The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers
Someone you should know: David Koski
In early May 2004, a staff meeting was held for the employees of the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office. The meeting was titled simply "LAK," an acronym for Life After Koski. The topic of the meeting was the transition that would occur within the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office subsequent to the retirement of First Deputy State's Attorney David "Dave" Koski in August 2004, after 32 years of service. Although the purpose of the meeting may have been to look to the office's future, life in the past at the State's Attorney's Office under Koski's guidance was the epitome of professionalism, efficient management, and team-oriented skills training.
Dave Koski was born in DeKalb, Illinois, and moved to Kankakee at the age of 12. In high school, Koski had not yet entertained the thought of a career in law and was focusing more on the studies of math and chemistry. While in high school, he played on the tennis team and earned money at a job with a local photography studio.
Following graduation from high school, Koski enrolled at Purdue University with plans to major in chemistry. It was in his undergraduate studies that Koski began to move away from the science and math track and focus on English and social sciences. Koski's activities while an undergraduate included membership in Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, where he served as president for one year, and major involvement in the Wesley Foundation, which provided him with the opportunity to serve a term as state president of Methodist Campus Ministries. Koski graduated with a degree in English from Purdue University in 1966. He then enrolled in law school at the University of Illinois, where he paid his tuition through work as a resident hall advisor.
After graduating from law school, Koski decided to take a non-legal job with the Chicago advertising firm Leo Burnett. His acceptance of the advertising job was due to his indecision over what to do with his law degree and his anticipation that he would be drafted into the armed services.
As expected, Koski was drafted into the Army in April 1970 and reported to basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The Army assigned him to the Judge Advocate's Office, where he served stateside as a judicial advocate until he was honorably discharged in 1971.
With his military duty satisfied, Koski began his search for a legal job. Responding to an ad in the Illinois Bar Journal placed by then Winnebago County State's Attorney Phillip Reinhard, Koski began his career as an Assistant State's Attorney for Winnebago County on January 3, 1972.
Koski's first assignment was to the misdemeanor unit. Within his first year in the office, Koski had written two appellate briefs and had argued one case before the Second District Appellate Court. His second appellate argument fell on a day in early 1973 when a blizzard hit northern Illinois. Koski recalled that he made the trek to Elgin in a Volkswagen Beetle, only to find that the defense waived oral argument.
As his work progressed at the State's Attorney's Office, Koski quickly grew to take pleasure in the job and knew early on that he would make it his career. Koski points out that he never considered leaving the office in over 32 years and never sent a resume elsewhere. Koski reveals, however, that early in his career he entertained the thought of prosecuting in northern Wisconsin where (alluding to his favorite pastime) the fishing is better. By his third year in the office, Koski had married his wife, Gail. They would raise four children, Lisa, John, Katie, and Daniel.
In his third year with the State's Attorney's Office, Koski moved to the felony unit. While in that unit, Koski quickly became one of the lead trial attorneys. From 1974 to 1988, Koski's focus was strictly jury trials. He tried over 150 jury trials during this period, encompassing violent crimes to inchoate crimes and including more than 20 murder trials. Koski was lead or co-counsel on most of Winnebago County's highest-profile criminal cases in the last 30 years, including the trial of mass-murderer Raymond Lee Stewart and the trials of the murderers of slain Rockford Police Officers Randall Blank and Kevin Rice. Although Koski will not admit to it, any of his peers will quickly tell you that he is a legendary trial attorney in Winnebago County.
After 14 years of felony trial work, Koski began the second half of his career at the State's Attorney's Office in 1988 when Winnebago County State's Attorney Paul Logli implemented new policies and management procedures in the office to deal with the rapidly growing case load and the need for more continuing legal education for the office's attorneys. Logli promoted Koski to the position of First Deputy State's Attorney, and Koski transitioned from full-time lead trial attorney to full-time manager, educator, and team leader of the office's continually growing number of attorneys. Koski stated, "one of the highlights of my career has been the implementation of quality control concepts for attorneys in our office." Koski is known for his dedication in training young lawyers by focusing on the value of constantly enhancing their trial skills through development and design of a trial plan.
Koski has worked with over 200 attorneys at the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office during his career. He has trained almost all of the current attorneys at the office and states that he is very proud of the way his subordinates show "equality in the treatment of defendants." Koski takes great pride in the office and lauds his co-workers. "One of the more fulfilling aspects of work at the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office is the team atmosphere." Koski goes on to say, "I will miss the collaboration with the attorneys and the sense of feeling that I am part of the team."
When asked about his lasting impact on the State's Attorney's Office, Koski hopes it will be that his interaction with attorneys helped them to approach legal issues fairly and to seek justice in a fair manner. He points to a great history of integrity at the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office and is proud to have worked for three different State's Attorneys who have upheld that integrity. He further notes that prosecutors, as a profession, are continually under an unfair assault in the media, and the only way to counter this is through setting an example of equality and veracity.
Koski states that he is leaving the office in order to take advantage of retirement and "not because work is no longer enjoyable." Although Koski's service to the community for over 32 years as a prosecutor is admirable, he hopes to continue his service at Roscoe United Methodist Church where he has been chairman of the administrative board, building committee, and finance committee, as well as a member of the choir. Koski also plans on traveling with his wife and indulging in his two favorite pastimes, fishing and reading.
"Dave Koski has been a prosecutor's prosecutor," says Winnebago County State's Attorney Paul Logli. "He has also enjoyed the respect of local lawyers and judges as a considerate and decent person. I have no doubt he could have left this office and accepted an appointment to the local bench and made more money with less stress. Instead, he has done a job that nobody else could have done as well. The People could not have had a better representative and advocate. We will miss him."