Anita Alvarez

AGE: 52
OCCUPATION: State’s attorney, Cook County

It’s hard to understate the authority to choose who is and isn’t prosecuted—and to significantly influence the wrongful conviction process. But Alvarez’s sway doesn’t stop there. Last fall, she granted power to the Town of Cicero to pursue civil litigation against gang members in a radical and unprecedented pilot program. Politically, she hasn’t yet flexed much muscle, but her position alone lands her in the top half of our list of local power players.

MORE ON ALVAREZ: The Professor and the Prosecutor: Anita Alvarez’s office turns up the heat on David Protess’s Medill Innocence Project

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Photograph: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune