It's by no means a major driver of Chicago's budget crisis, but the
city's decades-long defense of former Police Commander Jon Burge hasn't
been cheap. Since the 1980s, Chicago has spent roughly $10.1 million in
taxpayer funds on legal fees and another $21.1 million on settlement payments.
(Five more civil lawsuits are still pending). Now that Burge has been
convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, some prosecutors
involved in the Burge fiasco are asking when the city will stop standing by the retired cop.
in Chicago's legal department say their hands are tied thanks to a 1997
legal decision that puts the city on the hook for all judgments and
damages awarded against Burge. They fear that shoddy private defense
work could result in an "outrageous settlement" that Chicagoans would
be forced to pay anyway. But with two dozen inmates still seeking new
hearings and trials, cases the Illinois Torture Commission
could eventually recommend, it might make more economic sense to
initiate quick settlement hearings -- and not draw out each potential case in court -- before the legal fees really balloon.