Applications for Summer Internship

People’s Law Office is accepting applications for our 2019 summer internship and educational program, which focuses on civil rights litigation rooted in social justice and radical legal work. 

Interns will participate in a wide range of litigation-related work and will be exposed to a progressive law office that has been committed to being “people’s lawyers” since 1969.  Our attorneys and legal workers have successfully fought for the civil and human rights of people who have been wrongfully convicted, falsely arrested and subjected to excessive force and torture at the hands of law enforcement officials and prosecutors. The office has also steadfastly represented political activists and individuals who have been targeted by government officials because of their political views or organizing work.

The program is open to law students. Candidates should demonstrate experience in and/or commitment to social justice, organizing and/or social movements. To apply please send a resume, cover letter and writing sample to  Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2018, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis. 

People of color, women, people of all gender identities and gender expressions, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Update on Rasmea Odeh Trial

Friday, November 7 (Day 4 of Trial)

The trial against Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh began earlier this week in Detroit.  Rasmea is being represented by Michael Deutsch of People’s Law Office, with co-counsel Jim Fennerty, another Chicago-based civil rights attorney, along with William Goodman and Dennis Cunningham.

Rasmea is on trial in Federal Court for failing to disclose a prior conviction in her immigration application to the United States.  The prior conviction was from Israel and related to a 1969 bombing at a supermarket in Jerusalem.  She had been arrested, interrogated and tortured by the Israeli military.  As a result of the torture, she confessed to involvement with the bombing.

Prior to trial, the judge made rulings limiting the defense.  One of the most significant rulings was prevented Rasmea or her attorneys from raising the torture she suffered or the psychological impact it had on her, which could explain her answers on the immigration form.  This was despite the judge finding her torture claims “credible.”

Trial began on Tuesday and the first day was spent selecting a jury.  Opening statements took place on Wednesday.  Arguing for the government, Assistant US Attorney Mark Jebson argued simply that Rasmea should be convicted for immigration fraud for failing to disclose her 1970 conviction.

During his opening argument, Michael Deutsch detailed Rasmea’s life.  He described how she lost the family home to Israeli settlers at a young age and explained how she was arrested and interrogated for weeks by the Israeli military.  Due to the judge’s ruling, he was unable to go into detail about the torture she suffered.  Deutsch also told the jury about Rasmea’s life here in the United States and how much respect she has in the community.  Deutsch closed by asking the jurors to remain fair and use their sense of justice to find Rasmea Not Guilty.

The prosecution presented their case Wednesday afternoon, calling agents from Department of Homeland Security and US Citizenship and Immigration Service.  The government’s case continued into Thursday morning.

On Thursday, the defense began presenting their case, calling UIC professor Nadine Naber to describe Rasmea and her work with Muslim and Arab women immigrants in the Chicago area.  Following Naber’s testimony, Rasmea took the stand.  Rasmea’s testimony went into her life growing up in Palestine where the family was forced from their home in 1948.  The family was forced to live as refugees before moving to Ramallah, where they lived during the 1967 war and occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza.  Ramsea then described her arrest by the Israeli military, her time as a political prisoner in Israel and her release as part of a prisoner trade.

Rasmea then went on to testify about the immigration process of coming to the United States.  She explained her English was weak at the time and she had her brother assist in filling out the forms.  She also testified that when there were questions about whether she had been arrested, her understanding was that those questions referred to arrests in the United States.

Rasmea’s testimony will continue today and she will be cross-examined by the government.  It is expected that closing arguments will follow her testimony and that the jury will begin deliberating on Monday, November 10.

For more on the trial
Earlier post from our site: Rasmea Odeh Trial to Begin Tuesday
Will Rasmea Odeh Go to Prison Because of a Confession Obtained Through Torture? in The Nation
Report on Rasmea Trial Day 2 by US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN)
Report on Rasmea Trial Day 3 by USPCN
Rasmea Odeh takes the stand in her own defense in Electronic Intifada
Press Release on Tuesday, November 4 from National Lawyers Guild

$40 Million Settlement in Wrongful Conviction Case

On Wednesday June 25, 2014, an historic $40 million settlement was reached between the Illinois State Police and the Dixmoor 5.  The settlement has been called the largest wrongful conviction settlement in state history and was announced less than a week after the news of a similar settlement for the Central Park 5 in New York City.

wrongfullyconvicted Dixmoor 5 with their civil rights attorneys (photo by Chicago Tribune)

The Dixmoor 5 were young African American men who were falsely convicted of raping and murdering their 14-year-old classmate in 1991. Despite a complete lack of any physical evidence connecting the young men to the rape and murder, police fabricated confessions by three young men who implicated themselves and two others. Even though the confessions did not match each other or the facts of the crime, all five were wrongfully convicted and sent to prison.

People’s Law Office represent Jonathan Barr, along with the noted civil rights firm of Neufeld, Scheck, and Brustin from New York.  A civil rights lawsuit alleging wrongful conviction was filed on Jonathan’s behalf in 2012.

Jonathan, who was 14 years old at the time of the crime, was convicted in 1997 and given an 85 year sentence.  Jonathan never gave up protesting his innocence and was eventually able to establish that DNA evidence recovered from the victim showed that the sex assault and murder had been committed by a known sex offender, Willie Randoph. Jonathan was imprisoned until 2011 when he was released based on the DNA findings, after spending 18 years in prison.  In 2012 he was awarded a Certificate of Innocence.

While this settlement vindicates Jonathan and the other four men and compensates them for the injustice they suffered, this can never give them back the years they spent behind bars for a crime they did not commit.  Civil rights cases like these are part of the struggle to hold police and prosecutors accountable for the systemic injustices inherent in the criminal legal system.

News Coverage of the Settlement:
$40 Million Wrongful Conviction Settlement Chicago Tribune
$40 Million Settlement Between Dixmoor 5 and Illinois State Police Chicago Sun-Times
Dixmoor 5 Win $40 Million WGN-TV
Dixmoor 5 Men Will Receive Settlement from ISP  WLS

For more information on the case:
Read the Complaint in the civil rights lawsuit
People’s Law Office post when lawsuit was filedPeople’s Law Office commentary on the 60 Minutes piece covering Dixmoor 5 and other false confession cases in Cook County

To learn more about our work on this issue, visit the Wrongful Convictions page and the Victories page to see past successful settlements and jury verdicts we’ve obtained for our falsely convicted clients.

Convictions Tossed for Two Clients of People’s Law Office

Lewis Gardener and Paul Phillips were wrongfully convicted of acting as lookouts for a 1992 murder and spent nearly 15 years in prison.  In January of this year, lawyers from People’s Law Office filed a petition seeking to overturn their convictions.  Yesterday, June 24, 2014, the State’s Attorney agreed and asked the judge to vacate the convictions.

Gardner and Phillips at People's Law Office (photo by Chicago Tribune)Phillips and Gardener were 15 and 17 at the time of the crime and were coerced into giving false confessions.  In total, police obtained false confessions from seven people in the case, establishing the false police theory that three participated in the shooting and four others (including Phillips and Gardener) acted as lookouts.

One of these co-defendants, Daniel Taylor, was convicted and ultimately exonerated, after it was exposed that police and prosecutors withheld crucial evidence.  One of those pieces of evidence was that Taylor was in police lockup at the time of the murder.

The next step for Phillips and Gardener is to obtain Certificates of Innocence so they can receive compensation for the years they spent in prison for a crime they did not commit.

For more coverage of this recent development, read the Chicago Tribune story by Steve Mills: Judge Tosses Convictions of 2 Who Spent 15 Years in Prison

This case is part of our ongoing commitment to helping fight wrongful convictions and cases of false imprisonment.  The injustices of the criminal legal system in this country run deep and wide and these examples of wrongful conviction expose the problems in the system.  For more information on our work on the issue, visit the Wrongful Convictions page on this site.

If you or a loved one were wrongfully convicted and you are interested in filing a civil rights lawsuit, contact our lawyers at (773)235-0070.