CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–March 14, 2017. A move from the Chief Judge of Cook County made history today, and made First Defense Legal Aid’s (FDLA) 22-year-old Chicago Police Custody Hotline program a policy model for filling a gap that left everyone in Chicago police custody with no practical way to exercise their rights.
See the press communication from the Office of the Chief Judge HERE
Like the well-known “Miranda warnings” state, everyone who is under arrest or not free to leave a police encounter, has the right to an attorney. But last year in Chicago, less than 1% of arrestees had a lawyer at any point of up to three days in Chicago police custody (per Chicago Police Department statistics obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request). This is, in part, because there is no judge in the police station to appoint a lawyer free of charge for a person who cannot afford to hire one.
Today, the Chief Judge eliminated that barrier, appointing counsel free of charge for everyone stuck in this limbo when they invoke their rights and a public defender or volunteer delegate is available.
This opens the police station doors for public defenders and volunteer lawyers to walk through. Â Now, Chicago lawyers and law students must step up to the plate and serve pro bono with FDLA while the Office of the Cook County Public Defender partners to begin covering day-time calls.
First Defense Legal Aid and other leaders in Chicago’s legal community are calling all hands on deck. In partnership with the Public Defender, FDLA is recruiting, training and coordinating private attorneys and law students eligible for temporary licenses. Volunteer shifts are just 4 hours long, during which time the on-call volunteer may be called to respond to a police station, or in some cases hospitals, schools, or other places where people are held in Chicago police custody.
Chicago has made international headlines for police abuse.Â Now, it may become known for a volunteer-led solution: lawyers,Â in their free time,Â protecting the most vulnerable during police encounters.
The attorney mobilization initiative, called the #Give72 campaign, is a call to action for attorneys and law students to volunteer 72 hours over the next year, while arrestees are otherwise without access to their Constitutional rights for their up-to 72 hours in police custody.
Comments from leaders in the Chicago legal community
“Working with FDLA provides our students a meaningful opportunity to gain valuable real world experience and improve access to justice for all Chicagoans”
-Darby Dickerson, Dean, the John Marshall Law School
“I think any attorney, anyone who’s been through law school would know how important early access to counsel in a criminal case is. That only 302 Chicagoans had a lawyer go to the police station in a year is pretty shocking.”
-Gregory McConnell, Probono Counsel, Winston & Strawn LLP
“Volunteering on this initiative is part of how lawyers can protect immigrant and Muslim rights as well, since police contact can trigger collateral issues including deportation proceedings, gang registries without due process and family separation that we can watchdog and prevent.”
-Tia Haywood, Immigration Attorney and FDLA volunteer
“The fulfillment of the U.S. Supreme Court’s criminal justice jurisprudence beginning with Gideon and Miranda requires the presence of counsel at the earliest stages of a criminal investigation. The City of Chicago has taken a significant step forward toward this goal with the announcement today of the collaboration between First Defense Legal Aid, the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, and the Chicago Police Department to provide counsel for suspects at Chicago area police stations. This is an historic step that will improve the quality of justice in Cook County and that will help to ensure equal treatment of all members of our community and respect for our Constitution and for the rule of law. This is a promising development that bodes well for future much needed cooperation between the major stakeholders in Cook County’s criminal justice system.”
-Tom Geraghty, Director, Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law
“It is time to act now and get our foot on the ground.Â Â As law students, not only will we get the chance to get involved with the community, but we will be able to acquire skills in the field that we are getting into.Â Â With all the current ongoing racial issues, it is time for justice to prevail and it starts here and now with volunteers. Law students, especially black law students, are needed now more than ever to serve in our own communities.”
– Nana Otutua-Amoah,Â President, Loyola’s Black Law Students Association
“Access to counsel upon arrest would have saved many youth from the now-infamous Chicago Police Torture crimes for which several victims are still behind bars. This is an important step for Cook County as we continue raising the bar from civil rights to human rights. I urge all lawyers and senior law students to be part of this historic initiative to provide volunteer counsel to all arrestees, building on the Chief Judge’s order.
– Stan Willis, National Conference of Black Lawyers, Law Office of Standish E. Willis
“For too many accused of a crime, justice is just an idea. As attorneys and volunteers, we can make that more real by providing competent representation to the most vulnerable populations and in so doing, give life to that oath we all took: to defend the Constitution.”
– Jeanette Samuels, Cook County Bar Association member, FDLA Volunteer Atty
“This initiative to provide attorneys for all in Chicago Police custody who need them is an important step toward reducing the risk of wrongful convictions. Lawyers at our firm have volunteered to do this work with FDLA, and have found the experience rewarding. We recommend it to others, so that together we can make this promise of reform a reality.”
– Jon Loevy, co-founder of Loevy & Loevy,Â the Midwest’s largest civil rights law firm
“As an FDLA volunteer and Board member, I’m proud to be a part of this historic event, which will help to ensure that all of our fellow citizens enjoy their right to counsel when it is often needed most – when individuals are first arrested. This new policy has the potential to reduce or eliminate wrongful convictions and improve the accuracy and fairness of our justice system. To help achieve the policy’s intended effect, I encourage firms and individual attorneys to volunteer to act as pro bono counsel under this new program. It is in everyone’s interest that the rights of arrestees are protected.”
– Dan Fenske, Partner, Jenner & Block
“This initiative is a much needed step in the right direction.Â The Department of Justice report released earlier this year showed the clear need for legal counsel at the earliest stages of involvement with the criminal justice system.Â With this judicial order Cook County will finally be able to provide legal counsel to indigent defendants in police custody.Â This initiative, when fully implemented will provide a level of transparency while protecting the rights of arrestees and ultimately instilling public confidence in our criminal justice system.”
-Commissioner Jesus Garcia