Illinois’ New Senate President Don Harmon Leaving Law Firm Job

At a time when leading legislators’ private side jobs are increasingly under scrutiny, newly elevated state Senate President Don Harmon will step down as a partner at the law firm Burke Burns & Pinelli, Ltd. to focus full-time on his new leadership position.

Harmon told “Chicago Tonight” on Wednesday he met with the firm’s founding partner Mary Patricia Burns on Tuesday to discuss his exit. 

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“We began the discussion of me stepping away from the practice in order to devote more time to the Senate presidency,” said Harmon, a Democrat who represents Illinois’ 39th District, which covers parts of Oak Park. “We’re working out all those details but I’ve recognized that I just don’t have the time capacity to be a good senate president and to practice law the way I practiced it.”

According to the firm’s website, Harmon joined Burke Burns & Pinelli, Ltd. in 2005 and primarily works in corporate law and civil litigation.

Harmon’s decision follows several federal investigations aimed at Democratic lawmakers in Illinois and Chicago.

One of those legislators is former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, who resigned two months after the FBI raided his offices in September. An unredacted search warrant showed investigators obtaining “documents from Burke Burns law firm,” Harmon’s firm. 

“I have no reason to think it was anything but an empty file folder,” Harmon said on “Chicago Tonight.” “And to my knowledge, the firm has no involvement whatsoever.”

Harmon was first elected to the Illinois Senate in 2002. 

When former Illinois Senate President John Cullerton unexpectedly announced his retirement in November, he triggered a race between two veteran lawmakers in Springfield: Harmon and state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, the current Senate majority leader.

After narrow votes by their state Senate colleagues and hours of closed-door negotiations on Sunday, Harmon emerged onto the Senate floor as the chamber’s new president, with his opponent’s blessing.

“I can’t think of anyone else who would do a wonderful job leading our caucus,” said Lightford. “And I look forward to working with him in unity.”

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