At the University of Chicago, Futterman takes on a handful of second- and third-year law students each year and coaches them through the work of real cases with flesh-and-blood clients: suits on behalf of people alleging police abuse and civil rights violations, criminal defense for people falsely arrested and accused. The students, he says, are “learning how to use their legal reasoning, yes, but they’re also learning what it means to be a lawyer—what it means to be responsible for representing another human being.”
Increasingly the litigation Futterman and his students work on is aimed at prying loose the long-shut files of the city of Chicago and the police department.
Until last fall’s engulfing crisis, the case consuming Futterman was Kalven v. Chicago, a seven-year odyssey of a FOIA lawsuit that ended with a 2014 appellate decision opening Chicago’s police misconduct files to the public. It was a stunning ruling. In the Chicago Daily Observer, social activist Don Rose wrote: “It will stand with some of the landmark public-interest cases in the past half-century.”
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