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The Civil Liberties Committee of the Chicago Council of Lawyers has issued a statement on the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into a pattern and practice of misuse of force by the Chicago Police Department. Download the statement here.

Has your membership in the Chicago Council of Lawyers lapsed? Now is the perfect time to renew and join in the Collaboration for Justice with the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice.

In 2015, CCL members, working with Chicago Appleseed staff, with pro bono council from law firms like Latham & Watkins and DLA Piper and with court staff, accomplished a lot. You can read our full annual report here, but some highlights include:

  • Graduating the first participants in the ACT (Access to Community Treatment) Court, an innovative, life-changing program that provides alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders with a history of substance abuse;
  • Ensuring that the courts follow procedures enabling indigent defendants to exercise their right to legal representation under the Sixth Amendment;
  • Helping enact a pilot program to field-test drugs, which will dramatically reduce the time defendants are incarcerated before determining probable cause; and
  • Planning for a new consolidated Domestic Relations court that bolsters the rights of children to get the child support they need, regardless of the marital status of their parents;
  • Preparing a proposal to bring digital recording equipment to high-volume courtrooms with a large number of self-represented litigants.

CCL members provide support and direction to court reform projects through involvement in the various advisory committees and also have opportunities to draft reports and proposals for reform, as well as editorials on behalf of the committees.

Finally, the Chicago Council of Lawyers remains an important voice in the evaluation of judicial candidates with our evaluations being called “particularly thorough” by the Chicago Tribune. As a member of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, you can contribute to this vital project. Be part of Chicago’s public interest bar associate and renew your membership or join today!

dual logoThe Chicago Council of Lawyers and Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice host their annual luncheon on Friday. You can read a copy of the program report here. We hope to see you at the luncheon and thank you for your membership.

The Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC) is a joint group composed of members of the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers. The CJAC has been engaged in a two-year project to ensure that indigent criminal defendants in Chicago’s felony preliminary hearing courtrooms receive the public defense required by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by Illinois law.

Our report is now available here: Ensuring the Public Defense of Indigent Criminal Defendants in Cook County. There is also an Executive Summary available.

ApplesThe Annual Luncheon is October 16, 2015 at Maggiano’s Banquets on Grand in Chicago. The reception begins at 11:30, with the lunch program beginning at 12:00.

This year, we are honoring the success of the ground-breaking Access to Community Treatment Court with remarks from a graduate from the first year of the drug treatment program which diverts defendants from incarceration. Judge Mary Colleen Roberts will accept the award on behalf of the program and discuss its impact.

The ACT Court identifies defendants in need of drug, mental health and other social services in order to divert them into appropriate treatment programs. Participants in the program complete a probation term of eighteen months. The probation includes random drug-testing, intensive residential or outpatient therapy and concludes with a transition to community-based social services, such as job training and interim housing.

We will also be honoring Miner Barnhill & Galland for the firm’s dedication to civil rights work and protecting the public interest. Founded in 1971, Miner, Barnhill & Galland stands out for the individual commitment of the attorneys to public service, as well as the firm’s litigation work in support of subsidized housing, in opposition to racially-gerrymandering in voting districts, and against predatory lending practices.

Reserve your ticket today!

By Gordon Waldron.

Chicago Needs to Report More Comprehensive Data About How It Processess Complaints About Police Officers.

The Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs Does Not Report Data That Would Allow The Public To Evaluate Whether It Is Processing Complaints of Police Misconduct Fairly.

–Gordon Waldron

Processing of complaints against police in Chicago is a Tale of Two Cities. The two cities are the Chicago Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), and the Bureau of Internal Affairs of the Chicago Police Department (BIA). By ordinance, IPRA is responsible for investigating complaints alleging excessive force, coercion with a threat of violence, bias-based verbal abuse, and domestic violence by an officer. All other complaints against the police are within BIA’s jurisdiction, including complaints of illegal searches and seizures, improper arrests, verbal abuse, coercion and criminal misconduct. IPRA is an open book compared to BIA in disclosing how it processes complaints. The information that BIA makes available on its webpage does not allow the public to evaluate how well it performs its duty of investigating and making decisions as to complaints by the public of police misconduct.


  • IPRA is required by ordinance to produce and make public quarterly reports disclosing the number of complaints it has received, investigated, and on which it made findings. BIA is not so required.
  • IPRA’s quarterly reports also summarize the factual bases (without naming names) of the complaints it has sustained, and state the discipline it has recommended for each sustained finding. BIA does neither.
  • IPRA is relatively transparent about how it processes complaints. BIA is not.


BIA’s 2013 annual report lists the number of complaints that it receives within its jurisdiction each year and the prior year, broken down into 15 categories. It also graphs that same data, and graphs it again as to the top 5 categories of complaints. It also reports on separation and suspension decisions of the Chicago Police Board. But it reports nothing about what it does with the complaints. It does not report how many it investigates per year or what its backlog of complaints is. It does not report how many findings it made or their categories. If you were to try to design an annual report to make it difficult for members of the City Council or the public to evaluate whether BIA is doing a good job of investigating complaints of police misconduct, it would be hard to design a more confusing one.


It turns out, however, that since at least 2004, the Chicago Police Superintendent has been submitting the Chicago Police Board monthly data on the number and categories of its findings on complaints. But you can’t find any link, much less reference, on BIA’s web page to that information. To its credit, the Chicago Police Board recently started posting that data on its web page.

You can find this data by going to the Chicago Police Board home page and clicking on “Public Meetings.” You will see a topic called “Regular Meetings.” For the May 2015 meeting, click on the term “Blue Book.” Then scroll down to page 14 of that document.

When either BIA or IPRA concludes that there is sufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action, they enter a “sustained” finding on the complaint. In 2014 BIA reported that 24% of its findings were in the “sustained” category, while IPRA reported that only 14% if its findings were in that category. You might conclude from this data that BIA was more pro-complainant than was IPRA, but you would be wrong. Here’s why:

  • About 40% of complaints that BIA investigates allege violations of the internal personnel and operational rules of the police department as to such matters as sick leave. Supervisors (not members of the public) typically file these complaints against subordinates. They are simpler and less significant than the complaints the public files alleging illegal searches and seizures, improper arrests, verbal abuse, coercion or criminal misconduct.
  • BIA transfers the responsibility of investigating some of its complaints to the various police districts.


Thus when BIA reports that 24% of its findings were sustained, it lumps together findings of personnel/operational violations with all the other types of violations, and it lumps together findings made by the police districts with findings it has made. It could be that all of the “sustained” findings found personnel/operational violations, or were all made by the police districts, not BIA. There is no way for the public to know. By lumping together data about different types of decisions, BIA hides important information. And it reveals no information that would allow the public to evaluate how BIA evaluates complaints of violations filed by members of the public against police officers.

Recent events in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York remind us that the process of investigating complaints of police misconduct must be both fair and transparent. BIA fails the transparency test.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers works cooperatively with Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice on social justice issues through the Collaboration for Justice.  For a report on how this Collaboration works, how you can get involved, and a description of some of the 2014 accomplishments, please see our Annual Report for 2014. For more information, please contact us at

MCLE on the Administrative Process for Child Support Enforcement

Chicago Council of Lawyers and Chicago Appleseed will be putting on a free CLE panel discussion about the administrative process for child support enforcement. Latham & Watkins have generously offered to host the event, February 27th from 2:30 to 5:30, while Badesch Abramovitch are generously sponsoring the reception (at Latham & Watkins) after the panel.

Nicole McKinnon of Badesch Abramovitch will be the moderator; the panel includes Judge Pamela Loza, Pam Lowry of DHS, and a representative from the State’s Attorneys office. The panel will provide a working understanding of (1) why a case would proceed administratively rather than judicially; (2) how the administrative process works to initiate an order; (3) what administrative enforcement remedies exist; (4) the intersection of administrative and judicial orders and jurisdictional issues.

The CLE is free, but you must rsvp to attend.

Chicago Appleseed/National Appleseed Spring Award Reception

The Appleseed  Spring Award Reception is scheduled for Thursday March 12, from 6-9pm at River Roast (315 N LaSalle). We will be honoring James F. Rogers, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Orbitz Worldwide; Anne Geraghty Helms, Pro Bono Coordinator, DLA Piper; and the law firm of Loevy & Loevy for commitment to justice and systemic reform.

If you’d like to sponsor the event, please contact Nakia Kelly ( at National Appleseed or Elizabeth Monkus ( at Chicago Appleseed. If you’re interested in purchasing an individual ticket to the event, we will have ticket information soon.

By: Elizabeth Monkus


Chicago Appleseed and Chicago Council of Lawyers are signatories on an amicus brief submitted in Williams-Yulee vs. Florida Bar before the Supreme Court this term. We join 9 other state and local nonpartisan organizations committed to creating and maintaining an ethical judicial system and promoting the confidence of the public in that system in the brief. Each state represented by a signatory has a judicial canon similar to the one at stake in Williams-Yulee. Canon 7, rule 67(B)(2) specifically prohibits judicial candidates in Illinois from personally soliciting or accepting campaign contributions.

Williams-Yulee was a candidate for judicial office in Florida when she personally signed campaign solicitations in violation of Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, which applies to attorneys running for judicial office. Williams-Yulee has mounted a First Amendment challenge to the restriction, arguing her right to ask for campaign donations personally is protected speech.

The Amici argue, as Chicago Appleseed and the Chicago Council of Lawyers consistently maintain, that the “judiciary’s legitimacy depends almost entirely on its reputation for fairness and the public’s confidence in its impartiality and independence.” Judicial canons and rules constraining campaign activity by judicial candidates are critical in promoting the appearance of impartiality in judges by insulating them from perception of quid pro quo between campaign donors and elected officials.

Although the personal political activity of judicial candidates requires protection under the Constitution, regulation of judicial campaigns is necessary and can be balanced against those interests in order to “properly protect the judicial process from being misjudged in the minds of the public” Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U. S. 559, 565 (1965). Judges are unique as elected officials in that their election must not be predicated upon what they intend to do in their office-a judge must be elected on her competence, impartiality and ability to rule in accordance with the law, regardless of personal political opinion. Regulation of the campaign activity personally handled by judicial candidates helps maintain this barrier in an appropriately narrowly-tailored way.

We thank the Brennan Center and the Philadelphia law firm of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP for facilitating our participation in this brief. Other signatories on the brief are:

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