Public Interest Law Initiative


First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA)

Address:

601 South California Avenue, Chicago IL 60612

Contact: Zoraima Cruz

Website: https://www.first-defense.org/

Program:

First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA) provides free, 24-hour, legal representation to people in Chicago Police Department custody and educates Chicagoans about how to protect their constitutional rights. FDLA undertake these activities to promote fairness and accountability in the justice system. FDLA also provides educational outreach, participates in community organizing, and engages in systemic reform activities. The Fellow will be based at the Westside Justice Center and the Fellow’s duties will include the following:

  • Taking shifts on our hotline and providing legal representation to individuals in Chicago Police Custody. The Fellow will have the opportunity to counsel clients on their rights and how to properly exercise their rights while advocating for them and being a watchdog for police accountability.
  • Legal research, organization and planning of webinars, classes or events that educate our volunteers on different issues that may arise while volunteering. The Fellow may research Illinois law and CPD Directives and work to educate our volunteers on how to use that information to properly protect clients. For example: legal research on the intersection of immigration and criminal law and how it pertains to individuals in police custody, explaining the rights that parents who have cases with DCFS have when interacting with police and counseling social workers and teachers on how they can better protect students and clients during interaction with the police.
  • Working on outreach and networking with the community to help FDLA with volunteer recruitment and retention. The Fellow will work closely with attorneys in the legal profession, doing one on one meetings, networking events and presenting to law school classes to help promote our volunteer program. The Fellow will also participate in training volunteers and assist in developing our orientation program.
  • The Fellow will assist us in better organizing our data system for our expanding network of volunteers. The Fellow will work with our attorney volunteers to develop a better scheduling program allowing our volunteers to organize themselves by area, neighborhood or specific police stations.
  • The Fellow may assist our attorneys on policy advocacy. The Fellow may assist in creating a model for police accountability and helping us advocate for policy changes that will move Chicago closer to that model.
  • Working on developing a communications plan for FDLA including but not limited to research and writing to maintain the blog, expanding our social media, improving our open rates on constant contact, improving our communication with the general legal community by attending events, meetings and workshops.

This agency is approved to host Graduate Fellows.

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