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Quarles & Brady Team Helps Secure Pro Bono Victory in Malicious Prosecution Case

On February 7, 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court decided unanimously in favor of the plaintiff in the malicious prosecution matter of Beaman v. Freesmeyer et. al., a case in which Quarles & Brady served as pro bono counsel.

“The Supreme Court's enunciation of the standard means that there is a practical way going forward to hold police departments and their government employers civilly liable for police misconduct that results in wrongful convictions,” said Partner Jim Kaplan. “Previous to the Beaman decision, this remedy was in serious doubt and the decision is, in our view, an important step forward for criminal justice in Illinois.”

Wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder, Alan Beaman served 14 years in prison before the Illinois Supreme Court exonerated him in 2008. His civil action for malicious prosecution against the police officers who worked his murder case claimed police misconduct in the investigation, including evidence suppression and falsification causing his wrongful conviction and lengthy imprisonment.

The Quarles & Brady team supported Beaman’s argument, submitting an amicus brief on behalf of the Innocence Network. The Illinois Supreme Court brief contended it was only necessary that the police played a “significant role” in causing the wrongful prosecution and that the Appellate Court had applied a standard that was too favorable to the police defendants when determining whether the officers had effectively “commenced or continued” the wrongful criminal case.

The Illinois Supreme Court sent the case back to the Appellate Court to apply the proper legal standard.

Beaman’s malicious prosecution action had been dismissed by the trial court in McLean County, where the original trial had taken place, and the Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal. The Quarles team had previously provided amicus support to Beaman at the Appellate Court on behalf of the respected University of Chicago Law School Mandel Legal Aid Clinic’s Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project.

Northwestern Law School MacArthur Justice Center, which represented Beaman, invited Quarles to represent the Innocence Network, a nationwide organization of about 70 law school legal clinics, law school affiliated centers and projects, and public interest law firms dedicated to vindicating the interests of those wrongfully convicted of crimes in America.

Numerous organizations opposed holding police and their government employers legally responsible for serious police investigatory misconduct that results in the conviction of innocent persons for crimes they did not commit, in all but exceptional cases. They include City of Chicago, Illinois Municipal League, Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association, Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, and other police organizations.

Quarles & Brady attorneys handling the matter: James Kaplan, King Poor, Tom McDonell and John Aramanda.