Blog Archive

Blog Archive : September 2009

Miguel Alvarez posted a blog on Sep 29, 2009

Supreme Court to Hear Lewis Vs. City of Chicago

On 9/29/09 the Supreme Court decided to hear our appeal.  Because there are over 6500 people in the plaintiff class, we regret that we cannot speak to every class member about the appeal.  The appeal will focus on the following question:  whether a plaintiff may bring a lawsuit challenging a discriminatory employment test within 300 days after the employer used the test to hire employees, although the employer previously scored the test and announced its results. We will post the briefs here once the briefs have been filed.

Miguel Alvarez posted a blog on Sep 22, 2009

Jury Awards Chicago Family $520,000 in Hate Crime / Fair Housing Case

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP announced that a jury has awarded a Chicago family of Puerto Rican descent $520,000 in damages in a hate crime and fair housing case filed against their neighbor earlier this year.  A Cook County jury awarded the Jesse and Alisa Rodriguez family, including their two children, $140,000 in compensatory damages and $380,000 in punitive damages against their neighbor, Joseph Marrone, for violations of the Illinois Hate Crime Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act, and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The parties live on the northwest side of Chicago.

Miguel Alvarez posted a blog on Sep 13, 2009

CLC Files Federal Sexual Harassment Case

CLC filed a sexual harassment case on behalf of Petra Castro, an immigrant worker who was sexually harassed on the job and later fired when she complained about the sexual harassment. CLC is litigating the case with Jose Behar and Christina Siepel of member law firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym. For more information, please contact Laurie Wardell, at lwardell@clccrul.org. 

Clara Kent posted a blog on Sep 3, 2009

Jury Awards Chicago Family $520,000 in Hate Crime / Fair Housing Lawsuit Against Neighbor

 

For Immediate Release
September 3, 2009 
 
Contact:
Betsy Shuman-Moore, 312.630.9744 
bshuman-moore@clccrul.org
 
Jason Milch, 312.846.9647
milchj@jaffeassociates.com
 
 

CHICAGO – The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP today announced that a jury has awarded a Chicago family of Puerto Rican descent $520,000 in damages in a hate crime and fair housing case filed against their neighbor earlier this year.  

 
 
A jury in Cook County Circuit Court deliberated for just one hour before awarding the Jesse and Alisa Rodriguez family, including their children Caitlyn and Nicholas, $140,000 in compensatory damages and $380,000 in punitive damages against their neighbor, Joseph Marrone, for violations of the Illinois Hate Crime Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act, and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Both parties live on the northwest side of Chicago.  Cook County Circuit Court Judge Susan McDunn presided over the trial.
 
 
Mr. Marrone engaged in a two year spree of misconduct, harassment and intimidation against the Rodriguez family because of their Puerto Rican origin, culminating in a June 2008 incident in which he threatened the couple at knifepoint.  Katten and the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee filed a hate crime lawsuit on behalf of the Rodriguez family in March of this year, alleging that Mr. Marrone had perpetrated a pattern of civil rights violations and torts based upon the Rodriguezes’ ethnicity.  His actions included shouting numerous racial and ethnic slurs at the entire family, threatening them with physical violence and sexual assault, and expressing an intent to force the Rodriguez family to move out of the neighborhood.  In November 2008, Mr. Marrone pled guilty to related criminal assault charges and was sentenced to probation.
 
 
The Rodriguez family was represented by Katten attorneys Alexander S. Vesselinovitch and Jennifer R. Goltz, and by Betsy Shuman-Moore of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee.
 
 
“We are pleased with the jury’s decision in this case and in speaking with the Rodriguez family, they have also expressed satisfaction with the outcome and relief that this ordeal has finally come to an end,” Ms. Goltz said.  “We are proud to have partnered with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to secure a favorable result for our client and hope that it will serve as a deterrent for others considering engaging in this type of racist and abusive conduct.”For 35 years, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, through its 40-plus member law firms, staff and legal team, has provided free legal services to challenge discrimination and other civil rights violations in both the public and private sectors.  
 
 
Katten has a long-term commitment to helping the poor, the powerless and the disenfranchised obtain first-rate representation without charge.  Attorneys and other legal professionals give their time, resources and talent to serve individuals and organizations in need, to engage in important national litigation, and to partner with local legal service providers to ensure access to the justice system.
 
 
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP is a full-service law firm with more than 600 attorneys in locations across the United States and an affiliate in London.  The firm’s business-savvy professionals provide clients in numerous industries with sophisticated, high-value legal services, with a focus on corporate, financial services, litigation, real estate, commercial finance, intellectual property and trusts and estates.  Among our clients are a wide range of public and private companies, including a third of the Fortune 100, as well as a number of government and nonprofit organizations and individuals.  For additional information, visit
Clara Kent posted a blog on Sep 3, 2009

Jury Awards Chicago Family $520,000 in Hate Crime and Fair Housing Lawsuit Against Neighbor

 

Here are articles from the Chicago Tribune, National Law Journal, Chicago Sun-Times, and Hoy on our recent victory in a hate crime fair housing lawsuit.
 

 

Hate crime unnerves Chicago family who won lawsuit

September 3, 2009 9:42 PM, via ChicagoBreakingNews

 
The two-story brick home on Chicago's Northwest Side has become a prison for her family, says Alisa Rodriguez.
 
 
She has trouble sleeping and shuns taking prescription medication so she's always alert. At 120 pounds, she's lost about 25 pounds from the stress. She finds herself constantly checking to make sure the doors and windows are locked.
 
 
"This is the first time in my life where I don't feel safe," said Rodriguez, 37, a mother of two. "It's really hard to explain to a child what hate means."
 
 
Rodriguez said the source of her family's anguish is a neighbor, Joseph Marrone, who has intimidated, threatened and harassed them for two years.
 
 
A Cook County jury agreed, finding Marrone violated the Illinois Hate Crime Act and awarding $520,000 in damages on Wednesday to Rodriguez and her husband, Jesse, 37, both of Puerto Rican descent.
 
 
Marrone, 47, who is white and lives three doors from the Rodriguezes in the 3600 block of North New England Avenue, did not attend the Alisa (left) and Jesse Rodriguez in their backyard on the  Northwest Side. (Tribune / Terrence Antonio James) one-day trial or hire a lawyer to defend himself, said attorney Jenny Goltz, who represented the Rodriguezes.
 
 
Marrone was not home Thursday, and an elderly woman who answered the front door did not speak English.
 
 
He called the Rodriguezes ethnic slurs and repeatedly threatened to sexually assault their children, ages 9 and 6, and their mother, according to the court complaint. At one point he placed a derogatory sign in his backyard.
 

Jury Awards Chicago Family $520,000 in Hate Crime and Fair Housing Lawsuit Against Neighbor

 
Alisa Rodriguez said the family moved into their home about seven years ago and spent about $85,000 rehabbing it. The home was close to family and friends and on a quiet, diverse block. It's where they wanted to put down roots.
 
 
Their interaction with Marrone was minimal, a "good morning" at most, Rodriguez said. It wasn't until 2007 that Marrone started harassing them, she said.
 
 
After yelling racial slurs at Alisa and Jesse Rodriguez, Marrone threatened them with a knife in June 2008, she said.
 
 
"He said he was going to put us out of our misery, [that] we didn't belong in that neighborhood," Alisa Rodriguez said. "He threatened to rape me. He threatened to rape my children. He told my husband to watch his back because he was going to hurt him."
 
 
They pressed charges. Marrone was found guilty of misdemeanor aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 2 years of probation, court records show.
 
 
"I knew at that moment that this was far more serious than just name-calling," Alisa Rodriguez said.
 
 
She thinks her family was targeted because they fought back. They documented Marrone's harassment by filing police reports. Then they filed the civil lawsuit in March.
 
 
They realize they might never see a dime, but she said she and her husband want Marrone to know his behavior is unacceptable.
 
 
"Many of us work very hard to attain the little things that we have," she said. "We're abiding citizens. We teach our children right.
 
 
"And out of the blue comes someone who hates you for no reason and turns your life upside
down."
 
--Kristen Schorsch