Law and Justice

Alliance Opposes Proposed 

Gang Asset Forfeiture Ordinance

    ILLINOIS - (ACLU) - 1/30/2022 - An alliance of faith-based and anti-violence community leaders have joined policy organizations and government agencies to call on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to drop her plan to use new civil asset forfeiture powers in response to gun violence in Chicago. Organizations opposing the ordinance include the ACLU of Illinois, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts, the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, and others.

    The mayor and Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown have suggested that civil asset forfeiture will target “street gangs” to reduce crime, but opponents believe there is no evidence to support this approach.

    Pastor Marshall Hatch, New Mt. Pilgrim MB Church in West Garfield Park, an opponent of the proposed ordinance, said, “Trust between the police department and our community is already low. This scheme to attack families and their households wholesale for the suspected criminal activities of an alleged family member will be enforced only in Black and Brown communities. This scheme will not reduce violence. It will deepen distrust and further destabilize fragile families and poor communities. It’s morally wrong.”

    Reverend Ciera Bates-Chamberlain, executive director of the anti-violence organization Live Free Chicago and its statewide affiliate, Live Free Illinois, said, “This proposal contradicts public health strategies in the mayor’s own plan, Our City, Our Safety. This is a smoke and mirrors approach that detracts from proven strategies that actually save lives.”

    Cook County Public Defender Sharone R. Mitchell, Jr. explained that the proposed Chicago asset forfeiture ordinance merely directs more punishment at communities that need resources and support. It creates a financial incentive for the city to confiscate property from people who are several steps removed from alleged members of gangs. He also said that the city’s gang database is deeply flawed and further enforcement actions using the database will only exacerbate systemic violence against Black and Brown Chicagoans.

    “Chicago has a long and troubled history of unjust arrest and imprisonment. Let’s not add another chapter to this story with unjust confiscation. There are proven violence prevention strategies that should be pursued instead of this ordinance,” Mitchell said.

    Mitchell’s statement was accompanied by the release of this letter outlining his full concerns with the ordinance. The letter was shared with City Council members this morning.

    The ACLU of Illinois said that the ordinance essentially gives the Chicago Corporation Counsel the power to take the property of an accused person even before he or she is convicted. Moreover, the ordinance shifts to the accused person the burden of proof to show that they are not involved in gang activity. Many of the people targeted will not be able to afford attorneys, and attorneys will not be provided free of charge.

    “Civil asset forfeiture is not the way to achieve safety in neighborhoods across the city. It already has proven to fail in that role. It ignores proven strategies that address the root causes of crime,” said Angela Inzano, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Illinois. The ACLU has posted on its website a summary of its concerns about the ordinance.

    The following individuals and organizations are on record opposing the proposed ordinance:  

  • Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender
  • ACLU of Illinois
  • MAAFA Redemption Project
  • Live Free Chicago/Live Free Illinois
  • Chicago CRED
  • Communities Partnering 4 Peace
  • Illinois Justice Project (ILJP)
  • Shriver Center on Poverty Law
  • Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts
  • Public Equity
  • Pastor Autry Phillips, Hopewell M.B. Church
  • The Chicago Bar Association
  • Healing Hurt People
  • John Howard Association
  • Pastor Marshall Hatch, New Mt. Pilgrim MB Church
  • READI Chicago
  • Shriver Center on Poverty Law
  • Chicago Council of Lawyers
  • The People's Lobby
  • Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL)
  • Lucy Parsons Labs
  • Equity and Transformation (EAT)
  • Heartland Alliance
  • Liberation Library
  • Loevy & Loevy Chicago Jobs Council
  • Erase the Database Coalition
  • SoapBox Productions & Organizing
  • The #LetUsBreathe Collective
  • Chicago Torture Justice Center
  • Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC)
  • Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois
  • Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois
  • National Lawyers Guild of Chicago
  • Rev Veronica Johnson, Rev Sarah Lusche, Pastors, Hyde Park Union Church
  • Pastor Victoria C. Brady, Restoring Hope Ministries International,
  • Rev. Dr. Beth Brown, Pastor, Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church
  • One Aim/GPAC
  • Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Morgan Park
  • Amnesty International USA
  • South Shore United Methodist Church
  • Pastor Phil Jackson, Firehouse Community Arts Center
  • Faith in Place Chicago DSA
  • Chicago Community Bond Fund
  • Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights 
  • United Working Families

Originally released Jan. 13, 2022

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Americans United Issues 

Statement to Commemorate 

Civil Rights Leader  

    WASHINGTON, DC - (Americans United) - Jan 16, 2022 - In observance of Martin Luther King Day and in support of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement:
     “As we commemorate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we should remember that as a proud preacher and civil rights leader he said that the church ‘must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.’ Dr. King knew that the wall of separation between church and state protects us all. It makes our country more fair, more equal and more inclusive.
    “As the Supreme Court takes up the case of a football coach who held post-game prayer rallies as a ‘religious freedom’ issue, we should remember that Dr. King also supported the 1962 Supreme Court decision prohibiting enforced prayer in public schools. Americans United is representing the Bremerton School District because the district’s decisions exemplify why real religious freedom is a shield that protects us all, not a sword to harm or exclude others.
    "While we are relieved that the hostages at Congregation Beth Israel were all safely released, we are also reminded that religious and racial minorities are always more at risk from religious extremists, and that extremism can still threaten any of us at any time. We ask Americans to join us in our pledge to uphold our constitutional principle of a secular nation that practices freedom without favor and equality without exception, and that promises dignity and safety to every American.”
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at

Crime and Justice

Former Acting Inspector 

General for DHS 

Pleads Guilty to Scheme

Charges Involve Theft of Proprietary Software

     WASHINGTON, D.C. - (DOJ) - 1/14/2022 - A former Acting Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) pleaded guilty today to federal charges stemming from the theft of proprietary software and sensitive databases from the U.S. government.

    According to court documents, Charles K. Edwards, 61, of Sandy Spring, Maryland, executed a scheme to steal confidential and proprietary software from the government. Edwards worked for DHS-OIG from February 2008 until December 2013, including as Acting Inspector General. Prior to DHS-OIG, he worked at the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG). At both agencies, Edwards had access to software systems, including one used for case management and other systems holding sensitive personal identifying information of employees.

    After leaving DHS-OIG, Edwards founded Delta Business Solutions Inc., located in Maryland. From at least 2015 until 2017, he stole software from DHS-OIG, along with sensitive government databases containing personal identifying information of DHS and USPS employees, so that his company could develop a commercially-owned version of a case management system to be offered for sale to government agencies.

    Edwards pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to conspiracy to commit theft of government property and theft of government property. A second defendant in the case, Murali Y. Venkata, 56, of Aldie, Virginia, has pleaded not guilty to charges and his case remains pending. Edwards will be sentenced at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

    Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia, Inspector General Dr. Joseph V. Cuffari of DHS-OIG and Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb of USPS-OIG made the announcement.

    Senior Litigation Counsel Victor R. Salgado of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.

    An indictment is merely an allegation, and Venkata is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Economic Trends

Small Business Hiring Sees 

Growth in December

Index Points to Strong Employment Rebound

    CLEVELAND-- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- 1/9/2022 - The CBIZ Small Business Employment Index (“SBEI”) reported a seasonally adjusted increase of 1.05% in December, offering a positive sign on the heels of the hiring decline seen in November. The CBIZ SBEI tracks payroll and hiring trends for over 3,700 companies that have 300 or fewer employees, providing broad insight into small business trends.

    “December is typically a month where we see positive hiring trends due to the holiday season, and this month was especially strong,”CBIZ, Inc. Executive Vice President Philip Noftsinger said. “It’s possible that workforce safety confidence was a growth factor earlier in the month prior to the omicron variant becoming a larger headline later in the month.”

    The ADP and Moody’s employment report indicated growth in hiring among small, medium-sized and large companies. Its December reading showed an overall increase of 807,000 private-sector jobs for the month, an improvement from the November report. Small businesses accounted for 204,000 of those new jobs on a seasonally adjusted, month-over-month basis. The ADP and Moody’s report counts small businesses as companies with 49 or fewer employees, while the CBIZ SBEI uses data from companies with 300 employees or fewer.

    The CBIZ SBEI reported hiring growth in all four regions measured. The West (1.95%) showed solid growth but less than the previous month, following its robust economic rebound from delta variant-related closures in the late summer. The Central (2.88%), Southeast (2.25%) and Northeast (1.80%) regions all showed impressive growth as well, reflecting a strong recovery from November’s negative readings for these regions.

    On an industry level, the most notable increases were seen in Insurance, Non-profit, Financial Services, Healthcare, Construction, and Retail. Education and Agriculture experienced hiring declines.

    “The December reading points to a positive indicator that the labor shortage is waning,” Noftsinger said. “The continued increase in COVID-19 cases could cause a slowdown in the momentum we’re seeing, but with the adoption of booster vaccines and the increased availability of treatments to mitigate severe symptoms, employees are likely to feel more confident returning to work.”

    To view an infographic with data from the employment index, see CBIZ.

    Additional takeaways from the December SBEI include:

  • December’s snapshot: 28% of companies in the index expanded employment, 53% made no change to their headcounts and 19% reduced staffing.
  • Industries at a glance: Hiring gains were seen in Insurance, Non-profit, Financial Services, Healthcare, Construction, and Retail. Meanwhile, declines were reported in Education and Agriculture.
  • Geographical hiring: The Central (2.88%), Southeast (2.25%), West (1.95%) and Northeast (1.80%) regions all experienced hiring increases.

    What’s next? Small businesses are growing their workforces despite the labor shortage and pandemic-related economic volatility. In 2022, this momentum should continue as other factors like supply chain issues and stagflation abate. 

    CBIZ is one of the largest accounting and insurance brokerage providers in the U.S. For more information, visit