Cook County was set to go to trial over a class action lawsuit brought against Sheriff Tom Dart and the County over the County Jail’s policy of bringing detainees who have been acquitted back to jail during processing. Last month, Cook County Commissioners voted, essentially, to take the case to trial. But that trial’s been put on hold, a staffer in Litigation Subcommittee Chair Peter Silvestri’s office said. “The judge struck the trial date in hopes that they’ll settle.”
The case is Otero v. Thomas Dart et. al. In 2011, Brian Otero was being held on Cook County Jail on a burglary charge, but was acquitted. Instead of going home, he was sent back to jail, told to put back on his uniform, and moved cell to cell for processing. He says when others found out he’d be going home, he was beaten, suffering torn ligaments in his hands and bruises on his face. Otero was released nine hours after his acquittal.
According to CBS Chicago, there are 60,000 others found not guilty or had charges dismissed or dropped, but still had to wait up to 30 hours for their release. Otero sued for unlawful detention in 2012, saying the County violated of the Civil Rights Act. The suit demanded a trial by jury. Otero and others are being represented by Myron M. Cherry & Associates, LLC, The Law Firm of Peter L. Currie, PC, Chavez Law Firm, P.C., and Foote Meyers Mielke & Flowers, LLC.
In a closed committee session on February 9th, Commissioners voted unanimously not to seek a settlement, Litigation Chair Peter Silvestri told Aldertrack, but, “there’s been new developments, so the State’s Attorney’s Office wants to update us.” The Litigation Subcommittee regularly moves into executive session during discussion of cases, then reconvenes publicly for a vote.
A settlement on a similar issue in Los Angeles more than a decade ago cost taxpayers there $27 million, NBC Chicago reports. Otero’s attorney, Mike Cherry (of Myron M. Cherry & Associates), told WBEZ in 2013 he hoped this case would be expensive enough to force Cook County to update what has been criticized as a “bureaucratic disaster of disappearing files and dinosaur age technology” – namely, the County Court System’s reliance on carbon copies of files that can slow down processing for acquittals, among other essential court functions.
Other Issues Up in Committee Today
Commissioners might get a broad view of the cost of compliance with the Shakman Decree today. Last month, Comm. Deborah Sims noted the “astronomical amounts” the county is paying for compliance at departments like the Recorder of Deeds and Assessor. “This is really ridiculous what we’re doing,” she said.
“For last three years we’ve been told this is coming to a conclusion,” Comm. Joan Patricia Murphy complained at the time. Comm. Silvestri noted that the Sheriff’s Office had come into compliance, and asked that Don Pechous with the State’s Attorney’s Office put together a list of the total number of cases and dollar amounts that the County has paid out over time for the next Subcommittee meeting.
“We can do that,” Pechous said.
Cook County’s Finance Committee will be voting to approve roughly $125,000 to pay for costs and fees of administrators who oversee compliance with Shakman Decrees at the County, Recorder of Deeds, Assessor, and Democratic Organization of Cook County today. Those recurring fees have added up. Each agenda item authorizing the payment includes a “paid to date” number. For the Recorder of Deeds’ Compliance Administrator, the total is $1.46 million. In the case of Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County, et al., the County has so far paid out $7.83 million.
Commissioners will also vote on a resolution calling for the U.S. Congress to pass the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, which “would help disabled and older Americans live at home” by offering more resources and options to unpaid family caregivers. AARP estimates 40 million Americans serve as family caregivers, worth an estimated $470 billion a year.
The Criminal Justice Committee will take up an ordinance amending the County Code allowing licensed firearm instructors with current registration from the state to use replica guns for education, instruction, and training on firearm safety within a business or classroom setting.
The full Board of Commissioners will meet today to vote on some of the above items and things we previewed yesterday. Here are some highlights from the consent calendar:
16-1895 (Comm. Larry Suffredin) – This amendment would allow applicants for property tax breaks to receive multiple breaks for the same piece of property.
16-1896 (Comm. Larry Suffredin) – By January 1, 2017, all municipalities and specialty districts would have to create Offices of Inspectors General. Specialty districts include Cemetery Associations; Drainage, Mosquito Abatement, River Conservancy, Sanitary, and Street Lighting Districts; and Water Commissions.
16-1898 (Comm. Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia) – This resolution urges Mondelez, the parent company of Nabisco, to continue its relationship with the South Side of Chicago. The company plans to move 600 manufacturing jobs to Mexico.
16-0907, 16-1742, 16-1743 (Pres. Toni Preckwinkle) – Collective Bargaining Agreements between the county and the House Staff Association of Cook County, The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 399, and AFSCME Council 31.