Why we are suing the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

Today, the Chicago Justice Project—a 9-year-old nonprofit with the mission of increasing transparency in Chicago and Cook County justice systems—filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court (2016-01-29 Chicago Justice Project_s First Amended Complaint) against Anita Alvarez and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for repeatedly refusing to fulfill their obligations under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Chicagoans’ confidence in our justice agencies has plummeted, as evidenced by protests following the release of the video of Laquan McDonald’s shooting. Public trust can only be rebuilt through reforms based on objective analysis of data about the cases handled and their outcomes.

Alvarez’s office continues to deny FOIA requests despite a 2014 unanimous Illinois Supreme Court ruling upholding that prosecutors’ offices are public bodies bound by FOIA law.

In 2015 alone, we filed four FOIA requests that were denied, not based on law but because of Alvarez’s fundamental resistance to transparency. Her office even refused to release data as simple as the type and number of requests they receive and how many they fulfill.

Click HERE to sign our petition and demand that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office open their data for public inspection. The residents of Cook County deserve nothing less than a very high level of transparency from their criminal justice agencies. By signing our petition you can join with CJP in our fight to make the Cook County justice system the most transparent in America. Today we are sending a loud and clear message to Anita Alvarez and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office: Open Your Data!

In 2011, we put together the Sexual Assault Data Practices and Transparency Task Force. It was co-chaired by the offices of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and its members included groups opposing violence against women, academic researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

We negotiated with Alvarez’s office for nearly two years to obtain release of anonymized sexual assault case data but the project ground to a halt when they demanded control of which research results would be released to the public.

Recent events provide an opportunity to improve the way The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office operates, no matter who leads that agency in the future. Real democracy requires public accountability.

Today we are taking to the courts to permanently open the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.