It is common knowledge that if you go to trial and lose, chances are you can appeal the ruling. People on death row appeal as many times as they are able, hoping to reverse the decision that may lead to their death. Parents can appeal when they lose custody of their children. And most recently, Chicago State University appealed a ruling that James Crowley, their former attorney, was unfairly fired. What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is just how costly and time-consuming appeals can be.
Crowley v. Watson
First, some background. In 2014, Chicago State University fired James Crowley after he refused to withhold documents and acted as a whistleblower. Crowley sued under the state ethics act, an act that protects employees such as Crowley who disclose employer activities that they believe might be illegal. The University claimed that instead Crowley was fired for misusing university resources. A Cook County jury found that Crowley was in fact unfairly fired, and awarded him two million dollars in punitive damages and back pay in the amount of $480,000.
Needless to say, the University appealed, primarily citing the large punitive damages award. But here we see how appeals can do more harm than good. In March, the appellate court in Cook County not only upheld the jury’s award, but the judge ordered attorneys’ fees to be paid to Crowley in the amount of $300,000 and doubled the amount of back pay he would receive. Additionally, the university was ordered to pay Crowley his salary until all appeals were completed, in the amount of $120,000 a year. After this appeal, the total cost to the University went from about 2.5 million to 5 million, plus some if the appeals continue for multiple years.
State Supreme Court
On May 25, 2016 the Illinois Supreme Court denied the University’s appeal, making both appeals unsuccessful. Now, the case will go back to the trial judge for the final determination of how much money Crowley will receive.
This decision has effects that go beyond just Chicago State University. Of course, the decision of the Supreme Court reinforces the fact that the University was in the wrong; this is the third time that Crowley was found to have been unfairly fired. This is hurtful to both the University’s pocket and their reputation. But the positive there is that all employers will take note; they will be held accountable under the ethics act that Crowley used. Unfortunately for them, this positive came only at the expense of the University.
This case is not unusual; while appeals that are successful frequently make the news, a good many are not successful. In that case, the appeal takes time and money, and sometimes the ruling may ultimately cost you more money. In order to decide whether an appeal makes sense, it is important to keep these facts in mind.
Contact a Chicago Appeals Attorney
Appeals are a very complex, costly, and time-consuming process. If you received a verdict that you wish to appeal, consulting an attorney can only help. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to appeal and the attorneys in the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane are here to help you. Contact us today for a consultation.
It’s almost impossible to go literally one week without reading another story in the Chicago media about the city paying out another huge settlement in a police misconduct case. The latest settlement to get attention in Chicago newspapers and TV is for $3.2 million, but this is literally a drop in the bucket to what the city has paid out in recent year. Since 2004, the city of Chicago has paid out more than $500 million to settle complaints of police misconduct. And each of these latest claims alone has settled for more than $1 million.
So what police misconduct resulted in these latest settlements? Read on to find out.
Chicago Police Shootings Continue to be a Problem
Earlier this month, the City Council Finance Committee approved two misconduct settlements. The first is for $2.2 million, while the second is for $1 million.
In the first incident, a 23-year-old man reportedly hit another vehicle and drove off while on his way to his overnight job at a sausage factory.
Police claimed that after this initial hit-and-run the man forced a police cruiser off the roadway slammed into the back of another vehicle. Police then claimed that they blocked the man’s vehicle into an alley, and the man pinned one off-duty officer to the front of his car.
Chicago police officers then fired 42 shots at the man, striking him 16 times.
However, forensic evidence has raised serious questions about the account given by police officers. If indeed an officer was stuck by the man’s vehicle, he could not have fired his gun at him as he claims. In addition, tire tracks at the scene, purportedly from the suspect’s vehicle, appear to have to have been faked. Evidence later uncovered in the course of the lawsuit also showed that the off-duty police officer had been drinking before the incident, and Chicago police did not thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the suspect’s death. For example, rather than interview witnesses, one police officer submitted a report simply made up of a typed narrative from another officer.
The second settlement, for $1 million, also included allegations of the police fabricating that evidence. In that case, a 27-year-old man under investigation for alleged involvement a cell phone theft ring, was shot by police after allegedly pinning a police officer between two vehicles. However, just as in the other case, forensic evidence called that official story into question. It actually appears as if the man may have been shot while fleeing the scene rather than harming a police officer.
Contact a Chicago Police Misconduct Lawyer
There is perhaps no greater breach of trust than when police officers ignore the law to injure or kill innocent people without provocation. But as these latest settlements illustrate, such activity is all too common in the city of Chicago. If your civil rights have been violated by police officers, you too may be entitled to compensation from the city. Contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with a dedicated Chicago civil rights attorney.
In the city of Chicago, allegations of police misconduct made by citizens are supposed to be investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). This board is tasked with determining whether police officers are acting in accordance with the law, and it’s supposed to hold them accountable if they act out of bounds. Yet one recent study by the city found that the IPRA is chronically understaffed and underfunded. The IPRA can’t even fully investigate 40 percent of the complaints that come before it.
That has long led to many Chicago leaders calling for the IPRA to be disbanded and replaced with a civilian organization. Those calls have long been ignored, but in the wake of constant reporting on Chicago’s police misconduct epidemic, it looks like the city is now finally going to do something about the IPRA’s ineffectiveness.
Emanuel Calls for Independent Board to Replace IPRA
In a Chicago Sun-Times editorial published earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote that it is time to replace the IPRA with a civilian board that will increase accountability and oversight of police officers in the city.
Emanuel’s comments come in the wake of the release of a report from the Task Force on Police Accountability that he created. After a four a month report, the task force issued a report last month that also called for the current IPRA to be abolished. The report claimed that Chicago police have little regard for the rights of minority suspects.
Emanuel did not previously introduce plans to replace the IPRA and claimed it was not part of his agenda prior to reviewing the task force’s report. The mayor was complimentary to toward the current leadership of the IPRA, but said that replacing it with an independent civilian board is necessary to rebuild trust between Chicago police and residents. He has also pledged to increase funding and resources for the board that replace the IPRA.
Many of those critical have been supportive of the mayor’s plan. Still, it’s important to note that there are many unknowns about Emanuel’s plan. The mayor has not disclosed exactly what this new board will look like, who will be eligible to sit on it, or how it will be able to better investigate complaints of police misconduct. These details should be brought before the city council at an upcoming meeting, and while the initial proposal has found support, it still remains to be seen whether the council will embrace the details of the proposal.
Chicago Police Misconduct Lawyer
If the city of Chicago wants to rein in police misconduct, replacing the ineffective IPRA with a civilian board is a good step. However, it still doesn’t end the rampant police misconduct that many Chicago residents live in fear of, or compensate past victims for their injuries. If you believe Chicago police officers have violated your civil rights, an attorney may be able to make you whole ago. Contact Barney & Hourihane online or on the phone to discuss your case today.
A recent decision from the Illinois Court of Appeals has strengthened protections for when police officers may enter a home without a warrant. As most Americans know, the Fourth Amendment requires that police officers get a warrant to enter someone’s home without permission, or at least have a very good reason to avoid this rule, such as a reasonable suspicion that someone’s life is in danger if they don’t enter.
Of course, whether the police are right to enter a residence without a warrant is rarely a clear cut issue. Sometimes police believe they have every right to enter a home without getting a warrant first, and if that action results in an arrest, the suspect may need to go to court to have any evidence police find suppressed, and making sure that decision is upheld can even require going before the appellate court.
People v. Swanson
In People v. Swanson, decided earlier this month, the defendant was coming home from a bar when he lost control of his vehicle on an icy road and crashed into a ditch approximately two miles from his home in Hinckley, Illinois.
The airbags deployed and the man only cut his finger, but the vehicle would not start, so he locked his car and went to a nearby home for assistance. At the first home, the residents would not let the man home and even pulled a gun on him. No one was home at the second residence, so he decided to return to his own home.
In the meantime, police officers found the abandoned vehicle and contacted the defendant’s wife to tell him that her husband and been involved in a car accident and could not be located.
The man soon returned home, however, and his wife contacted dispatchers to let them know that he was safe. This was not enough for police officers though, who insisted on coming to the home to see for themselves.
Stories conflict about what happened next, though it did result in the man being arrested and charged with driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, and several other misdemeanors. The woman repeatedly insisted before the trial court that she did not give the police consent to enter her home, though police claim she did. The trial court sided with the woman, and granted the man’s motions to suppress evidence and rescind a statutory summary suspension of his license.
The state appealed this ruling, but finding the woman to be credible and no applicable exception that would have allowed the police to enter without a warrant, the appellate court upheld the ruling of the trial court.
Contact a Chicago Defense Appeals Lawyer
Sometimes the ruling of a trial court is not enough to clear your name, and you must file an appeal to have evidence suppressed or get a conviction vacated. Criminal appeals are complex matters best handled by experienced Illinois appellate attorneys. If you’re considering an appeal in a criminal case, contact Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation about your case.
Last week, we told you about the problem of “testilying” in Cook County. This is an all-too common practice in Cook County in which police officers take the stand at a criminal case and give knowingly false testimony. And sadly, judges and prosecutors rarely call police out on their lies, even if they’re glaringly obvious. However, the recent attention given to this issue has finally motivated the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to Act, and defense attorneys in some cases are now receiving disclosure notices letting them know that a police officer may have given false testimony in a case they handled.
Six Chicago Police Officers Under Investigation for False Testimony
A follow-up article by the Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Police Department has begun an investigation into whether as many as six police officers lied on the stand in the course of criminal proceedings. The department has already removed one officer from patrols because of his suspected false testimony.
In the case of that officer, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has filed a disclosure notice to defense counsel in a case reported on in the Tribune’s previous article. In that case, the officer was suspected of lying about how whether he had reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop that resulted in a $50,000 drug bust. The state’s attorney’s office may issue disclosure notices in other cases involving this officer, as well as additional officers who may have lied on the stand.
The disclosure notices do not automatically vacate a conviction, but they let a defense attorney know that a witness may have provided false testimony, or at the very least that new evidence has rendered that testimony highly questionable. The disclosure notice can be the basis for appealing a conviction, and some attorneys are already using this information as grounds to testimony the credibility of this officer in other cases.
In addition, prosecutors are reviewing the transcripts of prior cases involving these officers to determine whether perjury charges may be appropriate. Perjury is a criminal action that can carry substantial prison time in the event of a conviction. And if prosecutors do decide to pursue criminal charges against these officers, those prosecutions could reveal evidence that could also make it easier for the wrongfully convicted to pursue appeals or even civil rights lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department. This could also motivate the department to pursue stronger internal discipline actions against officers who lie in court.
Chicago Criminal Defense Law
A fair jury trial is the cornerstone of the American criminal justice system. Defendants have a right to not have their conduct called into question by untruthful testimony, but sadly recent stories in Chicago media show that hasn’t always been the case in Cook County. If you believe a police officer falsely testified against you and it resulted in a wrongful conviction, you may be able to get your conviction vacated on appeal. For more information, contact Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.
It’s been hard to miss the news the past few months about the criminal prosecution of former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing teenage boys while a teacher and wrestling coach decades ago in Yorkville, Illinois. But with the statute of limitations long past on those alleged crimes and little evidence remaining, federal prosecutors instead chose last year to indict Hastert on charges that he violated federal banking laws and made false statements to the FBI when he wired money to keep an alleged victim, now an adult, quiet about the misconduct. Hastert reportedly agreed to pay the victim $3.5 million, and had already sent him $1.7 million at the time that the FBI began investigating him.
A Longer Than Expected Sentence But No Appeal
Hastert pleaded guilty last year before a federal judge in Chicago to the charges of structuring financial transactions to conceal payments and making false statements. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors recommended that Hastert serve a sentence of between zero and six months in prison. However, the judge, imposed a sentence of 15 months in prison based on the numerous allegations of sexual abuse against Hastert.
Hastert could have appealed the sentence because it went beyond federal guidelines, but chose not to as the deadline for the appeal passed last week. He now must report to prison.
While Hastert would have been perfectly within his rights to file an appeal, his case illustrates several reasons why sometimes it’s best to avoid an appeal. Of course, the sexual abuse allegations against Hastert are appalling. Even though he cannot be convicted of any crime based on those allegations at this point, the conduct that led to his violations of federal banking law will not win him much favor with an appellate court.
And federal prosecutors only promised to recommend a lighter sentence for Hastert. When entering a plea agreement with prosecutors, there is never any guarantee that a judge will follow the agreement, and this alone is not enough to win a lighter sentence on appeal.
There is also the possibility that if Hastert had appealed his sentence and dragged out the process for another year or two, prosecutors might have discovered more evidence of wrongdoing. If such evidence were discovered while the case was pending on appeal, it could have actually resulted in Hastert receiving a longer sentence than what was initially imposed by the court.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Appeals are a complicated area of the law. There are many more procedural requirements for pursuing a criminal appeal in either state or federal court, and there are also strategic concerns. It might be better to appeal on some issues rather than others, and as this unique case illustrates, in some cases it might be better to not file an appeal at all. To learn about appeals, contact Barney & Hourihane today to talk an attorney about your situation.
It’s well established that courts will not admit at trial evidence obtained through police misconduct. This means that police can’t coerce you into making a statement and they need to have reasonable suspicion to initiate a criminal investigation of you.
Courts have also long recognized claims for malicious prosecution, meaning that an individual or agency cannot use the court system to harass someone. For example, you can’t keep filing frivolous lawsuits against someone you don’t like just to make them go through the time and expense of continually going to court.
But what if police misconduct is so egregious that it goes beyond merely a momentary illegal search? What if the entire investigative process is tainted? Does such activity allow you to pursue a civil rights action for malicious prosecution against police? That’s the question that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon answer.
Manuel v. City of Joliet
In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Manuel v. City of Joliet. In Manuel, the plaintiff, who is black, was stopped by several white Joliet police officers. The officers allegedly used racial slurs and accused the man of possessing ecstasy tablets. The man told the police they were lying and he only possessed vitamins.
Over the course of seven weeks, the man remained in jail, and police officers testified in court that the man possessed illegal drugs. Finally, a test of the pills revealed that the pills were in fact completely legal vitamins, and the man was released.
Both the district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals have held that the man could not sue for malicious prosecution, but other circuits have upheld similar claims.
In Manuel, the plaintiff is arguing that a malicious prosecution claim attaches when the Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure is violated. The Seventh Circuit has previously held that the right to not be victimized by malicious prosecution is actually a due process right, and so a viable claim does not arise until judicial proceedings have begun.
The argument may seem academic, but the consequences could have a big impact on civil rights lawsuits. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiff in Manuel, it will open the door for malicious prosecution claims against police departments. If it rules against him, then those claims can only be pursued against plaintiffs and prosecutors.
While the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, it has not yet set a date for oral arguments. However, a decision is expected by the end of the year.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer
Civil rights law is constantly changing. What courts may not recognize as a viable claim today could be the basis for a lawsuit tomorrow. Or a unique new case could be the basis for a change in established case law. If you believe the actions of police or another government agency have violated your civil rights, contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with an experienced civil rights attorney.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune ran a troubling story about the common practice of police officers in Cook County lying on the stand during criminal cases. In a lengthy investigate piece, the paper reported more than a dozen cases in which police officers gave highly questionable testimony or just flat out lied in court. Most concerning of all is that the Tribune found that police officers are rarely punished for this conduct.
Testilying is Widespread but Hard to Prove
The paper noted that the problem of police officers lying on the stand is so widespread that some lawyers have taken to calling it “testilying,” a combination of the words testifying and lying. The article found cases both big and small in which police officers have apparently lied on the stand. A police officer is seemingly as likely to lie in a case over $30 in drugs as in a case involving $30,000 worth of drugs.
The most egregious case cited by the Chicago Tribune was a drug case last year during which a special Chicago narcotics unit was on a stakeout, but abandoned its assignment to initiate a traffic stop on a van with a busted taillight. The Cook County judge on the case found the testimony of the officers to be so blatantly untruthful that he dismissed the case and admonished other judges and attorneys in Chicago for failing to take action against police officers in similar cases.
The problem is that without strong evidence to the contrary, prosecutors are unlikely to pursue an investigation into whether police officers are lying on the stand. The only exception in Chicago is usually when video evidence clearly shows that the version of events given by a police officer is untruthful.
Dealing with Lying Police Officers in Cook County
If there is enough independent evidence in the record to indicate a police officer is lying, prosecutors may be lobbied to pursue a perjury charge, however, this is quite rare in Chicago.
It is more likely that the lies of a police officer can be used to have a case dismissed or overturned on appeal. For example, if it becomes clear that a police officer is lying about how he found a gun on a suspect, a judge will likely suppress this evidence at trial. If this is key to the prosecution’s case, it may be enough to get the charges dismissed.
If you are unable to get bad evidence or untruthful testimony thrown out, and are convicted, that’s not the end of the road. You can still file an appeal, and the appellate court may be convinced to vacate your conviction.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with a crime and go to trial, the police officers who arrested you are going to take the stand. Juries put a significant amount of weight in the testimony of police officers, so if it’s obvious that the police are lying about your case, this testimony can lead to wrongful conviction that you may be able to get overturned on appeal. For a consultation about the criminal appeal process, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today.
For most people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, the most pressing concern is to have their conviction vacated so that they can be freed from prison or otherwise avoid a sentence. However, in some cases that doesn’t go far enough. Sometimes it can be so obvious that police acted unjustly and so much of a person’s life can be lost to a wrongful conviction that the only recourse is to pursue a civil lawsuit for violation of civil rights, as a recent case illustrates.
Fifteen Years in Prison for a Murder He Didn’t Commit
Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune ran an article about a Waukegan man who was found guilty in 1999 for the murder of a mentally disabled Kane County woman. At the time, the man admitted to police that he beat the woman before dumping her body in a woman area, but forensic evidence that came to light last year showed that the woman had lightly been abused for weeks before she died, and her injuries were not consistent with how the man killed her. The defendant had no prior relationship with the woman.
In fact, the defendant’s “confession” was an egregious case of police misconduct. Police officers refused his requests for an attorney to be present during his interrogation, and repeatedly threatened him until he confessed to a version of the crime that they fabricated. Other witnesses in the case claim that they were similarly intimidated by police to cook up a false version of events.
Last year, the man was released from prison, and Lake County has issued him a certificate of innocence. That has paved the way for him to file a civil lawsuit in federal court against the officers involved in his case on the grounds that they violated his civil rights.
The case illustrates serious questions about how police in both Waukegan and Chicago handle felony cases The Chicago Tribune reported that defendants in six major felony cases in Waukegan have been exonerated since 2010 after forensic evidence came to light proving their innocence. The city has paid out more than $27 million to resolve civil rights cases involving police misconduct since 2006. And Waukegan is second only to Chicago when it comes to wrongful convictions.
But the most troubling allegation in the Waukegan case is how widespread police misconduct may have been there. In his lawsuit, the newly exonerated man claims that it was a common practice for police at the department to coerce confessions and fabricate evidence, and in many cases police officers were promoted for that conduct.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Attorney
If police have used faulty evidence to convict you of a crime that you didn’t commit it, you don’t have to accept this unjust verdict. Illinois law allows several paths to clear your name in appellate court. And in addition to winning your freedom, you may also be able to pursue a lawsuit against the police for violating your civil rights. To discuss how to file an appeal and pursuing a civil rights lawsuit, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.
A lawsuit alleging that a Cook County sheriff’s deputy used excessive force against a suspect illustrates again how civil lawsuits are often the only legal recourse that many people have following incidents of police brutality.
Punched and Kicked for Doing Nothing Wrong
The federal lawsuit was filed by a 50-year-old Chicago man arrested in 2013 on cocaine charges that were later dropped, and is backed up by surveillance video from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. While the video tape doesn’t contain any sound, the man admits that while in custody he responded to a question from the deputy with an expletive.
That might have been disrespectful, the resulting actions by the deputy were truly outrageous. The deputy kicked the man to the ground, and then continued to punch and kick him while he lay in the fetal position. Eventually, the deputy handcuffed the man and dragged him out of his cell.
Video Evidence but Little Action From Authorities
Shockingly, the deputy in the video has not faced any punishment for his actions. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to press charges, stating that it would be too difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the deputy used excessive force.
A complaint was filed with the sheriff’s office, but that also hasn’t resulted in any punishment for the deputy’s actions sticking. While the deputy was initially fired, his termination was reversed by an internal Merit Board that reviews allegations of misconduct by sheriff’s deputies. The Merit Board found that the suspect was resisting arrest. A Cook County judge also sided with the Merit Board, but the Sheriff’s Office has now taken that decision to the Illinois Court of Appeals. The deputy continues to collect a salary.
Pursuing Excessive Force Lawsuits
As this latest case from Cook County shows, often a civil lawsuit is the only remedy for suspects who have been victimized by police misconduct. This typically involves filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging that your civil rights have been violated, and demanding monetary compensation from the police department or sheriff’s office.
However, there may be difficulties in proving that how a police officer acted indeed constituted excessive force. Excessive force claims are judged on a case-by-case basis against how a hypothetical reasonable police officer in the same situation would have acted. This can make it difficult to establish excessive force in cases where a suspect has acted violently, but in clearer cases where a suspect has done nothing to provoke officers and suffered serious injuries, large monetary awards have been paid out by law enforcement agencies in settlements or jury verdicts.
Contact a Chicago Police Abuse Attorney
Police officers have tough jobs, and sometimes they do have to use force to apprehend suspects. However, police are never authorized to beat and abuse suspects. When police use excessive force, it can result in lifelong injuries, and departments are usually unable or unwilling to do anything to punish bad cops. If you’ve been victimized by police brutality and are considering a lawsuit against law enforcement officers in Cook County, contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case.