First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA)

First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA) provides free legal representation to victims of police abuse who are unable to find private attorneys, and also offers know your rights education on a variety of topics ranging from 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights in a police encounter to the nature and importance of jury service. FDLA’s litigation ranges from individual redress to impact, and takes place in state and federal court.

FDLA’s 24-hour hotline, 1-800-LAW-REP4 (529-7374), also provides referrals 24/7/365 on a variety of legal matters. For 23 years, FDLA provided free representation to individuals in police custody at the point of detention, and, after demonstrating the success of this policy model, transferred the responsibility for stationhouse representation to the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender in 2019.

The Fellow will be based at the Westside Justice Center, 601 S. California Ave., and the Fellow’s duties could include the following:

  • Representing clients in all stages of federal constitutional tort litigation, state law impoundment defense, and Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, with responsibilities ranging from case investigation and client interviews to drafting and issuing discovery, preparing legal briefs, defending and taking depositions, preparing for trial, and trying cases.
  • Conducting legal research in support of organizational goals and individual cases, with an emphasis on challenging existing, ineffective punitive frameworks and logics of the criminal legal system and encouraging alternatives that actually advance public safety.
  • Taking periodic shifts answering FDLA’s hotline and assisting members of the public in connecting with resources for a variety of legal needs.
  • Contributing to FDLA’s communications strategy by creating and advancing campaigns on social media and drafting blog posts.
  • Conducting outreach to community organizations and the private bar, whether by building new collaborative partnerships, supporting community needs, or supporting existing volunteer co-counsel on FDLA’s cases.

This agency is approved to host Graduate Fellows.