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CHICAGO � The lawyer whose legacy has been made fighting patronage in Chicago is hoping his campaign is coming into its final stretch now that he’s reached a settlement with the city government. Attorney Michael Shakman is the man whose name has been synonymous with the court decrees aimed at checking political influence on City Hall employment since 1969. He and lawyers working with him on the case last month reached a settlement with the city that could end federal court oversight by 2009. Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County, No. 69-2145 (N.D. Ill.). During nearly four decades, Shakman estimates he has been in federal court at least 200 times for hearings on the case, which circulated through the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals five times. Now he says the city’s ability to get the federal government off its back depends on further reform by Mayor Richard M. Daley, the son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, who was in office when Shakman first sued the city. “It’s a decision point for him and I hope he makes the right decision,” Shakman said in an interview. “I’m not going to predict that he won’t, but I must say I haven’t seen much reform zeal from him up till now.” The city is hopeful it will win court approval in 2009 to eliminate a monitor appointed in 2005 to oversee the city’s hiring and employment practices, said Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city. “This does give us the opportunity to move in a new direction,” she said. Shakman, a lawyer at Miller Shakman & Beem in Chicago, first brought the action against the city and its political heavyweights as a plaintiff in October 1969 when he suspected his bid as an independent candidate to serve on the Illinois constitutional convention would be thwarted by city politics. He filed the lawsuit before he lost the election. Shakman, 64, has been with the small, though prominent, Chicago-based firm his entire career. The firm has 15 lawyers and wants to keep it that way, despite monthly merger inquiries, Shakman said. To pursue the case against the city, Shakman joined with 20-some lawyers from various Chicago firms over the years, with Chicago-based Lord, Bissell & Brook playing a leading role. They have argued that job hiring, promotions and firings based on political ties are violations of the First Amendment and the Civil Rights Act. While Shakman’s team won federal court orders progressively barring various aspects of the patronage system in 1972 and 1983, he credits recent prosecutions by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of people involved in the fraudulent patronage system for laying bare the city’s noncompliance with the orders, known as Shakman decrees. The prosecutions of 48 people during the past three years gave Shakman the ammunition to press ahead with the lawsuit in 2005, saying the city was in contempt of earlier court orders. The court’s agreement led to the monitor. Shakman’s team also brought fresh details to the lawsuit from six new plaintiffs. In one case, an alderman dispatched hundreds of workers from the city Department of Streets and Sanitation to provide services to residents who would support a certain candidate, he said. A year of negotiations led to the recent settlement, which Shakman believes has provided everything the plaintiffs would have gotten in a trial victory. Lawyers for the city council who participated in the negotiations say that the body will approve the pact at an upcoming May meeting, Shakman said. The pact would also create a $12 million fund to compensate city workers and job applicants who were bypassed for political reasons. Individuals could claim compensation up to $100,000 for past infractions or file a lawsuit or seek arbitration for future violations. Shakman’s team brought a similar court action last year against Cook County, which includes Chicago, and reached a settlement that also included ongoing monitoring. Some ambivalence Shakman said he’s “ambivalent” about the personal satisfaction derived from the battle. It was distressing to find that previous court orders didn’t lead to true reform, he said. Still, Shakman admits there have been positive changes in the city since 1969 as patronage went from being considered lawful and expected to being unlawful and forbidden. To the extent that it still exists, it is less likely to be tolerated by the public, he said. The city has paid the plaintiffs’ lawyers about $2 million in legal fees so far, but payment for work since 1997 is to be negotiated after the settlement is approved. Lord, Bissell & Brook attorney Roger Fross, who was one of the earliest team members, is ready for his reward. “I hope it’s a pretty decent figure given that it’s 10% of my life,” Fross said. The federal court monitoring system has cost Chicago about $1.5 million since it was imposed in August 2005, but Fross estimates the city saves $35 million annually by running more efficiently. “We’re going to stay involved until the city establishes that it’s straightened things out,” Shakman said. “Nobody is going away.”

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