing legal action against City contractors who defraud the City by falsifying invoices and other records, and contractors who do not fulfill their contractual obligations to the City on big construction projects and other contracts.

I have handled trials and other evidentiary hearings in State and Federal courts and various administrative tribunals, including first-chairing a two-month Federal trial in which we successfully defended the City’s affirmative action promotions of Black, Hispanic, and female captains and lieutenants in the Chicago Police Department.  We won that case when we proved that the Chicago Police Department can only operate successfully if its upper ranks reflect the rich diversity of Chicago residents.

I have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.  I co-founded the Law Department’s Committee on Inclusion and Diversity, and spearheaded continuing legal education sessions on diversity and implicit bias for City attorneys.  I also was the Law Department’s lead attorney on the effort to extend the City’s Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises program ordinance when it was set to sunset on December 31, 2015, and I am working on the next extension for that program.

I am very involved in community activities, serving as secretary of the board for my neighborhood association, the Sauganash Park Community Association, as well as a member of the board of my congregation.  I also volunteer at the Amicus Poloniae monthly legal clinic, which provides legal services primarily to Polish-speaking low income individuals.

Diane Marie Pezanoski for Cook County Judge

I have an outstanding academic record, with a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1985, a Master’s Degree in European Studies from the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium in 1982, and a strong undergraduate performance at colleges here and abroad, including the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction in 1980.  All of my studies and travels were funded with scholarships, grants, and my own earnings.

My personal background and life experiences also have enhanced my qualifications to be a judge.  I grew up as one of nine children, and the oldest of eight daughters, in a working class family, and attended Catholic and then public schools.  Despite our large family and limited means, my parents found room in our house for ten foster children, one or two at a time, throughout my childhood.  From the age of twelve, I have always worked to help pay for personal items and schooling, because the resources were stretched so thin in our house.

Diane Marie Pezanoski for Cook County Judge

I am especially proud of my Polish heritage.  My grandmother, Janina Anastazya, came to the United States with my great grandparents, when she was just six years old.  My grandfather, Zygmunt, was the first of 12 children born shortly after his parents, Peter and Paulina Pezanoski, immigrated to the United States from Poland.  I grew up making Kielbasa and Kolaczkis with my grandma, and performing traditional Polish folk dances with various groups throughout my high school and college years.

Although neither of my parents attended college, education was very important to them, and they made it very clear that they expected all of us to attend.  I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, but all the rest followed and have one or more degrees.