Free Bernina Hanukkah Action

On December 19, 2022, over 30 people joined a Hanukkah celebration at Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s home in Chicago to demand that he sign the executive clemency petition for Bernina Mata. The #FreeBernina Team and Love & Protect organized the action on the second night of Hanukkah, a celebration of a struggle for liberation, to urge Governor Pritzker to liberate Bernina, other criminalized survivors and all who are suffering under the violence of incarceration.  The action was co-sponsored by American Friends Service Committee Chicago’s Peacebuilding Program, Tzedek Chicago, Chicago Light Brigade (shoutout @kellyhayeswrites), MAMAs, and the Transformative Justice Law Project.

Free Bernina Light Installation December 19, 2022

People sang Hanukkah songs, heard powerful testimonies, and honored the Hanukkah tradition by creating a “Free Bernina” light installation.  The crowd learned about the holiday from Tzedek Rabbi Brant Rosen and were led in song by cantor Adam Gottlieb and #Free Bernina Team member Debbie Southorn. April Ward of MAMAs shared a moving testimonial about the prison conditions her son, Mickiael Ward, is forced to endure in an IDOC prison and a moving tribute by Kelly Hayes of Lifted Voices. Joey Mogul, co-counsel for Bernina with Rachel White-Doman of the Illinois Prison Project, also described the State’s racist and homophobic prosecution of Bernina. To read more about the action, check out the article in Windy City Times.

In 1998, at 28 years old, Bernina stabbed and killed John Draheim in her home after he attempted to sexually assault her. The State charged Bernina with capital murder, despite significant mitigating circumstances including her extensive history of sexual abuse at the hands of her step-father and father and her belief that she was about to be raped.

To secure the death penalty, the State seized on Bernina’s racial and sexual identity to argue that she intentionally killed him. The State claimed Draheim was making an unwanted sexual pass at her, and that caused Bernina as a “hard core lesbian” him to kill him. A prosecutor argued “a normal heterosexual woman would not be offended by such conduct as to murder.” During Bernina’s trial, the State paraded 10 witnesses before the jury who testified she was gay, presented 3 books from her bookcase with gay titles and referenced her lesbian sexual identity on 17 occasion to prejudice a Boone County jury to motivate them to convict and kill her. She was sentenced to die in 1999.

In 2003, her death sentence was commuted to life as part of a successful clemency campaign. She is currently serving a life sentence. If prosecutors had not sought the death penalty, she would likely be free today. Her only chance to be free from prison is for Governor Pritzker to commute her life sentence.

The #FreeBernina Team is asking Governor Pritzker to grant her clemency petition and commute her sentence so she can come home in 2023. Please support her clemency petition by emailing Governor Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton here.

Joey and Kris Clutter, a paralegal at the People’s Law Office, are proud members of the #Free Bernina team.

Photos thanks @kellyhayeswrites!

Mutulu Shakur is Home!

People’s Law Office client and Black Liberation elder Mutulu Shakur has been released from prison after 36 years.

The full statement from the Family and Friends of Mutulu Shakur is below:

Today, the morning of December 16th, 2022, Dr. Mutulu Shakur was released from prison on parole!

The decision to grant parole is based on federal law guidelines for “old law” prisoners, finding that Dr. Shakur poses no threat to the community, taking into consideration his exemplary conduct in prison, his medical condition and how much time he has served. Mutulu is now with his family. This victory was secured by the steadfast support of his legal team, his family and his community comprised of all of you.

Family & Friends of Mutulu Shakur (FFMS) is greatly appreciative of everyone’s support over the course of Mutulu’s decades in prison. We ask that everyone respect Dr. Shakur’s privacy while he spends the holidays with his family and concentrates on his health and healing. Any inquiries to FFMS can be directed to info@mutulushakur.com, and we will be sure to release more information as it is available. May everyone celebrate the achievement of securing his release and deepen our commitment to a more just future.

2023 CIVIL RIGHTS LITIGATION AND MOVEMENT LAWYERING FELLOWSHIP

People’s Law Office is seeking one or more post-graduate fellows, beginning in the fall of 2023.

The program is a two-year commitment, with the possibility of continuing at the firm at the end of the fellowship. The program is designed for newly admitted attorneys (with less than 5 years experience) who are interested in civil rights and criminal defense litigation and working with and on behalf activists and organizers fighting for social change.

The Civil Rights Litigation and Movement Lawyering Fellowship will provide an opportunity to work in all practice areas in which People’s Law Office provides representation. Fellows will participate in all aspects of civil litigation in federal court, including written discovery and depositions, legal research, drafting motions and memos, and participating on trial teams. Additional opportunities include representation of clients in criminal matters at both the trial level and post-conviction phase.

Our attorneys and legal workers have successfully fought for the civil and human rights of people who have been wrongfully convicted, falsely arrested, tortured and subjected to other forms of state violence. Our office has also steadfastly provided legal support to social movements fighting for radical change, representing political organizations, campaigns, activists, and individuals who have faced government repression because of their political views or organizing work.

Qualifications

  • J.D. degree or expected by spring 2023
  • Admission to the Northern District of Illinois, or ability to be admitted by fall 2023
    • Preference toward candidates with anticipated or current admission to the Illinois bar
  • Strong research and writing skills
  • Experience working in civil rights or other aspects of public interest law
  • Demonstrated commitment to supporting marginalized and oppressed communities 
  • Experience and/or familiarity with social justice organizing and movements fighting for social change

Application Process

Please submit:

  • A cover letter or email describing your interest in civil rights litigation, movement lawyering, and the work of People’s Law Office.
  • A current resume
  • Law school transcript (unofficial is acceptable)
  • Writing Sample
  • 2-3 References

All materials should be sent via email to: Fellowship[at]peopleslawoffice.com

We will be conducting interviews and extending offers on a rolling basis.

Salary and Benefits

The position is a full-time, two-year position. Starting salary begins at $65,000 annually, with the potential for higher rates based on experience. Compensation also includes generous benefits and paid time off. 

Additional Information
Fellows are expected to live in, or be willing to move, to the Chicagoland area.

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

POSITIONS AT PEOPLE’S LAW OFFICE

2023 CIVIL RIGHTS LITIGATION AND MOVEMENT LAWYERING FELLOWSHIP

People’s Law Office is seeking one or more post-graduate fellows, beginning in the fall of 2023.

The program is a two-year commitment, with the possibility of continuing at the firm at the end of the fellowship. The program is designed for newly admitted attorneys (with less than 5 years experience) who are interested in civil rights and criminal defense litigation and working with and on behalf activists and organizers fighting for social change.

The Civil Rights Litigation and Movement Lawyering Fellowship will provide an opportunity to work in all practice areas in which People’s Law Office provides representation. Fellows will participate in all aspects of civil litigation in federal court, including written discovery and depositions, legal research, drafting motions and memos, and participating on trial teams. Additional opportunities include representation of clients in criminal matters at both the trial level and post-conviction phase.

Our attorneys and legal workers have successfully fought for the civil and human rights of people who have been wrongfully convicted, falsely arrested, tortured and subjected to other forms of state violence. Our office has also steadfastly provided legal support to social movements fighting for radical change, representing political organizations, campaigns, activists, and individuals who have faced government repression because of their political views or organizing work.

Qualifications

  • J.D. degree or expected by spring 2023
  • Admission to the Northern District of Illinois, or ability to be admitted by fall 2023
    • Preference toward candidates with anticipated or current admission to the Illinois bar
  • Strong research and writing skills
  • Experience working in civil rights or other aspects of public interest law
  • Demonstrated commitment to supporting marginalized and oppressed communities 
  • Experience and/or familiarity with social justice organizing and movements fighting for social change

Application Process

Please submit:

  • A cover letter or email describing your interest in civil rights litigation, movement lawyering, and the work of People’s Law Office.
  • A current resume
  • Law school transcript (unofficial is acceptable)
  • Writing Sample
  • 2-3 References

All materials should be sent via email to: Fellowship[at]peopleslawoffice.com

We will be conducting interviews and extending offers on a rolling basis.

Salary and Benefits

The position is a full-time, two-year position. Starting salary begins at $65,000 annually, with the potential for higher rates based on experience. Compensation also includes generous benefits and paid time off. 

Additional Information
Fellows are expected to live in, or be willing to move, to the Chicagoland area.

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

Welcoming our New Fellows

The People’s Law Office is pleased to announce the launch of its Civil Rights Litigation and Movement Lawyering Fellowship, with two inaugural fellows, Hakeem Muhammad and Nora Snyder.

We welcome them to PLO and look forward to working with them throughout their two-year fellowship.

Mr. Muhammad’s upbringing in the “Black belt of Chicago” inspired him to become an attorney that focuses on protecting the human rights of communities that have been historically marginalized. He has spoken and written extensively on the criminogenic impact of structural racism on Chicago’s African American communities. Prior to law school, Mr. Muhammad lectured in African American political thought at Michigan State, U.C Berkeley, and Harvard Debate Counsel. Subsequently, Hakeem Muhammad became a Public Interest Law Scholar at Northeastern University School of Law. During his time at Northeastern School of Law, Mr. Muhammad was a recipient of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Fellowship and would also be awarded the Oliver Wendel Holmes Scholarship by the Massachusetts Bar Association. Upon graduation from law school, Mr. Muhammad worked as a trial attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services where he worked extensively in the racial justice litigation unit working to innovate motions to challenge the impact of racism in criminal trials.

Nora Snyder (she/her) joined the People’s Law Office as a Civil Rights Litigation and Movement Lawyering Fellow in 2022. As a law student at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, she worked in the MacArthur Justice Center civil rights litigation clinic, focusing on cases on behalf of transgender women imprisoned in Illinois. She also interned at Beyond Legal Aid, Uptown People’s Law Center, and the National Immigrant Justice Center, and volunteered with the Transformative Justice Law Project. Prior to joining the office, Nora spent two years clerking in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals staff attorney’s office, working largely on pro se cases. Nora is a trained restorative justice Circle Keeper and is active in the mutual aid network in her neighborhood, Edgewater.

Free Mutulu Shakur: Calls Grow for Compassionate Release for Dying Black Liberation Activist

Watch Nkechi Taifa, lawyer and CEO of the social justice-centered consulting firm Taifa Group and longtime friend and supporter of Mutulu Shakur and Brad Thomson from the People’s Law Office and Mutulu Shakur’s current attorney talk to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman about the urgent push for the compassionate release of longtime political prisoner Mutulu Shakur from prison. #FreeMutulNow!

Click here to watch the full interview on Democracy Now!

Click here to view the petition for writ of habeas corpus filed last week for Mutulu.

PLO Opened 53 Years Ago Today

“We had decided to call ourselves the People’s Law Office, informally at least, and our purpose was easily encapsulated in the obligation to be worthy of that name.” – – – Dennis Cunningham

On August 1, 1969 a dedicated band of ’60s radicals opened the People’s Law Office in a converted sausage shop located at 2156 N. Halsted Street on Chicago’s North Side.That founding band was comprised of attorneys Francis “Skip” Andrew, Dennis Cunningham, Jeff Haas, and Don Stang; law students Seva Dubuar, Ray McClain, Flint Taylor and Jack Welch, and a volunteer staff that included BPP member Ann Campbell and, I think, Rising Up Angry member Norrie Davis.53 years later we are proud to say that we have done our best to continue to be worthy of the name. Today’s PLO members, carrying on in the footsteps of hundreds of lawyers, law students, and staff who are treasured alumnae and alumni are attorneys Ben Elson, Jani Hoft, Joey Mogul, Jan Susler, Flint Taylor, Brad Thomson, Michael Deutsch (of counsel) and John Stainthorp (of counsel); staff members Lourdes Arias, Kris Clutter, and Alexis Pegues, and summer interns Molly Crane, Julia Van Horn, Emani Miles, and Tayleece Paul.La Luta Continua!

Follow this link to a short film documenting some of our work over the past five decades.

Positions at People’s Law Office

2023 CIVIL RIGHTS LITIGATION AND MOVEMENT LAWYERING FELLOWSHIP

People’s Law Office is seeking one or more post-graduate fellows, beginning in the fall of 2023.

The program is a two-year commitment, with the possibility of continuing at the firm at the end of the fellowship. The program is designed for newly admitted attorneys (with less than 5 years experience) who are interested in civil rights and criminal defense litigation and working with and on behalf activists and organizers fighting for social change.

The Civil Rights Litigation and Movement Lawyering Fellowship will provide an opportunity to work in all practice areas in which People’s Law Office provides representation. Fellows will participate in all aspects of civil litigation in federal court, including written discovery and depositions, legal research, drafting motions and memos, and participating on trial teams. Additional opportunities include representation of clients in criminal matters at both the trial level and post-conviction phase.

Our attorneys and legal workers have successfully fought for the civil and human rights of people who have been wrongfully convicted, falsely arrested, tortured and subjected to other forms of state violence. Our office has also steadfastly provided legal support to social movements fighting for radical change, representing political organizations, campaigns, activists, and individuals who have faced government repression because of their political views or organizing work.

Qualifications

  • J.D. degree or expected by spring 2023
  • Admission to the Northern District of Illinois, or ability to be admitted by fall 2023
    • Preference toward candidates with anticipated or current admission to the Illinois bar
  • Strong research and writing skills
  • Experience working in civil rights or other aspects of public interest law
  • Demonstrated commitment to supporting marginalized and oppressed communities 
  • Experience and/or familiarity with social justice organizing and movements fighting for social change

Application Process

Please submit:

  • A cover letter or email describing your interest in civil rights litigation, movement lawyering, and the work of People’s Law Office.
  • A current resume
  • Law school transcript (unofficial is acceptable)
  • Writing Sample
  • 2-3 References

All materials should be sent via email to: Fellowship[at]peopleslawoffice.com

We will be conducting interviews and extending offers on a rolling basis.

Salary and Benefits

The position is a full-time, two-year position. Starting salary begins at $65,000 annually, with the potential for higher rates based on experience. Compensation also includes generous benefits and paid time off. 

Additional Information
Fellows are expected to live in, or be willing to move, to the Chicagoland area.

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

2023 SUMMER INTERNSHIPS

People’s Law Office is accepting applications for our 2023 summer internship and educational program, which focuses on civil rights litigation rooted in social and racial 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, with a strong preference for students who have completed their second year of law school. 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[at]peopleslawoffice.com. Applications will be accepted until December 11, 2022, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Remote positions are available, with a preference for applicants residing in Chicago. The position includes a stipend.

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