By Bob Skolnik
A longtime Riverside resident will soon be donning a judicial robe.
On May 9, the Illinois Supreme court announced that David Navarro has been appointed a Cook County Circuit Court Judge in the 4th Subcircuit to fill a vacancy caused by the retirement of Judge Thomas Davy.
Navarro will be sworn in on May 25 and will have to run for election for his position next year in the 4th Subcircuit which covers the townships of Worth, Stickney, Riverside, Palos and Proviso.
"It's humbling," Navarro said of being named a judge. "I'm going to work to earn the trust that the Supreme Court has put in me."
Navarro, an experienced prosecutor who specializes in public corruption cases, said he plans to run as a Democrat in next year's primary.
Since 2009, Navarro has served as the chief of the Public Integrity Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General's Office. Prior to joining the attorney general, he spent 15 years working for the Cook County States Attorney's Office, rising to become the supervisor of the Professional Standards Unit.
"We do statewide allegations of fraud including state employees, state vendors, not-for-profits who receive state funding," Navarro said of his work at the attorney general's office. "We handle those cases statewide, so I've prosecuted cases in Rock Island, in Saline County, in Sangamon County."
The 49-year-old Navarro grew up in Riverside and graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School in 1986, where competed as a distance runner in track and cross country. In 1990, he graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in English and graduated from the University of Iowa's College of Law in 1993.
He moved back to Riverside in 2000 and serves on the St. Mary Church finance committee. He has been active with the Boy Scout Troop 92, leading the Pinewood Derby program for local Cub Scouts for the past 10 years.
Having been a prosecutor for almost his entire career, Navarro knows how important the role of a judge is and decided that would something he would like to be.
"After appearing in front of judges and seeing just what the impact that a good judge can have on the parties, I thought that I would be grateful to have that opportunity," Navarro said.
The Illinois Supreme Court chose Navarro from a pool of 15 applicants after a special judicial screening committee co-chaired by retired federal United States District Court Judge Wayne Anderson and retired Illinois Appellate Judge Michael Gallagher.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis established the screening committee and made the final decision to appoint Navarro.
After briefly working for a bankruptcy firm immediately after graduating from law school, Navarro joined the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in 1994. He began by prosecuting misdemeanors and rose to become a felony prosecutor before he began to specialize in public corruption cases.
In the Professional Standards Division and at the Illinois Attorney General's Office, Navarro prosecuted corrupt police officers, other public employees and state contractors.
Navarro's most high-profile case was probably the prosecution of a highly-decorated Chicago police officer named Jerome Finnigan.
Finnigan had been a member of the since-disbanded Special Operations Section, an elite unit of the Chicago Police Department that targeted street crime. Finnigan and some fellow Special Operations officers began to rob and steal from drug dealers. They even did home invasions.
Navarro was part of State's Attorney's Office's lengthy investigation of the unit, which was done in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Finnigan ordered a hit, never carried out, on a fellow officer whom he suspected was cooperating with investigators.
Finnigan eventually pleaded guilty in federal court to the murder-for-hire scheme and to income tax evasion charges related to the robberies and is now serving a 12-year sentence in federal prison.
Navarro's wife, Kelly, whom he met when they were both prosecutors in the State's Attorney's Office, ran unsuccessfully for Riverside village trustee in 2009.
Navarro's parents Reynaldo and Guadalupe Navarro still live in Riverside. They immigrated to the United States from Mexico.
Navarro is a former president of the National Hispanic Prosecutors Bar Association and currently serves on the board of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois. He serves as an adjunct law professor at Loyola and John Marshall Law Schools.