Sidley’s Section 1983 practice has been a fixture of our pro bono work for many years. The firm represents numerous clients challenging violations of their constitutional rights. These matters include suits seeking redress for victims of police misconduct and individuals whose rights have been violated while incarcerated in jails or prisons. Our lawyers also regularly partner with legal service organizations and experts in the field to file amicus briefs advocating for the rights of prisoners and other vulnerable citizens. We represent clients across the country in trial courts, appellate courts, and at the United States Supreme Court. The firm worked on more than 20 Section 1983 matters in 2022, amounting to more than 17,000 pro bono hours on behalf of our clients.
In 2022, Sidley teams working in Chicago successfully helped eight clients achieve favorable settlements in civil rights cases involving allegations of serious mistreatment in prisons and jails. Through the settlements, Sidley lawyers helped clients receive necessary medical care while incarcerated and meaningful compensation for their injuries. The cases, all filed in federal district courts, alleged serious constitutional violations by jail and prison officials, including deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, exposure to environmental toxins in prison, and abusive and excessive use of force. Dedicated teams contributed many thousands of hours and in some cases litigated for more than six years to achieve justice on behalf of our incarcerated clients.
Chief Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer presented three of the teams with the Award for Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service in the Northern District of Illinois in a ceremony held in Chicago. The awards recognize attorneys who have provided outstanding pro bono and public interest representation and who have demonstrated excellence in commitment to pro bono or public interest work in handling a matter before the court.
In one of these cases, a Sidley team represented an incarcerated plaintiff, Eric Vaughn, in his lawsuit against a Cook County Jail correctional officer. The team obtained a favorable settlement for Vaughn after he alleged that the correctional officer, who was on duty at the time Vaughn suffered a brutal attack at the hands of three other jail detainees, failed to protect him from the attack. As a result of the team’s work on the case, Magistrate Judge Sunil R. Harjani, who conducted settlement proceedings in the matter, nominated and presented the Sidley team with the 2022 Award for Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service from the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.