13 Public Defenders Sue Cook County

CHICAGO (CN) – Thirteen assistant public defenders say the president of the Cook County Commission laid them off illegally and withheld the money appropriated for their salaries. The attorneys eventually were reinstated; they demand lost wages and damages for their support staff, who were laid off with them.




     The attorneys say the Cook County Commission’s 2007 budget assigned funding for 465 assistant public defenders, but Board President Todd Stroger withheld funding for 34 positions, including 13 assistant public defenders, four supervisors and 17 support staff.
     The defenders, through their labor union, AFSCME Council 31, say assistant public defenders “handled approximately 300,000 felony and misdemeanor cases for poor defendants in 2007.”
     On his last day in office, March 31, 2009, Public Defender Edwin Burnette won a unanimous ruling from the First District Illinois Appellate Court, which ruled that the Public Defender, not Stroger, had authority over hiring, firing and discipline in the public defender’s office. Burnette had sued Stroger in November 2007, after the layoffs.
     The 13 attorneys in the new filing want back pay for their forced time off, and damages for their support staff as well.
     They are represented by Stephen Yokich with Cornfield and Feldman.

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