The Civil Rights Police Accountability Project and Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School received the Clinical Legal Education Association's 2004 Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Project. The award recognized the work of Professors Randolph Stone and Craig Futterman, together with more than twenty Clinic students and hundreds of public housing residents, in Williams v. Brown, a federal civil rights class action lawsuit challenging the Chicago police raid of a community basketball tournament held in Stateway Gardens, a South Side public housing community.
On February 22, 2001, more than forty Chicago police officers descended upon the Stateway Field House en masse, while the tournament game was in progress. The police encircled the Field House, and blocked each possible exit, imprisoning the 300 adults and children present. Over the next two hours, police subjected nearly all of the people present - from babies and young children with their mothers watching the game to basketball players in full uniform - to invasive searches of their bodies and personal effects. The raid brought an abrupt end to a treasured institution, which had boasted a thirteen-year history of promoting non-violence and community.
After a three-year struggle, the Clinic won a half million dollar settlement from the City of Chicago, which was approved by a federal judge on April 22, 2004. The Clinic is giving a significant portion of the settlement to the Stateway community to support resident-led human rights monitoring and reporting, initiatives that improve police/community relations, and the revitalization of the Stateway basketball tournaments and other community programs at the Field House.
Craig Futterman accepted the award on behalf of the clinic on May 3 in San Diego, at the Association of American Law Schools' Annual Conference on Clinical Legal Education. "It is truly an honor and privilege to be recognized by our national colleagues," Futterman acknowledged. "While this victory is special, it typifies what we have come to expect from the Mandel Clinic. For more than forty-five years, the Clinic has provided superior legal services to people in need while teaching students about justice and what it means to be a lawyer."