Law in the News

Historic database on Chicago Police misconduct launched

The groundbreaking Citizens Police Data Project, launched yesterday by the Invisible Institute and the Law School’s Civil Rights and Police Accountability Clinic, is a searchable database that contains more than 56,000 complaints filed against more than 8,500 Chicago police officers between 2001 and September of this year. There are gaps in that 14-year period, but the database has every allegation of misconduct made against an officer between March 2011 and this September.

This data set is based on requests made under the Freedom of Information Act which became public information in 2014, when the Clinic won the landmark Illinois appellate case Kalven v. City of Chicago, 7 N.E.3d 741 (Ill. App. Ct. 2014). The database offers a variety of tools for sorting, filtering, and mapping the data. Each record contains information about the complaint and its outcome; the accused officer, including the officer’s name, race, age, gender, and unit of assignment; demographic information on the complainant, including race, age, and gender; and geographic information on where the incident occurred.

For related information on the topic, see the D’Angelo Law Library’s Civil Rights and Police Accountability research guide.

Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales), domestic violence, and the Inter-American system of human rights: online resources

This Wednesday, October 22, at lunchtime in Room IV, four Law School student organizations – the Human Rights Law Society, the Immigration Law Society, the Law Women’s Caucus, and the Domestic Violence Project – present the International Human Rights Clinic’s Caroline Bettinger-Lopez speaking on “Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States: Reframing Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Violation”.  Ms. Bettinger-Lopez was one of the ACLU attorneys who presented a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the U.S. government on behalf of Jessica and her deceased daughters on December 27, 2005 (see Merits Report 80/11, Case 12.626, July 21, 2011).

According to an IACHR press release:

“Jessica Lenahan, a victim of domestic violence along with her daughters Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca Gonzales, ages 7, 8 and 10, obtained a restraining order against her ex-husband from the Colorado Courts in May 21, 1999. Not knowing the whereabouts of her daughters, Jessica Lenahan had eight contacts with the Castle Rock Police Department during the evening of June 22, 1999 and the morning of June 23, 1999. In each of her telephone calls and discussions with the police agents, she requested efforts to locate her daughters and she informed them that she possessed a protection order against Simon Gonzales. Her contacts were met with a police response that was fragmented, uncoordinated and unprepared, and it did not respect the terms of the restraining order. That morning, Simon Gonzales drove his pick-up truck to the Castle Rock Police Department and fired shots through the window. There was an exchange of gunfire with officers from the station in the course of which he was fatally wounded and killed. The deceased bodies of the three girls were found in his truck.”

Ms. Bettinger-Lopez/IHR Clinic will also be attending the IACHR hearing (follow-up on recommendations) on the Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) case this Monday, October 27, 2014. [UPDATE: Hearing at 10:15 a.m. EDT;  International Human Rights Clinic to Appear Before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Law School, October 23, 2014)]

OAS flag

The Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales)  et. al. v. United States of America case is an example of using the Inter-American human rights system to advocate for U.S. citizens.  Researchers looking for the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights use a variety of sources to access these cases.  Locating IACHR & IACtHR decisions by a topic or specific right can be difficult.  In that regard, the recent launch by Loyola of Los Angeles Law School of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Database is a welcome addition to available online resources.  The IACHR Project describes its database as follows:

“This freely-available database produced by the editors and staff of the IACHR Project under the supervision of Professor Cesare Romano allows users to search Inter-American Court decisions by case name, country, and topic. Advanced search features include the ability to search by specific violation of various Inter-American Conventions.

Search results include a brief description of the case, information on judges, and violations found by the Inter-American Court. When available, the database includes a link to a detailed case summary which includes case facts, procedural history, merits, and state compliance with the Inter-American Court’s judgment. To date, 74 detailed case summaries are available.”

Existing resources before this IACHR database including browsing the Commission and Court’s own websites, searching the IACHR-OAS database in WestlawNext (has Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System and the Commission’s annual reports), checking the print volumes of the Inter-American Yearbook on Human Rights = Anuario interamericano de derechos humanos, and the following online resources:

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act signed into law in Illinois

August 27 UPDATE: Governor Quinn signed UELMA into law yesterday, as Public Act 98-1097. This makes Illinois the 11th state to enact UELMA.

May 30 UPDATE: The Senate unanimously voted to approve the House floor amendment, so SB 1941 has now passed both houses and will be sent to the Governor.

On Friday, May 16, the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) unanimously passed the Illinois House of Representatives. The bill (SB 1941), which was unanimously passed by the Senate in March, provides a technology-neutral approach to ensuring that online Illinois state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. Currently, many Illinois legal materials, including the state code, are neither official, nor authenticated. Indeed, the version of the Illinois Compiled Statutes published on the Illinois General Assembly website bears the disclaimer: “The provisions have NOT been edited for publication, and are NOT in any sense the ‘official’ text of the Illinois Compiled Statutes as enacted into law. The accuracy of any specific provision originating from this site cannot be assured, and you are urged to consult the official documents or contact legal counsel of your choice. This site should not be cited as an official or authoritative source.” (emphasis in original). If passed, UELMA will require that Illinois primary legal materials are deemed official and that mechanisms are put in place to ensure that they have not been tampered with or altered accidentally.

A technical amendment to the bill was made in the House, so it will be returned to the Senate for concurrence with the House amendment. The hope is that the bill will be approved by the Senate before they adjourn within the next two weeks. Once the bill is signed by the Governor, Illinois will become the tenth state to pass UELMA, joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, and Oregon. The bill’s progress can be tracked via the Illinois General Assembly website, and more information about UELMA is available on the American Association of Law Libraries Government Relations website and on the Uniform Law Commission website.

Cholera in Haiti: The United Nations, public health, and the law

Cholera in Haiti

Cholera in Haiti

Since October 2010 when UN peacekeepers contaminated Haiti’s principal river with cholera-infected human waste, the disease has killed over 8,300 and sickened more than 650,000.”

On February 26, 2014, at noon, there will be a panel discussion at the Biological Sciences Learning Center on “Cholera in Haiti: Intersection of Public Health and Global Humanitarian Intervention.”  Then at 4:30, in Room III, of the Law School, a panel including Brian Citro of the International Human Rights Clinic, Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and Dr. Paul Pierre of Partners in Health (PIH), will discuss “Law in a Time of Cholera: The Failure of the United Nations in Haiti.” 

Background documents, including the IJDH claims against the UN (November 3, 2011 Petition for Relief filed with the Bureaux des Avocats Internationaux (BAI)) and October 9, 2013 lawsuit filed against the UN (Georges et al v. United Nations et al., Docket # 1:13-cv-07146-JPO, SDNY), are available at the “Cholera Litigation” section of the Institute’s website. Both panels are sponsored by the University of Chicago Human Rights Program’s Health and Human Rights Initiative, with the support of the Richard and Ann Pozen Fund.

Sherlock Holmes and the Curious Case of the Copyrighted Canon

The Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle claims ownership of the Sherlock Holmes Canon, the character Sherlock Holmes and story elements from the 4 novels and 56 short stories featuring Holmes written by Doyle and published from 1887-1927. The estate still collects license fees from the likes of CBS TV (for “Elementary”), the BBC (“Sherlock”), the producers of the Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey Jr., and Random House, publisher of A Study in Sherlock. A Study in Sherlock was a collection of stories written by contemporary authors such as Lee Child and Neil Gaiman, using the Holmes Canon characters and plot elements from stores that were first published before 1923 and are now out of copyright in the United States. Editors Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King (the author of the Mary Russell series of Holmes Canon novels) have refused to pay license fees for a sequel, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, to be published by Pegasus Books. Klinger has filed a suit in federal court in Chicago for a declaration that these stories, and the elements of the Holmes Canon that first appeared in these stories, are in the public domain. (Ten stories that were first published in the United States after 1923, in The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, are still under U.S. copyright.)

The Economist and Publishers Weekly have covered the lawsuit. A good legal explanation of the legal issues in using elements of out-of-copyright works is Copyright and the Public Domain, by Stephen Fishman. (Print and Ebook.)

Explanation of new tax law available via CCH IntelliConnect

You’ve probably heard by now that Congress finally managed to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” by passing new tax legislation. The main features of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 are that it allows the Bush-era tax rates to sunset after 2012 for individuals with income over $400,000 and families with incomes over $450,000; permanently “patches” the alternative minimum tax (AMT); revives many now-expired tax extenders; and provides for a maximum estate tax of 40 percent with a $5 million exclusion. In total, the Act makes over 100 changes to the Internal Revenue Code. If you are interested in learning more about the specific implications for tax law (and who doesn’t find tax law fascinating?), then take a look at American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012: Law, Explanation & Analysis, a new publication available via CCH IntelliConnect. Since 1913, CCH has been a leading source of comprehensive, ongoing practical and timely analysis of the federal tax law.


United Nations resources

On this day, October 24, in 1945, the  Charter of the United Nations entered into force, and the UN was born.  To celebrate, here are a few useful resources on the Charter’s history and law, and the UN generally:

Flag of the United Nations


Supreme Court 2012 Term

Today is the start of the Supreme Court’s October 2012 term. The Court is expected to rule on affirmative action, in a case involving admissions at the University of Texas; same-sex marriage, in challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8; and the Voting Rights Act’s continuing restraints on southern state governments. Check out our Supreme Court Research Guide for sources of news and analysis, briefs, and calendars and transcripts of oral arguments. 

Chicago speed camera program delayed by old AG opinion

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reported that, due to a 38-year old Attorney General’s opinion, the City of Chicago has decided to delay the start date for its speed camera program until early next year. The program was set to begin with at least 25 speed cameras set up throughout the city in “safety zones” located within one-eighth of a mile of schools and parks. Drivers caught by the cameras would be issued a warning ticket on their first offense, followed by tickets of up to $100.

The Attorney General’s opinion interpreted the Illinois state statute on special speed limits in school zones (625 ILCS 5/11-605) to mean that children must be “visibly present” before the school zone speed limits can be enforced. The City has interpreted this opinion to mean that the speed cameras must not only capture photographs of the speeding car and its license plate, but also a child within the vicinity, preferably in the same shot.

The Tribune reports that the old AG opinion did not come up earlier during the debate over initiating the speed camera program. An excellent way to discover such opinions is to look at an annotated code, such as West’s Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes. In the “Notes of Decisions” section for the Illinois statute on speeding in a school zone, there is a citation to the relevant AG opinion with text stating that that the statute applies “only when children are physically present on such street or are outside the school building in a school zone.”

The moral of the story: always use an annotated code when doing legal research!


NATO and Chicago: Research information resources

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will hold its 25th meeting in Chicago May 20-21, 2012.  Heads of state and government from NATO’s member states and more than 30 other countries will attend.  The U.S. and 11 other original signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty (34 U.N.T.S. 243 via HeinOnline) established NATO on April 4, 1949 to promote mutual defense and cooperation.  NATO’s current 28 member states include:  Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  NATO works with partner countries on “a broad array of issues from counter-piracy, to energy security, counter-terrorism, promoting the role of women in peace and security, and more.”

At the NATO Chicago Summit, the  participants expect to discuss three agenda items:   assistance to Afghanistan through transition and beyond, cost-efficient defense capabilities, and partnerships – improving relations with other governments and international organizations.

NATO Chicago Summit banner/logo II For further reading:

Chicago NATO Summit 2012 (City of Chicago NATO Host Committee/World Business Chicago)

Chicago Summit (NATO)(including mobile)

NATO Chicago Summit 2012 (United States Mission to NATO)

Senate Hears Testimony on Upcoming NATO Meeting in Chicago (C-SPAN, May 10, 2012)

Smart Defense and the Future of NATO (Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conference papers)

NATO website:

Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA)

NATO Handbook (2006).  eBook (PDF).  Call number:  KA18.N86A2.

Thilo Marauhn, “North Atlantic Treaty Organization ,” in Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Online).  Last updated May 2011.  Includes “Select Bibliography” of books and journal articles.

“Closing the Circle:  The Negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty,” in Brian C. Rathbun, Trust in International Cooperation:  International Security Institutions, Domestic Politics and American Multilateralism (2012).  Call number:  JZ1318.R375 2012.

The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (Dieter Fleck, ed., 2001).  Call number:  XXKZ5589.H36 2001.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, The Long Entanglement:  NATO’s First Fifty Years (1999).  Call number:  E744.K177 1999.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO 1948:  The Birth of the Transatlantic Alliance (2007).  Call number:  UA646.3.K365 2007.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO and the UN:  A Peculiar Relationship (2010).  eBook.  Call number:  JZ5930.K36 2010.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO and the United States:  The Enduring Alliance (1994).  Call number: UA646.5.U5K370 1994.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO Divided, NATO United:  The Evolution of an Alliance (2004).  Call number:  JZ5930.K37 2004.

NATO Review (see Chicago Summit Special Edition).

Marco Rimanelli, Historical Dictionary of NATO and Other International Security Organizations (2009).  Call number:  UA646.3.R485 2009.

Snežana Trifunovska, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)(2d ed., 2012)(also online in the International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Intergovernmental Organizations).  Call number:  XXKZ5930.T75 2012.

John Woodliffe, The Peacetime Use of Foreign Military Installations Under Modern International Law (1992).  Call number:  XXK4720.W66 1992.