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Shannon Stokes

Deputy General Counsel/Ethics Officer, Black Women Lawyers’ Association

Shannon Stokes's profile photo
Location: Chicago, IL
Start Year: 2022
TRHT Pillar: Economy


Shannon Stokes is a Black 20+ year attorney with extensive experience in race, law, and policy. Her entire legal career has been in government. In every position she has held, she has advocated for racial equity. From prosecutions to police board hearings to her current position, she has fought against disparate treatment of BIPOC.

She is currently the interim deputy general of administration/ethics officer of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). She is the sole employment/labor counsel for the state agency that administers the Medicaid and the Child Support Enforcement programs. She develops and manages ethics and compliance programs for this $26 billion agency, its 2,200 employees, and its boards and commissions. She manages all department personnel litigation and discrimination complaints and conducts whistleblower and retaliation investigations based on employment discrimination complaints.

Shannon is the HFS Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce Internal Workgroup co-chair. In this role, she creates and recommends targeted messaging promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; helps develop a mentoring program to foster more diversity and inclusion in HFS leadership and provides diverse participants exposure to HFS; researches processes to prioritize the hiring, promotion, and retention of diverse candidates; trains hundreds of state employees on DEI; acts as a liaison between HFS and the State of Illinois chief equity officer; and advises HFS leadership on the importance of DEI training and its impact on employment and discrimination complaints. She also drafted the department-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion interview question for all job titles.

Future Focus

Shannon’s professional experience, as well as her personal mission, call her to be a bridge between those who unknowingly benefit from white supremacy/racism and those who bear the burden of it. She views racism as systemic and a systematic cancer that can only be eradicated by the active participation of those it benefits. With grace, Shannon conducts a provocative and unapologetic DEI training to bridge the racial divide and engender authentic and safe conversation. She excels at getting participants to understand how certain actions eradicate the humanity of marginalized and underrepresented groups, thereby causing extreme hurt and trauma. Shannon explains that we must address the hurt and the trauma to begin an authentic healing process and to unify our community.

Post-Institute: Transformative Action Plans

Shannon’s objectives focus on promoting awareness and understanding of implicit bias, assessing personal biases, and recognizing efforts to manage biases in the justice system. She focuses specifically on the impact of implicit biases on behavior and their relevance in jury selection. She plans to lead mandatory training for chief judges, judicial organizations, bar associations, prosecutors, public defenders, offices, and initiatives to ensure unbiased jury instructions and raise the cost of jury participation through the #SummonedAndServed Social Media Campaign.

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