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Clara Kent posted a blog on Jan 6, 2016

Systematic Investigation Uncovers Discrimination against People with Disabilities

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee & Open Communities Negotiate Settlement in Housing Discrimination Lawsuit against Rentology

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. (CLCCRUL) and Open Communities announced a settlement agreement that resolves a two year housing discrimination investigation of Domus Group LLC and their agent, Rentology.

In August 2013 and January 2014, CLCCRUL and Open Communities conducted reasonable accommodation fair housing tests at various Chicago area locations of the rental property management company Rentology. The tests revealed different terms and conditions, and unwillingness to accommodate requests for service animals or emotional support animals. Federal and state laws against housing discrimination require landlords to make reasonable changes to their rules to accommodate residents with disabilities, including those needing support animals to cope with their disabilities.                                                                                                                     

On January 9, 2015, CLCCRUL and Open Communities filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) alleging that the Domus Group LLC discriminated against people with disabilities based on their refusal to rent or grant reasonable accommodations to fair housing testers. HUD transferred the complaint to Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) who conducted its own investigation.

The agreement includes $11,000 in damages for CLCCRUL and $3,000 for Open Communities, fair housing training for staff, and a written fair housing and equal opportunity policy that will require leasing agents to comply with fair housing laws including requests for reasonable accommodations. The settlement agreement also requires the company to add a fair housing logo and the “Equal Housing Opportunity” slogan to its website.

CLCCRUL and Open Communities were represented by Linton Childs, a partner with CLCCRUL member firm, Sidley Austin LLP. CLCCRUL staff attorney Jessica Schneider and Open Communities Director of Fair Housing Neda Nozari Brisport were co-counselors. “It is imperative that housing providers make every accommodation or modification required to ensure tenants have equal access to and enjoyment of his or her housing,” said Ms. Schneider. “We are hopeful that cases like these set precedent for other property managers who truly want to provide safe, accessible and welcoming homes to all people. And Open Communities is here as a resource to provide free fair housing trainings for those interested,” said Ms. Brisport.

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The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

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.

Clara Kent posted a blog on Nov 20, 2015

It Should Not Take a Decade to Get Records of Police Misconduct

 As described on Thursday, November 19, 2015 in the New York Times, recently released police data show that police officers repeatedly accused of misconduct are rarely penalized by the Police Department.  Time and again there are complaints of excessive use of force or other misconduct – nothing happens.  The existing mechanisms for police accountability are completely ineffective.  And there are disturbing racial patterns.  The facts are found in data gathered and released by the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization, and the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University Of Chicago Law School.  They have done a great service by gathering this data and making it available.  But according to the Times, they got the data only after a ten-year legal struggle.  It should not take a ten year legal fight to learn about our police.  Basic data about public complaints against police officers and the discipline – or lack of discipline – that results has to be made known to the public.  We cannot hold police accountable without it.  Bad police officers – and there are bad police officers – won’t be terminated without public exposure and public pressure.

Read the New York Times article here

Clara Kent posted a blog on Nov 20, 2015

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Applauds Decision Ordering Release of Fatal Police Shooting Video

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Inc. applauds the decision of Cook County Circuit Judge Franklin Valderrama requiring the City of Chicago to release the police video that shows the shooting death, by police, of 17 year old Laquan McDonald.  The City has agreed to pay $5 million in settlement of a civil suit about the shooting, but the video has not been released to the public.  Police videos of this kind must be released for public scrutiny. Maintenance of police policies and practices controlling excessive use of force and unnecessary killing depends on it.  The public has a right to control its police.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune. 

Clara Kent posted a blog on Nov 6, 2015

Paper Tigers: Documentary Viewing and CLE Opportunity

From Director James Redford and Executive Producer Karen Pritzker, Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Walla Walla, WA, that used the science and framework of Adverse Childhood Experiences to radically change its approach to student relationships and discipline, and in the process has become a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families. The film provides important lessons for attorneys working in civil rights, health law, school law, criminal law, and most importantly, information about the impact of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on clients. 

Wednesday, November 11th

12:00-2:00pm

Loyola Law School

25 E Pearson St., Chicago

0.75 CLE Credits

Register Online at: http://www.hmprg.org/Events/PaperTigers

Click here to watch movie trailer