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In 1984, J. Roderick MacArthur (right) received the Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU in recognition of his support of human rights causes worldwide. At left is the late Jay A. Miller, longtime Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois. 

Advocating for human rights and social justice through litigation

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center is one of the premier civil rights law firms in the United States with offices in Chicago, New Orleans and Oxford, Miss.

The family of J. Roderick MacArthur founded the center in 1985 to advocate for human rights and social justice through litigation.

The late Dr. Solange MacArthur, one of Roderick's three children, provided the center with an endowment that will ensure its capacity to fight injustice is enduring.  John R. ("Rick") MacArthur, President and Publisher of Harper’s Magazine, is Roderick's last surviving child and remains actively engaged in the Center's strategic direction as the lead board member.

"We are outraged when the rule of law is abandoned in favor of expediency," says Center Executive Director Locke Bowman. "And so we fight for the rights of folks whose voices don't get heard in the criminal justice system. We're concerned about people on death row, about people accused of crimes but who cannot afford lawyers, about folks who are innocent and must be compensated for the time they wrongly spent in prison."

Learn more about J. Roderick and Solange MacArthur »

Visit the websites of our four centers at the links below.

CHICAGO   NEW ORLEANS   OXFORD, MS  ST. LOUIS


David Bradford, Founding Attorney of the MacArthur Justice Center


"The MacArthur Justice Center was founded by a courageous family dedicated to fight for justice in difficult and often unpopular cases, because our standards of justice are defined by the vulnerability of detainees, prisoners, and the criminally accused."

-- David Bradford, Founding Attorney of the MacArthur Justice Center


Locke Bowman, Executive Director of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center

“The men, women and children we represent most often have no other advocate — no one to stand beside them and argue they be given the basic human rights that the rest of America too often takes for granted. It is our privilege not only to argue on their behalf but also to help make considerable and permanent improvements in our criminal justice system.”

-- Locke Bowman, Executive Director of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center


The MacArthur Justice Center has become a national champion of criminal justice reforms, including:

  • Police misconduct.  The MacArthur Justice Center has successfully represented many of the men tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the men under his command and is seeking full and fair evidentiary hearings for the dozens of men, who are still in prison in Illinois and have made credible claims of convictions tainted by torture. 
  • Death penalty.  On the litigation side, the MacArthur Justice Center represents capital defendants at all stages of the process. On the public education side, the Center has been a leading voice against the use of capital punishment and worked with a coalition of community leaders, grassroots advocates and other lawyers in an effort that culminated with the 2011 abolition of the death penalty in Illinois.
  • Parole revocations. Men, women and even children routinely have their constitutional rights violated in parole revocation hearings in Illinois. Class action lawsuits are underway against the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Department of Corrections and the Juvenile Justice Department for routine violations of the constitutional rights of youth and adults.
  • Prison conditions.  A June 2013 consent decree in federal court in New Orleans requires steps be taken to ensure prisoner safety and adequate staffing at the Orleans Parish Prison.  During the implementation of the consent decree, the MacArthur Justice Center represents the more than 2,000 men incarcerated at the prison where violence, sexual assaults, neglect and the denial of needed mental health services have been well documented.
  • Rights of detainees.  The MacArthur Justice Center has been at the forefront of challenges to the detention of terrorism suspects without trial or access to the courts, and the Center’s lawyers have appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue for the right of non-enemy combatants not to be detained without access to the courts and due process of law.

Locations

Chicago
Mississippi
New Orleans
St. Louis

2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award

Four attorneys with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center have been named recipients of the 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award presented by Public Justice, the national non-profit firm pursuing high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice.

Read about the award »


Our story

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center has led battles against myriad civil rights injustices, including police misconduct (leading the charge to appoint a special prosecutor in the Jon Burge torture cases in Chicago), executions (helping to abolish the Illinois death penalty), fighting for the rights of the indigent in the criminal justice system, and winning multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for the wrongfully convicted. The MacArthur Justice Center also has been at the forefront of challenges to the detention of terrorism suspects without trial or access to the courts.

Based in Chicago, the MacArthur Justice Center also has offices in Louisiana and Mississippi where our work has centered on opportunities to affect civil rights and human rights through litigation to reform the criminal justice system in southern states.

Our New Orleans office has the lead litigation responsibility in Jones v. Gusman, a federal lawsuit alleging pervasive violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights in the Orleans Parish Prison.

Our office at the University of Mississippi School of Law in Oxford focuses on issues such as police misconduct, wrongful search and seizure, conditions of confinement, juvenile justice, inmate access to health care and mental health treatment, access to parole, prosecutorial misconduct, discrimination in the criminal justice system, and indigent rights. In addition, the MacArthur Justice Clinic at Ole Miss Law provides law students with opportunities to participate in all aspects of the Center’s litigation.

Our newest office, which opened in 2016, is in St. Louis where we join the fight against injustice in the region, including overpolicing of communities of color, due process deprivations, and mass incarceration. 

Historical timeline »