Civil and Constitutional Rights

Ethnic Intimidation and Hate Crimes

Schiff Hardin lawyers have won two civil verdicts under an Ethnic Intimidation Statute — including the first such verdict in the country under such a statute and the largest such verdict in federal court ($1.75 million).

Racial Profiling

In cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), we obtained a federal consent decree to stop racial profiling by the police in the city of Highland Park, Illinois (Ledford v. City of Highland Park, 2000 WL 1053967 (N.D. Ill. 2000)). The consent decree is a model for similar cases elsewhere in the United States.

Government Neutrality in Religion

Schiff Hardin attorneys are working with the ACLU, representing several individuals, including two Chicago area religious leaders who are challenging the U.S. Department of Defense's special funding of Boy Scouts jamborees. The case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on appeal from a district court judgment that the Pentagon's annual financial support for such programs violates the constitutional principle of government neutrality between religious and secular groups.

Civil Rights

  • In conjunction with the ACLU, we represented in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, a native-born Arab-American (the owner of a suburban Chicago computer software company), who was subjected to unnecessary excessive force during a body search and shackled to a chair for approximately three hours while isolated from his wife and children. This was one of three instances in which he was misidentified and detained. His suit seeks a court order compelling the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to adopt policies that ensure expeditious reentry to the United States for U.S. citizens whose names are similar to those on government watch lists, and to institute adequate training and supervision to ensure that U.S. citizens are not unduly detained and harassed upon entering the United States.
  • In conjunction with the ACLU we represented a Muslim VISTA volunteer who was strip-searched at O'Hare International Airport because she was wearing a hijab.
  • As co-counsel with the ACLU, we challenged the administration of Illinois' Sexual Violent Persons Act. The Act civilly commits individuals thought to pose a risk of recidivism in order to "treat" that persons supposed mental defect. The program has never recommended anyone for release.
  • In conjunction with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), Schiff Hardin attorneys successfully defended an immigrant Filipino family wrongfully accused of human trafficking by their landlord.
  • We represented a client in his claim under the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance against the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • We represented a plaintiff in an employment discrimination suit in the Northern District of Illinois. This case involved race (Title VII/Section 1981) and age (ADEA) claims against the client's former employers, alleging racial harassment and a demotion due to race and age.
  • For several years, on a pro bono basis, Schiff Hardin lawyers have represented detainees at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba as part of the nationwide effort to restore procedural due process rights to those held in that facility.
  • We represented a plaintiff who was detained, imprisoned and abused for three months following the September 11, 2001 attacks and prosecuted substantive and procedural due process claims for abuse at the hands of the FBI and federal immigration officials. During the course of our representation, our client was granted U.S. citizenship.

Constitutional Rights

We successfully defended defamation claims against a small, specialty magazine publisher, culminating in an Illinois Supreme Court opinion establishing that the privilege to publish fair and accurate reports of official proceedings, including judicial proceedings, cannot be defeated by actual malice. Because of the importance of the fair report privilege to the media in Illinois and the limited resources of our client, we handled the Illinois Supreme Court proceedings on a pro bono basis.

Human Rights

As part of the peace agreement that ended nearly 15 years of brutal civil war, the West African country of Liberia established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC's mission was to investigate human rights violations during the war, and to facilitate healing and reconciliation through a forum in which Liberians could share their war experiences. The Liberian TRC was the first truth commission in the world to systematically engage and give a voice to the affected country's diaspora communities.

Schiff Hardin partnered with Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and Northwestern University's Center For International Human Rights to collect testimony from Chicago-area Liberians who witnessed or suffered from human rights violations during the war.

For more information on the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its final report issued in 2009, please visit their Web site at http://www.trcofliberia.org/. For more information on Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, visit their Web site at http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/. For more information on Northwestern University's Center For International Human Rights, visit their Web site at http://www.law.northwestern.edu/humanrights/.