Joseph E. Birkett grew up on Chicago’s West Side along with his nine brothers and sisters. His father died when Joe was just thirteen years old but with the strength and guidance of his mother, the entire family worked hard to pull through the tough times.
Following his graduation from St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School, Joe attended St. Phillip High School in Chicago which closed in 1969 after his freshman year. Joe then accepted a football scholarship from Aurora Central Catholic where he went on to become the Team Captain and Most Valuable Player. He was also named to the National Honor Society for his academic excellence. Joe accepted another football scholarship from North Central College in Naperville where he again was voted the Team Captain. During his college days, Joe won the Chicago Golden Gloves and Chicago Park District Light-Heavyweight Boxing Championships. In 1977, Joe graduated with honors, earning Degrees in Political Science and English.
Joe married his high school sweetheart Patti Hill who helped him finance his law school tuition while she worked at AT&T Bell Labs. While at John Marshall Law School, Joe placed first in the Intramural Moot Court Competition and was named to the school’s Constitutional Moot Court Team. Joe received his Law Degree in 1981 and was admitted to the Illinois Bar later that same year.
Joe became an Assistant State’s Attorney in DuPage County in October 1981 and advanced rapidly through the Criminal Division. In 1985, he was promoted to Chief of the Major Crimes Unit, prosecuting drug delivery cases. The next year Joe was named Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. He served from 1991 until October of 1996 as the Chief of the Criminal Division, supervising more than fifty prosecutors, ten investigators, victim/witness advocates, law clerks and paralegals. He has tried over one hundred felony cases to verdict including death penalty jury trials.
On October 1, 1996, Joe was sworn in as DuPage County State’s Attorney, completing the unexpired term of Jim Ryan who was elected Illinois Attorney General, and Anthony Peccarelli who was appointed State’s Attorney in January of 1995. One month later, Joe was elected to the position for a four-year term. He was re-elected in 2000, 2004 and again in 2008 for four-year terms.
Joe is a teacher, a frequent lecturer across the nation, and an award-winning administrator. He has been responsible for initiating policy and procedures and for training junior prosecutors. Throughout his career, Joe has received numerous awards and commendations for prosecutorial excellence from State’s Attorneys, law enforcement agencies and victims. He is a Past President of the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation, and is also a member of the American and DuPage County Bar Associations, DuPage American Inns of Court, Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity, the Illinois House of Representatives Capital Punishment Task Force, the Illinois Governor’s Criminal Code Rewrite Commission and is an adjunct faculty member at National Louis University in Wheaton. In addition, Joe was also the 2008 President of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association, is a Commissioner for CLEAR (Criminal Law Edit and Reform) and Vice-Chairman of the Illinois Appellate Prosecutors Board of Governors.
Joe donates time to coaching basketball, boxing and baseball. He and his wife Patti have been residents of DuPage County for twenty-five years. They live in Wheaton with their two children and are members of St. Daniel’s Church.