The Chicago Bar Association’s Public Affairs Committee, for which Robert Kreisman is chair, and the Administration of Justice Subcommittee, for which Mr. Kreisman is also the chair, presented a panel of three experts who dissected the Chicago Police Consent Decree at the Union League Club on April 24, 2019. The program was attended by more than 115 people, including Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and two other district court judges, Honorable Ronald Guzman and Honorable Susan Cox. Lawyers in attendance received continuing education credit.
The panel of experts included University of Wisconsin law professor Linda Greene; Cara Ann Hendrickson, the state’s lead consent decree negotiator, now a partner at Massey & Gail LLP; and Karen A. Sheley of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and director of the Police Practices Project at the Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The forum was moderated by Robert Kreisman who also introduced Chicago Bar Association President Steven M. Elrod. Mr. Elrod addressed the audience as did David Kohn, executive director of the Union League Club.
The Chicago Police Consent Decree can trace its history to the 2014 Laquan McDonald shooting. The decree was issued after the release of the cam-dash video following a hard-fought court case in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County over the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to have that video released to the public. The U.S. Department of Justice submitted a scathing report criticizing the decade-long history of Chicago Police Department abuses after the video was made public.
Between 2002 and 2016 — 14 years — the City of Chicago spent more than $662 million on settlements and attorney fees for constitutional civil rights violations perpetrated on individuals by the Chicago Police. That included attorney fees and costs related to those many cases.
Sheley announced at the forum that a settlement was reached that day by the city for an individual who brought a civil rights action against the Chicago Police Department in which the city settled the case for $20 million.
The original 2018 lawsuit was entitled: State of Illinois v. City of Chicago and was filed in federal court. After hundreds of hours of negotiations between the city, the Chicago Police Department, the Attorney General’s Office and the police union representatives, the consent decree in proposed form was submitted to Judge Robert Dow. The consent decree, consisting of 236 pages, was entered by the federal district court on Jan. 31, 2019.
This forum was designed to give an overall view of what to expect in terms of compliance and how the consent decree will be implemented. The panel discussed all of that, including the appointment on March 1, 2019 of Maggie Hickey, a partner of Schiff Hardin, to be the independent monitor. Hickey will work with a staff of attorneys and assistants and the office will be funded with a yearly budget of more than $2 million. In addition, Judge Dow has appointed a special master: retired federal district court judge Hon. David Coar.
The panel of Hendrickson, Greene and Sheley explained how the negotiations between the city and the Attorney General’s Office came to fruition, resulting in the consent decree.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office conducted its own “supplemental investigation” into the Chicago Police Department’s policies and practices when it began negotiating the consent decree with the city.
Hendrickson was the state’s lead consent decree negotiator.
“The first thing we did was launch a supplemental investigation that would supplement the report by the Department of Justice and the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF),” Hendrickson said. “Not only to ensure that we had the information we needed to responsibly negotiate a consent decree, but also to update some of the information that had been provided by the Department of Justice and the PATF report.”
According to Hendrickson, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office issued more than 200 document requests to the City of Chicago and to the police department. Staffers at the Attorney General’s Office also went on ride-alongs with Chicago police officers and with retained subject-matter experts.
The panel discussed how this consent decree is unique compared to many other in-place consent decrees around the country.
This consent decree imposes a budget cap on the independent monitor; the city will pay Hickey’s “reasonable fees and costs” up to $2.85 million a year. Most police consent decrees do not have an expense cap such as this.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure say special masters, such as Judge Coar, are tasked with “performing duties consented to by” the parties of a decree. Judge Dow commented in the March 1, 2019 order saying that Judge Coar will handle “discreet projects.” The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do allow for a master to serve as a fact finder on his or her own, but Judge Dow said he does not expect Judge Coar to have that kind of role.
“Instead, the master will be a facilitator and problem-solver on specific tasks that fall outside the areas which the monitor is best suited to handle,” Dow said.
Hendrickson stated at the forum that she was not aware of any other police consent decree that had both a monitor and a special master. She said it won’t be a problem: “To our collective benefit, the court now has significant resources to monitor the consent decree.”
The report by Hickey on the city and the police department’s compliance with the consent decree will be published twice a year, with the first report due in September 2019. As Judge Dow concluded in his Memorandum Opinion and Order, “Let us begin.”
State of Illinois v. City of Chicago, No. 17 C 6260.
Kreisman Law Offices is a Chicago civil trial firm handling a wide variety of state, federal and appellate matters.
Robert D. Kreisman, principal of Kreisman Law Offices, has been a member of the Illinois, Missouri and federal trial courts since 1976.
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