Staff Attorney – Criminal Legal System and Policing

ACLUChicago, IllinoisFull TimeOn Site

Title: Staff Attorney – Criminal Legal System and Policing

Office: Affiliate Offices

Location: Chicago, IL

The Roger Baldwin Foundation of ACLU, Inc. (“ACLU of Illinois”) seeks a Staff Attorney to engage in litigation and, in collaboration with other Departments, non-litigation advocacy to promote transformational changes in the criminal legal system and policing in Illinois.


The Legal Department of the ACLU of Illinois works with colleagues across the organization to advance civil rights and civil liberties throughout Illinois using strategic litigation, legislative and other advocacy with governmental officials, and public education. Our work focuses on fighting institutional and structural racism that undermines civil rights and civil liberties, including in the criminal and civil legal systems and immigration; protecting democracy by advancing First Amendment rights, government transparency, and voting rights; promoting access to reproductive health care, the rights of LGBTQ+ communities, and gender equity; and addressing and preventing the harm experienced by people in government care, including in the foster system, prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities.

A core priority of our work is to combat criminal legal system practices that are unlawful, harmful, and disproportionately impact communities of color. We challenge policing that wrongfully criminalizes poverty, mental health challenges, and addiction; and that harms marginalized communities, including Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ communities. We advocate for policing that is transparent, accountable, and equitable, and promote non-police responses that foster health and human dignity. We work in partnership with impacted communities and seek to promote transformational criminal legal system changes, dramatically reduce interactions between police and members of the public, and hold police and other legal system entities accountable when they cause harm. We also protect the rights of protesters and those who record police because of the importance of defending dissent, including dissent against racial injustice in the criminal legal system. We recognize that litigation is only one tool in a broader social movement to promote community safety and racial justice.


The Staff Attorney for Criminal Legal System and Policing is a highly collaborative team player who will work with colleagues to litigate cases in state and federal court; create, implement, and participate—in collaboration with staff throughout the ACLU of Illinois and community partners—in non-litigation efforts to combat harmful policing and criminal legal system practices that disproportionately impact communities of color; engage in public education; and advance the mission and goals the ACLU of Illinois’ legal work as a whole.

The Staff Attorney may advocate on a range of issues on which the ACLU-IL engages locally and statewide including: serving as counsel to a coalition enforcing a consent decree against the Chicago Police Department; developing litigation to combat policing that disproportionately harms Black and Brown communities, such as excessive force, unlawful police stops, and abuse of protesters’ rights; and developing creative litigation and non-legislative advocacy approaches to combat mass incarceration, reduce police encounters with members of the public, advance government transparency over harmful criminal legal system and policing practices, combat surveillance and the violation of privacy rights, and promote non-police responses to community needs. As a member of the Legal Department, the Staff Attorney will serve as a team player and may contribute to litigation in other areas as needed to advance the ACLU-IL’s legal docket.


  • Investigate high-impact cases, including by researching systemic practices, seeking and analyzing public records, and learning from directly impacted people.
  • Conduct legal research and legal analysis, including on a short timeframe in response to emerging issues.
  • Litigate at the trial and appellate level in federal and state courts, including by conducting discovery, engaging in consent decree enforcement, and as appropriate, conducting motion practice, drafting factual and legal submissions, and handling routine hearings.
  • Develop and maintain trusting, respectful, and collaborative relationships with clients, impacted individuals, issue experts, community-based and allied organizations, stakeholders, coalitions, communities affected by our work, and ACLU-IL members.
  • Investigate, develop, and advance, in coordination with other Departments, non-litigation strategies for advancing civil rights and civil liberties in policing and the criminal legal system.
  • Serve as an ACLU-IL spokesperson with the media and external partners on identified issues.
  • Conduct outreach, recruitment, and hiring for diverse and excellent legal interns.
  • Effectively supervise and mentor legal interns with an eye toward their professional development.
  • Engage in special projects and other duties as assigned to advance the work of the Legal Department as a whole, including in response to emerging issues.


  • Demonstrated capacity to perform complex legal analytical work.
  • Demonstrated ability to conduct efficient, thorough, and on-point legal research, including on a short timeframe.
  • Demonstrated ability to produce clear and persuasive written legal and non-legal documents.
  • Demonstrated ability to speak clearly and persuasively with a wide range of individuals and organizations in non-legal and legal settings.
  • Demonstrated ability to take initiative, multi-task, identify priorities amidst competing demands, and complete projects with strong problem-solving skills.
  • Excellent track record of working with individuals and communities with diverse identities.
  • Consistently integrates deep understanding of key racial equity concepts into work projects and interactions by addressing structural implications and disproportionate impacts of policies, activities, and decisions on race, class, and other group identities within the context of job responsibilities and projects.
  • Demonstrates an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the office, using an approach that values all individuals and respects differences in regards to race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, ability, socio-economic circumstance, and other factors.
  • D. degree.
  • Admitted to practice in Illinois, can waive into the Illinois bar, or is willing to take the Illinois bar exam no later than summer of 2022.
  • Willingness and availability to travel throughout Illinois and, when needed, work beyond the normal workday and on weekends.
  • Highly qualified applicants will generally have at least 2 years of legal experience; 5 years of legal experience is preferred.


The salary will be in accordance with the ACLU of Illinois salary scale and commensurate with experience:

  • $55,000 to $60,000 for attorneys in the 0-2 year range;
  • $62,500 to $72,500 for attorneys in the 3-5 year range; and
  • $75,000 to $77,500 for attorneys in the 6-7 year range.

Excellent benefits include 100% employer-paid medical, vision, and dental insurance for staff and eligible dependents; four weeks paid vacation; a 403(b) retirement benefits plan with employer match; life insurance; and long-term disability insurance.

ACLU of Illinois staff are based in Chicago, IL, but are currently working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When conditions are safe to return to the office space, staff members will be expected to work out of our Chicago office.


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The ACLU of Illinois is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and encourage applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, criminal record, or veteran status.


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