Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project


Just after Thanksgiving, as Chicago was erupting in outrage over dashcam footage of a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager, Clinical Professor Craig Futterman felt the first rumbles of a shift he’d been imagining most of his career.

The Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project (PAP) is one of the nation’s leading law school civil rights clinics focusing on issues of race and criminal justice. Founded in 2000 by Clinical Professors Craig Futterman and Randolph Stone, we strive to be a grassroots, ground-up, community-based law school clinic. Our work, by design, is fluid and ever-changing, responsive to community need. But our mission has been consistent since PAP’s inception—to improve police accountability and service in Chicago, fight racism and discrimination, and remedy fundamental issues of injustice in our criminal system, while teaching students all that it means to be a lawyer. There are three core components to our clinic: (1) We represent people abused by police who have no other means to access justice. (2) We engage multifaceted strategies to improve policy and practice—to facilitate positive change. (3) We collaborate in non-litigation, community-driven projects that address race, class, gender, and police.

Through the lens of live-client work, students examine how and where litigation fits into broader efforts to improve police accountability and ultimately the criminal justice system. Students provide legal services to indigent victims of police abuse in federal and state courts. They litigate civil rights cases at each level of the court system from trial through appeals. Some students also represent children and adults in related juvenile or criminal defense matters. Students take primary responsibility for all aspects of litigation, including client counseling, fact investigation, case strategy, witness interviews, legal research, pleadings and legal memoranda, discovery, depositions, motion practice, evidentiary hearings, trials, and appeals. Students should expect a significant amount of legal writing. Students work in teams on cases or projects, and meet with the instructor on at minimum a weekly basis. Students also take primary responsibility for the Clinic’s policy and public education work. PAP teaches students to apply and critically examine legal theory in the context of representation of people in need. It teaches students to analyze how and why individual cases of abuse occur and to connect them to systemic problems, often leading to “public impact” litigation and other strategies for policy reform. Through our immersion in live client work, we engage fundamental issues of race, class, and gender, and their intersection with legal institutions. Students are required to complete, prior to their third year, Evidence, Criminal Procedure I, and the Intensive Trial Practice Workshop. Constitutional Law III is also recommended.

Craig B. Futterman

Craig B. Futterman is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and a Resident Dean in the College. He founded and has served as the Director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic since 2000.

CV & Contact
Litigation, Policy, and Community-Based Work to Improve Police Service & Accountability
Project History
Career development Policing

Long before America knew the names Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and long before their deaths sparked nationwide concern about police abuse, the Law School had its Civil Rights and Police Accountability Clinic—a project so successful that it would be easy to focus entirely on its headline grabbers and history makers.