Rumors of his Demise Greatly Exaggerated

The hearing on the proposed resolution to remove Ed Burnette has been cancelled.  Upon information and belief, attorneys representing Ed Burnette have reached an agreement with attorneys for President Todd Stroger to resolve their differences in court through the pending litigation in Burnette v. Stroger.NO HEARING ON THE RESOLUTION WILL BE HEARD ON 5/20/08 SO DO NOT ATTEND THE COUNTY BOARD MEETING

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Daily Herald Wants Open Hearing on Removal Resolution.

As printed in the May 17, 2008 edition of the Daily Herald: 
Let public in on public defender hearing

Few people, even the most ardent advocates of open government, would argue that personnel evaluations ought generally to be conducted in open public meetings. But there are times …Take the case of Cook County Public Defender Ed Burnette. Here we have a civil servant whose job is specifically designed to be independent of politics facing the possibility of being fired for purely political reasons.It won’t surprise you to learn who is trying to fire him in such circumstances. That would be Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Nor, sadly, will the specifics of Burnette’s case surprise anyone remotely familiar with the brazen cynicism of Cook County government. Burnette’s job is on the line because he challenged Stroger at least twice. First by filing suit to assert his independence when the Cook County board president ordered him to trim the size of his staff, then by objecting when Stroger placed on Burnette’s payroll an employee who did no work for the public defender and was answerable only to the county board president.For such determination, Burnette was labeled insubordinate and Stroger set a hearing for his firing. The hearing is required because state law pointedly distinguishes the public defender position from every other administrative role in the county. The public defender’s office exists to ensure justice for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals — the indigent accused of crimes but lacking the means to defend themselves. Such a function, the law wisely realizes, must be protected against the whims of fickle politics, and the person leading it cannot be constantly answering to political rather than legal demands.Thus, the job is established as a fixed six-year appointment, and any attempt to remove the public defender requires a formal hearing. If a political powerbroker aiming to find a new department in which to stash patronage workers wants to remove an impediment, he at least has to show a legitimate job-based cause.Does Stroger have job-based justification here? Well, Burnette certainly has defied his authority. But the question, as Burnette’s suit seeks to clarify, is what authority the public defender has defied.The answer to that question ought to be left to the courts. Curiously, Stroger seems unable to wait that long. Burnette has only a year remaining on his appointment, so the county board president will be able to name whatever puppet he likes soon enough, as long as the person isn’t so clearly incompetent that even the board members in Stroger’s pocket can’t vote to confirm.Why then is Burnette’s dismissal so urgent? What offense has he committed that justifies challenging the critical independence built into the nature of his office? Burnette himself has asked these questions and wants the county board to let them be presented on the public stage. We do, too.This is not a case of violating an employee’s privacy. It’s a case either of the county board president’s simple assertion of power or of the public defender’s inability to accomplish the job he’s been doing for five years. The public should get a free and open opportunity to watch the proceeding and judge for itself.

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Removal Resoultion to be Heard May 20th

The hearing on whether to terminate the employment of Edwin Burnette, Public Defender of Cook County is now set for next week on the 20th.  As mentioned before, members are encouraged to attend the hearing but should put in for appropriate time off in advance of the date.  It has been suggested that the proceedings will be behind closed doors, even though Mr. Burnette wants the world to see what is going on.As concerned citizens, we have a right to attend and at least let our elected commissioners know what we think of the allegations in the resolution.  It is unlikely that the commissioners will “vote” on the removal, leaving the decision up to the President,  but perhaps our presence will make him think twice about conducting a sham hearing. Please make an effort to attend the hearing.

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Court Set to Revisit Chimel and Belton

After arresting the driver of a car the police may search that car….or maybe not. In Arizona v Grant,  2007 Ariz. LEXIS 73 the usually pro state Arizona Supreme Court said the following.”This case requires us to determine whether the search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement permits the warrantless search of an arrestee’s car when the scene is secure and the arrestee is handcuffed, seated in the back of a patrol car, and under the supervision of a police officer. We hold that in such circumstances, a warrantless search is not justified.”Not surprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiori at 2008 U. S. LEXIS 2022. Until such time as the U.S. Supreme Court explains how the Arizona court’s clear reasoning is in error, members should raise this issue in car search cases.

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Appellate Court Reverses TRO

The First District Appellate Court reversed last week’s TRO entered by Judge Riley.  The County has indicated it will have a hearing on the Removal Resolution on the 20th of May.  The story, as reported in the Sun Times by Steve Patterson can be read by clicking here.   On a related note, the County Board defeated a proposal by Claypool, Quigley and Suffredin to have a hearing which accords due process.  Take a look yourself at item 8.  

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TRO Enjoins President of Cook County Board From Removing Public Defender

Judge Riley entered an order enjoining the President of the Cook County Board from proceeding with a hearing to remove the Public Defender.  The TRO was granted after Ed Burnette was allowed to intervene in the pending litigation in the Chancery Division where the litigation seeks declaratory relief as to the office’s independence from political influences in staffing by virtue of the public defender statute.  As a consequence, please do not attend the previously scheduled hearing before the County Board which was going to be held on Wednesday, May 7, 2008.  A hearing on whether the TRO will become a permanent injunction is set for 2 pm on May 9th, 2008 before Judge Riley.


************TRO was reversed on appeal.  Please see story in the In the News Section **********

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First Defense Legal Aid Fundraiser


Cordially invites you to join us
in honoring our
2008 First Defender

Clinical Associate Professor of Law
Northwestern University School of Law
MacArthur Justice Center

Thursday, May 29, 2008
generously hosted by
Jenner & Block LLC
330 North Wabash Avenue
40 South Lounge
Chicago, Illinois
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served

Sponsorship Levels
$5,000 • Platinum
$3,000 • Gold
$1,000 • Silver
$ 500 • Bronze
$ 250 • Supporter
Individual Donation
Student / Public Interest Donation

Do not hesitate to pass along this invitation to other supporters!

Please make checks payable to “First Defense Legal Aid” and send to:

First Defense Legal Aid | 6400 South Kedzie Ave.| Chicago, IL 60629 (773) 434-4162 | Email:

Or go to our website and donate using your credit/debit card:

About First Defense Legal Aid

First Defense Legal Aid (“FDLA”) is an innovative program that protects civil rights by offering free 24-hour legal representation and advice to any individual taken into Chicago Police Department custody. The Program’s services cover the initial and most critical stage of police detention: immediately after arrest until the time when a public defender has been assigned by the court system. Volunteers are trained to handle emergency calls by determining the nature of the call and whether a station visit is necessary to represent the individual in police custody. If a station visit is necessary, FDLA volunteers will interview the arrestee, inform the arrestee of his/her constitutional rights, provide the arrestee with bond information, and serve as a link between the arrestee and his/her family.

Our History

First Defense Legal Aid began in 1995, as a program of the Chicago Commons Association. It was originally named the “Police Custody Hotline Program”, but the name was quickly changed to First Defense Legal Aid at the request of community residents. FDLA became an independent corporation in 2002, and a 501(c)(3) organization in 2003.

Board of Directors                  Advisory Board                      Honorary Board

Sulaiman M. Qazi                       Jeff Brown                                Locke Bowman

Chairman                                  Patricia Smith                            Carol A. Brook

Michael Wilson              Richard Dvorak              Edwin A. Brunette

Treasurer                                   Craig Futterman             Kenneth L. Cunniff

Carolyn Gold Aberman    Scott Levy                                 John Fitzgerald

Secretary                                   John Lyke                                 Richard S. Kling

                                                Dev Parikh                                Andrea D. Lyon

Harriet McCullough                    Zenaida Alonzo               Terence F. MacCarthy

Sean P. MacCarthy                     Shaena Fazal                              R. Eugene Pincham

Scott T. Kamin              Theodore Woerthwein    Randolph N. Stone

Jonathan Peck                Wayne Novak                            Scott Turow

Kristine Neal                              Michael Finn

Jessica Hunter                Tony Hill

Nikol M. Miller                           Elfreda Dockery


John Hayes

Executive Director

Julia Sportolari

Development Director

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Burnette Asks Court to Stay May 7th Hearing

Cook County Public Defender Ed Burnette is going to court on Friday to get a TRO against the County Board.  Here is a story from the Daily Herald.  Or read the story from the Daily Law Bulletin.  Or the story in the Sun Times by Steve Patterson.

Posted in In The News | Comments closed

May 7th County Board Meeting

To those who attended our general membership meeting this evening, this will provide a recap.  To those who missed it, stop reading unless you are a local member.  At the meeting, your entire executive board and staff representative from Council 31 were on hand to provide you with updates on the litigation in Burnette v. Stroger,  our position on the pending resolution and a presentation from our People chair Joe Gump (RM) on the MVP program.  Thanks to Arlene Floren and Jenny Nilsson for arranging the refreshments.After an engaging discussion ( I only wished Pragmatist and Justice Cardozo were in attendance), members wanted immediate access to information on contacting their commissioners so they can call, write or talk to them on the 7th or before.  We’re talking about commissioners Tony Periaca, Pete Silvestri, Gregg Gosslin, William Beavers, Elizabeth Ann Doody Gorman,  Joan Murphy, Robert Steele and Deborah Sims who introduced the proposed resolution.  (Some of whom may have second thoughts by now).  So for those who asked and those of you who don’ t know which district you live in,  click map to find out. Need the number for your commissioner? Click here.  Don’t forget to fill out a time off request form so you can attend the hearing which is scheduled to begin at 10a.m. Forgot what this was all about?  Click this. Thanks for coming out to the general membership meeting and see you on the 7th.

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