40 Under Forty 2023

C hristopher Wells had already built a thriving legal career before joining the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, where he now serves as chief of the public interest division. As an associate at Jenner & Block, for instance, he helped obtain a cli- ent’s release from custody after that client had spent 27 years in prison. He also earned the Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Pro Bono Award in honor of the active pro bono practice he maintained at the firm. Wells has only further cemented his reputation as a top attorney during his time at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Here, he has worked on several complex matters that have had profound legal and policy implications. This includes serving as a member of the negotiating team for the Chicago Police Department’s consent decree, where he is now the plain- tiff’s lead counsel overseeing enforcement of this decree. He has also litigated precedent-setting cases to protect the rights of workers, wom- en and people with disabilities. The attorney general in 2019 selected Wells to serve as Division Chief of the Public Interest Division of the office, where he oversees seven bureaus, including Civil Rights, Workplace Rights, Antitrust, Disability Rights, Tobacco Enforcement, Public Utilities and Special Litigation. Recently, Wells has taken the lead in defending Illinois’ restrictions on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines against Second Amend- ment challenges in six federal lawsuits. Wells is no stranger to high- stakes constitutional litigation: he successfully defended the Governor’s Covid-19 executive orders in the first two federal lawsuits challenging their constitutionality. Cara Hendrickson, executive director of Chicago-based Impact for Equity, worked with Wells when she served as chief of the Public Inter- est Division at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, before Wells suc- ceeded her in that position. “Chris is talented, has terrific reasoning abilities and applies sound judgment,” Hendrickson said. “He is both relentless and thorough. Beyond his outstanding legal skills, he approaches new problems with vigor. Chris is routinely engaged with and challenged by others, and his leadership and substantial contributions are consistently well-received.” Hendrickson worked closely with Wells in a case filed by the state of Illinois to address the conclusions in the U.S. Department of Justice’s January 2017 report that the Chicago Police Department has engaged in a pattern of unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Hendrickson said that Wells has been involved in every aspect of the case, including serving as one of the team’s lead negotiators of the con- sent decree in the case on the issues of use of force, officer wellness, data management and the monitoring and enforcement process. Wells’ litigation successes are numerous, too. He oversaw negotia- tions for consent decrees resulting in significant injunctive relief and the highest-ever monetary penalties obtained by the Workplace Rights Bureau in a race discrimination case. He also supervised the drafting and filing of a first-of-its-kind civil lawsuit under Illinois’ hate crime law.


AGE 39

FIRM Office of the Illinois Attorney General

LAW SCHOOL Stanford Law School

AREA OF PRACTICE Public interest litigation, constitutional law


He is both relentless and thorough.”



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