Tricia Halstead and Catrina Miksis, both third-year law students, recently represented a pro se (without counsel) client against the City of Decatur and two former City of Decatur Police Officers. The plaintiff alleged he had his civil rights violated in 2012 when two officers entered his apartment in the middle of the night and used force against him. After two days of presenting evidence and almost six hours of deliberation, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on the claim of illegal entry and awarded him $11,251.
Halstead and Miksis have worked on the case since September, as part of the Federal Civil Rights Clinic at the College of Law. Since the date of their appointment, they took depositions, engaged in settlement discussions, defeated a motion for summary judgment, drafted and argued motions in limine (at the start), drafted a pretrial order for the court, and ultimately took the case to trial. Halstead said, “We are delighted to have a positive outcome for our client.”
Professor Andrew Bequette oversees the Clinic. He said, “It is always gratifying to see the students in the Federal Civil Rights Clinic work so hard to assist clients who would perhaps not otherwise have representation and it says a lot for this team's performance at trial that the jury entered a verdict for the plaintiff. Not many law students can graduate from law school having already won their first federal jury trial!”
The Federal Civil Rights Clinic offers a valuable service to central Illinois by providing free legal services to individuals and organizations that would not otherwise have access to legal representation.
For the Federal Civil Rights Clinic, a dozen law students each year are provisionally admitted as lawyers to the Central District of Illinois. These students are assigned by a federal judge to represent pro se litigants in civil rights trials. Under faculty supervision, they work with actual clients to prepare and try a civil jury trial. The majority of cases involve incarcerated individuals alleging either excessive force or inadequate medical treatment.