Judge Denies the Mayor’s Office Bid to Withhold Emails on the Construction of the Cop Academy

On Friday, January 10, 2020, Cook County Judge Sophia Hall denied the Mayor’s Office bid to withhold over 400 documents concerning the creation of the Joint Public Safety Academy (“Cop Academy”), on Chicago’s West Side. The decision was issued in FOIA litigation brought by Debbie Southorn and Erin Glasco, the plaintiffs and organizers with #NoCopAcademy campaign, filed in the spring of 2018.

Southorn and Glasco previously filed several FOIA requests seeking information regarding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to build the Cop Academy in West Garfield Park, estimated to cost over $95 million, which many believe is wholly unnecessary and will not decrease police violence that destroys the lives of scores of Black and Latinx people in Chicago. The original decision to create the Cop Academy was shrouded in secrecy without any public input as to whether it should be built and where it should be located.

In describing why they brought the lawsuit, Plaintiff Southorn said, “From the outset, Mayor Emanuel engaged in extensive planning and preparation to build this police academy without consulting the residents of the West side or Chicago.  We filed the lawsuit to get all the plans he refused to disclose so that the civilians of Chicago can have all the necessary information to evaluate whether their taxpayer funds should be used to build a police academy or whether their money is better spent on school, mental health and other social services desperately needed on Chicago’s West side.”

The Mayor’s Office argued the documents, including those pertaining to public messaging about the Cop Academy, were protected from disclosure by the “deliberative process privilege.” The People’s Law Office, representing Southorn, Glasco and the #NoCopAcdemy campaign, argued that the bulk of the documents were not protected from disclosure because the materials were generated after Mayor Emanuel made the ultimate decision to build the Cop Academy, and therefore, were not deliberative of his decision to build it. To date, the Mayor’s Office has refused to disclose when Mayor Emanuel decided to build the Cop Academy. 

After months of litigation and several oral arguments, Judge Sophia Hall ruled that Mayor Emanuel was the final decision maker regarding whether to create the Cop Academy and materials withheld by the Office of the Mayor after he made the decision to build the Academy must be disclosed.  Judge Hall’s ruling affirmed #NoCopAcademy’s argument that “the Mayor’s role was to make a decision as to whether to pursue the construction of the JPSTA [Cop Academy].  The Mayor’s Office announcement in the July 3, 2017 Press Release reflected the Mayor’s Office’s decision to build the JPSTA [cop academy].”

This is a win for #NoCopAcademy activists fighting for transparency around how decisions happen in the city of Chicago, and setting the historical record straight.  We look forward to reviewing the newly released documents and continuing to support those who organize for investment in youth and communities, not expanded investments in policing.   Read the decision: here.

Southorn, Glasco and the #NoCopAcademy campaign are represented by Joey Mogul, Ben Elson and Christian Snow of the People’s Law Office.

Illinois Appeals Court Affirms New Trial for Jackie Wilson

Yesterday, the Illinois Appellate Court rendered its decision in the Jackie Wilson police torture case. Affirming Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks’ 119 page decision in which he found that Wilson was tortured into giving a confession, the Court remanded the case for a new trial. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Lavin, the Court recognized that the evidence told  a “morbid tale of improper law enforcement,” and condemned the Special Prosecutors’ who appealed Hooks’ ruling as displaying a “stunning level of denial about the well-established practice of torture in Area 2 and findings of torture by the special prosecutors’ own predecessors.” Wilson was and is represented by Flint Taylor, John Stainthorp and Christian Snow of the People’s Law Office and Elliot Slosar of the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project.

Read the opinion Here.

PLO Attorney Michael Deutsch Argues for the Release of Ronnie Carrasquillo in the Illinois Appeals Court

On November 21st, People’s Law Office Attorney Michael Deutsch argued in front of the Illinois Appeals Court for the release of his client Ronnie Carrasquillo. Ronnie was sentenced to several hundred years in prison for the 1976 death of a Chicago Police Officer. In Michael’s argument, he highlighted the biased and corrupt Judge Wilson who sentenced Ronnie. Read more about the argument and Ronnie’s case in this recent InjusticeWatch article here.

Also, listen to the Oral Argument here.

People’s Law Office Remembers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

Today marks 50 years since the Chicago Police, FBI and Cook County State’s Attorney conspired to murder Fred Hampton and Mark Clark of the Black Panther Party.

This short video honoring Fred is an excerpt from a soon to be released documentary about the 50 year history of our office, directed and produced by Tom Callahan of Sensitive Visuals.*

Our office filed a civil rights lawsuit and fought for over 13 years to expose the role of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program and we succesfully obtained a $1.85 million settlement for family members and survivors of the raid.

The legacy of Fred Hampton lives on and continues to inspire us to fight against racist and politically motivated state violence.

*Archival content courtesy of Freedom Archives.

Video Link Here

Other Links

WBEZ interview with former PLO attorney Jeff Haas

Truthout article published 12.04.2019: 50 Years Ago Today, Police Murdered Fred Hampton. His Activism Lives On.

Applications for Summer Internship

People’s Law Office is accepting applications for our 2020 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 plo@peopleslawoffice.com.  Applications will be accepted until November 18, 2019, 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.

50 Years of People’s Lawyering Forum

Featured

A Forum Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of People’s Law Office (PLO), 1969-2019

Panels, presentations and conversations between movement leaders, PLO lawyers, former political prisoners and current and former PLO clients.

12:10-12:30: The Founding of People’s Law Office and the Legacy of Fred Hampton

Former members of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party (TBA) in conversation, moderated by PLO co-founder Jeff Haas

12:40-1:40: Solidarity with Political Prisoners and Prisoner-led Struggles

Speakers:
•Zolo Azania: New Afrikan and former Death Row prisoner
•Nancy Kurshan: long-time activist, co-founder of the Yippies and author of “Out Of Control: A 15 Year Battle Against Control Unit Prions,”
•Mike Africa Jr. of the MOVE Organization and son of two recently released MOVE 9 members
•Ricardo Jimenez: former political prisoner of the struggle for liberation of Puerto Rico
•Benny Lee: One of the “Pontiac Brothers” of the Pontiac Rebellion and activist working with former prisoners
•Dennis Cunningham: PLO co-founder

Facilitated by PLO attorney Brad Thomson

1:50-2:50: Legal Support for Struggles Against Colonialism and Occupation

Speakers:
•José Lopez of Puerto Rican Cultural Center
•Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal
•Hatem Abudayyeh of U.S. Palestinian Community Network
•Alberto Rodriguez: former political prisoner of the struggle for liberation of Puerto Rico and retired PLO paralegal

Facilitated by PLO attorneys Michael Deutsch and Jan Susler

3:00-4:00: Justice for Survivors of Chicago Police Torture

Speakers:
•Anthony Holmes: one of the first police torture survivors and member of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) and Board Member of Chicago Torture Justice Center (CTJC)
•Alice Kim: Co-founder of CTJM and Co-Director of Community Building for Prison + Neighborhood Art Project
•Darrell Cannon: police torture survivor, member of CTJM
•Aislinn Pulley: Co-Director of CTJC and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago.

Facilitated by People’s Law Office attorneys Joey Mogul, John Stainthorp and Flint Taylor

4:10-5:00: Lessons of Movement Lawyering: For Today and the Future

Speakers:
Damon Williams of #LetUsBreathe Collective, Page May of Assata’s Daughters, and more TBA, in conversation with Christian Snow: Organizer and attorney with PLO

Light lunch and refreshments to be provided.

People’s Law Office Settles Multimillion-Dollar Jail Death Lawsuit

The People’s Law Office filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Richard J. Gonzalez’s estate in 2013, naming Ford County IL, its sheriff and four corrections officers for failing to provide proper medical treatment to Mr. Gonzalez, who later was found dead in his cell, and for lying about the timing of his death. Click here to read more about the case and settlement.

Pressure Mounts for Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Fund Torture Justice Memorial.

For over a quarter century the People’s Law Office has helped expose and represent people tortured under former police Cmdr. Jon Burge. Recently, the artist and activist-led collective, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) selected a design for a public memorial to honor the Burge torture survivors. The memorial is called Breath, Form & Freedom. It was designed by Chicago artists Patricia Nguyen and architectural designer John Lee.

“Breath, Form and Freedom” is a 1600 square foot structure with a winding hallway that is twelve feet wide and features the names and dates of survivors tortured by Jon Burge and his police in his Midnight crew. Click here to read more about the memorial and the process of choosing it.

While most of the historic reparations legislation package has been implemented Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to provide funding for the public memorial. Now CTJM is calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to fund the construction of the memorial.

In an article published by the Chicago Tribune today, People’s Law Office attorney and co-founder of CTJM, Joey Mogul said “There is no better way in my opinion to name racism … than the city of Chicago building a memorial about these racially motivated police torture cases.” You can read the entire article here.