Articles Posted in Criminal Justice Reform

In October 2017, Cook County’s chief judge, state’s attorney, sheriff, board president, public defender and the chair of the county board’s Criminal Justice Committee all petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to issue a rule that would eliminate pre-trial incarceration due solely to the inability to pay a money bond.

The proposed rule has been supported by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Y. Raoul, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, dozens of other prominent members of the Illinois bar and other leaders of the legal community, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and more than 70 community organizations.

The rule would anchor the reforms implemented in Cook County, General Order 18.8A, which was issued by Chief Cook County Circuit Court Judge Timothy C. Evans in September 2017.

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The Illinois Supreme Court has held that sentencing a juvenile to a prison sentence of greater than 40 years violates his or her Eighth Amendment rights because it imposes a de facto life sentence.

The defendant in this case was a juvenile at the time of the offense. The juvenile was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and discharging a firearm, which caused the victim’s death. The trial court merged the first-degree murder counts and sentenced the juvenile defendant to 25 years on the first-degree murder charges and 25 years for the mandatory firearm add-on.

The juvenile filed a pro se petition for post conviction relief, alleging that the sentence was unconstitutional and violated the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama, which stated that imposing a mandatory life sentence on a juvenile without consideration of the defendant’s youth and attendant characteristics violated the Eighth Amendment because it constituted a de facto life sentence that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

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On Aug. 29, 2017, the State of Illinois filed suit in federal court against the City of Chicago, alleging that the Chicago Police Department’s use-of-force policies and practices violate the federal Constitution and Illinois law. Two days later, the parties moved to stay these proceedings while they negotiated the consent decree.

Almost immediately after the State filed the complaint, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 publicly indicated its opposition to any consent decree, citing fears that the decree might impair its collective bargaining rights. For months, the Lodge monitored the ongoing negotiations and met informally with the State’s representatives. The Lodge waited until June 6, 2018 to file a motion to intervene in the lawsuit.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied the motion to intervene as being untimely. The reason given was that because the Lodge had to know from the beginning that a consent decree might impact its interests but delayed its motion for nearly a year, and because its allegations with prejudice were considered speculative, the court of appeals affirmed that order.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has entered into a settlement agreement that will provide a process by which parolees will learn their rights and receive representation of lawyers during their parole revocation process.

There was no availability of assigned legal counsel for parole violators before this agreement.  This agreement was reached with the Department of Corrections in a case that was represented by Alan S. Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center.  The U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve of the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago approved the agreement on a preliminary basis.

According to the lawsuit, the state cites a lack of funds when it denies any parolee’s request for appointed counsel during revocation proceedings.  But that practice violates due process requirements found in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion, Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973).