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Judge Denies Chicago’s Bid to Dissolve Consent Decree

CHICAGO (CN) - A federal judge denied the city of Chicago's motion to dissolve an agreement between it and the ACLU that limited the Chicago Police Department's investigations of the alleged "subversive activities" of the American Friends Service Committee in the 1970s.

The court remains under an existing obligation to hear the ACLU's pending petitions accusing the city of violating the consent decree through a cover-up of its unconstitutional investigation of the AFSC. This obligation alone was not enough to uphold the order, U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall ruled.

The consent decree stemmed from two class actions against the city in 1974 and 1975. The lawsuits accused the department's Intelligence Division "Red Squad" of violating the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights with its covert investigations of their alleged "subversive activities." The actions were later consolidated.

In 1982 the court approved a consent decree that placed restrictions on the police department's activities and investigations of the plaintiffs. The city requested to dissolve the decree, claiming the unconstitutional activities at its core have long since ceased.

However, the ACLU said the city met none of the terms and had actually violated the decree by publicly disclosing the AFSC's 2002 police investigation and by destroying documents in order to prevent an audit.

Essentially, the ACLU accused the city of trying to cover up a cover-up of the unconstitutional investigation of the AFSC by waylaying auditors and destroying incriminating documents.

Gottschall concluded that continuation of the modified consent decree is not warranted by the ACLU's current concerns, because there is no evidence of the city's organized unlawful activities against individuals. The decree has done its job in that respect, Gottschall ruled.

She said the problem with the city's motion for dissolution is rooted in Chicago's failure to submit an independent audit of the decree, which the court must review prior to modification or dissolution.

"The (consent decree) is probably ripe for dissolution," Gottschall wrote. However, because the city did not provide an independent audit, the court said it cannot review the city's compliance and therefore cannot disband the decree.

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