Blog Archive

Blog Archive : December 2015

Clara Kent posted a blog on Dec 17, 2015

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights wins crucial victory in Wisconsin voting rights case

A federal three-judge panel today unanimously rejected Attorney General Brad Schimel’s motion to dismiss a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit filed by 12 Wisconsin Democrats. The ruling in Whitford v. Nichol means this case will continue, with trial scheduled for May 2016.

Originally filed in July, the lawsuit asks that the state legislative Assembly district map be thrown out, calling the line-drawing process “secretive” and “partisan,” and the maps unconstitutional for overly advantaging one party. The lawsuit fulfills a call issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in previous cases for a standard to measure how much partisan gerrymandering is allowable, and shows how Wisconsin’s map is far outside acceptable redistricting norms.

“This decision means that the court has determined that the victims of Wisconsin’s egregious gerrymandering can win their case if we prove what we alleged in the complaint,” said lead trial attorney Peter Earle of Milwaukee. “In other words, the court has provided us with a blueprint for winning a judgment on the merits.”

“As I said when we filed this case, our rights as voters are being violated,” said retired university professor Bill Whitford, the lead plaintiff. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly indicated that partisan gerrymandering could be held unconstitutional if a workable standard could be found, and we now have a case moving forward that has a real chance to set that Constitutional standard.”

The original complaint, referring to Wisconsin’s Act 43, says, “[P]artisan gerrymandering is both unconstitutional and profoundly undemocratic. It is unconstitutional because it treats voters unequally, diluting their voting power based on their political beliefs, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, and because it unreasonably burdens their First Amendment rights of association and free speech.”

“Extreme partisan gerrymandering is also contrary to core democratic values,” continues the complaint. “In the end, a political minority is able to rule the majority and to entrench itself in power by periodically manipulating election boundaries.”

“We are hoping the victory at this stage of the case will spur litigation in other states where partisan gerrymanders exist,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Ruth Greenwood of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. “This is a nationwide problem, and this decision means we have a chance to finally get a nationwide solution.”

You can read the full opinion here

More information about the lawsuit and campaign can be found at the Wisconsin Fair Elections website at fairelectionsproject.org, or on Facebook and Twitter using @WIFairElections.

Contact: Ruth Greenwood rgreenwood@clccrul.org

Clara Kent posted a blog on Dec 3, 2015

CLCCRUL Age Discrimination Case Gains Public Attention

CLCCRUL's Employment Opportunity Project has taken on an age discrimination case in which the claimant (a 59 year-old executive) believes that a company's hiring process intentionally weeds out older applicants. The job description required that applicants have three to no more than seven years of experience, meaning anyone with more experience, and consequently older, could not apply.

An article in the Cook County record discusses the claims in the complaint and how they've survived a motion to dismiss from the defendant. Click here to read more. 

Clara Kent posted a blog on Dec 3, 2015

More on Chicago Reform

Today the New York Times published an op-ed piece by Charles Blow summarizing the reasons investigation and reform is needed with respect to the Chicago Police Department and the political actors who suppressed the Laquan McDonald police shooting videotape.

Blow sets the tone of the op-ed at the beginning, "This week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago sacrificed police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in order to save himself, as anger raged about the killing of Laquan McDonald in what read to many as a politically motivated effort to cover up video of that killing."

To read the article, click here

Clara Kent posted a blog on Dec 2, 2015

City of Chicago Should Release Videotape of Second Police Shooting

 The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights today calls for the release of police video of the police shooting of Ronald Johnson III.  Following the long delay in release of the video showing Laquan McDonald’s murder by police, the public should not have to wait further for release of another police video that may show use of excessive force in a police shooting that led to death.

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee has recently called for an investigation of the operations of the Chicago Police Department by the United State Department Civil Rights Division; for passage of the FAIR COPS ordinance that would create an independent Police Auditor to monitor civilian complaints of police misconduct, discipline imposed on police, and the operation of the agencies that are supposed to protect the public from police who use excessive force; for a special prosecutor to handle future cases of police shooting, taking that role away from State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez; and for a full, independent investigation of unanswered questions relating to the Laquan McDonald shooting, including the absence of audio on the police videotapes and the role of other officers on the scene.

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights is a consortium of leading Chicago law firms that provides pro bono litigation services to people with civil rights claims and transactional legal services to not-for-profit organizations.   The Lawyers’ Committee has been involved in leading civil rights cases in Chicago for over four decades.

For questions or comments, contact Paul Strauss Co Director of Litigation at (312) 202-3649.

Clara Kent posted a blog on Dec 1, 2015

CLCCRUL Supports Call for Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights Investigation of Chicago Police Department

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights endorses the request made today by the Chicago Urban League for a federal pattern or practice investigation of the Chicago Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights.

The Laquan McDonald shooting, captured on videotape, only starts a necessary conversation about failure to provide effective oversight of the Chicago police, in the face of repeated citizen complaints of police excessive use of force and misconduct.  The institutions in Chicago that are supposed to provide protection for the public are complete failures: police officers accused of misconduct are almost never disciplined, no matter how egregious the misconduct.

A task force created by the Mayor or investigation by the Police Department itself, or by other local officials, would not be sufficiently independent to be trusted by the public – it could not be relied upon to demand and cause the necessary, fundamental reforms.

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights is a consortium of leading Chicago law firms that provides pro bono litigation services to people with civil rights claims and transactional legal services to not-for-profit organizations. The Lawyers’ Committee has been involved in leading civil rights cases in Chicago for over four decades.

Click here to read a letter from the Chicago Urban League to the Attorney General. 

For questions or comments, contact Paul Strauss Co Director of Litigation at (312) 202-3649.

Clara Kent posted a blog on Dec 1, 2015

CLCCRUL Fully and Enthusiastically Supports the FAIR COPS Ordinance

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights fully and enthusiastically supports the FAIR COPS Ordinance proposed by the Community Renewal Society.

The institutions in Chicago that are supposed to handle civilian complaints of police misconduct and excessive force are completely dysfunctional and need to be completely reformed. We refer particularly to the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of the Chicago Police Department, the Police Board, and the arbitration procedure entailed in the police collective bargaining agreement. These institutions are complete failures: police officers accused of misconduct are almost never disciplined, no matter how egregious the conduct. 

The Community Renewal Society has called for passage for the FAIR COPS Ordinance, which would result in creation of an independent Police Auditor, selected by an independent third party, with access to all police records and complaints of misconduct, and subpoena power. The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights fully supports this proposal. Creation of a Police Auditor pursuant to the FAIR COPS Ordinance would open the records of civilian complaints about police misconduct to the public and would force the institutions that are supposed to discipline police to do their job.

The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a consortium of leading Chicago law firms that provides pro bono litigation services to people with civil rights claims and transactional legal services to not-for-profit organizations. CLCCRUL has been involved in leading civil rights cases in Chicago for over four decades. To donate to this critical work, click here

For questions or comments, contact Paul Strauss Co Director of Litigation at (312) 202-3649.