Abusive Policies

Miscarriages of justice usually don’t stem from individual actors alone; injustice is enabled – sometimes even encouraged – by institutional policies and procedures. Whether by design or by disregard, whether by formal policy or unwritten custom, an institution’s power to warp justice is immense.

Overturning decades of institutional injustice is no easy task, but meaningful reform is possible. The MacArthur Justice Center is committed to pursuing legal action against law enforcement entities with policies and practices that harm the communities they intend to serve.

Challenging Chicago's Racist & Inaccurate Gang Database

We represent the Chicagoans for an End to the Gang Database, a coalition of individuals and community organizations, suing the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department (CPD) over the CPD’s unconstitutional Gang Database, which police officers use to disproportionately target, criminalize and punish Black and Latinx individuals.

The CPD has unlimited discretion to add names to the Gang Database – there are no consistent guidelines or approval requirements. As a result, the information is often irregular, inaccurate and outdated. Once included in the Database, individuals in the Database have no due process protections, including any way to challenge the designation.

In addition to using this information to harass and falsely detain people, CPD provides this incorrect, inconsistent Database to third parties, including U.S. Immigrations and Customs (ICE). As a result, the false gang designations can affect an individual’s ability to get employment, licenses, bond, parole, housing, immigration relief, and more.

Prosecuting the Prosecutors

District Attorneys have tremendous power in our criminal justice system. After a person is arrested, prosecutors make the decision whether to bring formal charges, and which crimes will be alleged in the charge or indictment. In many jurisdictions, prosecutors direct or consult in the investigation of crime. Once the case is in court, prosecutors determine what evidence is disclosed to the defendant. And at trial, they use “peremptory challenges” to strike qualified citizens from jury service. These powers can be misused to oppress men and women of color and people in poverty. Our litigation prosecutes the prosecutors for these abuses of power.

Pipkins v. Stewart

Service as a juror in a criminal case is, along with voting in elections, one of the two means designed to be available to all citizens to participate in our government. But in Shreveport, Louisiana, the process of jury selection in criminal cases is intentionally manipulated by the practice of the District Attorney’s Office to strike Black citizens because of their race. We filed a class action lawsuit to stop this practice.

Washington v. Cannizzaro

We have sued Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for his office’s refusal to provide documents in response to a public records request seeking information about subpoenas sought by the DA under the power granted by Article 66 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure. That article gives the DA the right to ask a judge to issue a subpoena for interviews or documents on “reasonable grounds” – a lower standard than the Fourth Amendment’s “probable cause” requirement for a search warrant.

Wearry v. Perrilloux

On behalf of Michael Wearry, we have sued Scott Perrilloux, District Attorney for Louisiana’s 21st Judicial District, and Marlon Kearney Foster, the former Chief of Detectives of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office for fabricating an eyewitness account by an adolescent, coercing the 10-year old into adopting the false story, and using his testimony to convict Mr. Wearry of first degree murder and sentence him to death in a case the U.S. Supreme Court has said was built on a “house of cards.”