As a criminal defense attorney, Erica Mynarich has gained a reputation not only for her success in the courtroom, but for her belief in the humanity of her clients. Mynarich “treats them as the humans they are and ensures that we don’t lose sight of our nation’s values even when we don’t care for the people the Constitution protects,” wrote her nominator, attorney Ashley Norgard. “Erica knows that our system is only as strong as the weakest person it protects.”
What are your proudest career accomplishments?
I had a client who was diagnosed with cancer and did not want to know his prognosis. He had no criminal history, so the judge had discretion to sentence him below the 10-year mandatory minimum. I provided the court medical records showing my client had exceeded his life expectancy, but none of that was discussed in court in front of my client. The judge sentenced my client to time served. Less than a month later, my client died at home with his family instead of alone in prison.
What inspired you to get involved in the public service or justice system?
My first year of law school, my criminal class visited a prison in Illinois. I had no interest in defense work up until that point. But I walked out of that prison tour thinking that those men were going to be better equipped to hurt me when they get out than when they went in. From that day, I knew I wanted to help people stay out of prison and get the services that will actually make us all safer in the long run.
What is something that would surprise people about you?
I have a mounted squirrel dressed like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, yet my favorite Justice was actually Justice Scalia.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is making my clients’ lives a little bit better. One unique way I do this is by sending holiday cards to my current and former clients in prison, so they know someone is still thinking of them. I love sending cards for almost every holiday, and many clients call or write back to thank me and update me on their progress.