African-American Family Wins Settlement in Chicago Suburban Racial Harassment Suit

For Immediate Release
August 2, 2016

CHICAGO – An African-American family in Mount Prospect, Illinois, has won a hate crime settlement of a suit alleging they endured four years of racially motivated intimidation and physical harassment from a white neighbor. The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. in partnership with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP Director of Pro Bono Services Jonathan Baum and William Kraus, formerly of Katten, represented Iris Howe and her family, successfully obtaining substantial monetary relief and a court order barring contact with the neighbor.

“We are pleased to have achieved justice for Iris Howe and her family,” said Betsy Shuman-Moore, director of the Fair Housing Project at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee. “The Howes took a courageous stand against bigotry and they won, despite the best efforts of a person who spent years targeting them because of their race.”

Iris Howe and her children were the first African-American family in the neighborhood when they moved into their home in northwest suburban Mount Prospect in April 2009. But over the next four years, they alleged, their neighbor Therese Calliari would repeatedly refer to Howe and her family members using the N-word and other racial slurs. Calliari allegedly followed the Howe children around the neighborhood in her car, often coming within inches of touching, and attempted to instigate physical altercations with them. On several occasions, Calliari allegedly told the family to leave the neighborhood.

In March, 2014, Iris Howe and her children filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, alleging that Calliari violated their rights under the Illinois Hate Crimes Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Following a contested hearing, the Howe family’s attorneys obtained a court order barring Calliari from having any contact with the members of the family. This week the family dismissed their lawsuit for monetary damages in return for payment by Calliari to Ms. Howe of a substantial sum of money and Calliari’s apology to Ms. Howe for her conduct toward the Howe family.

“This case and its outcome should send two important messages,” said attorney Jonathan Baum. “First, it is a wake-up call for those who may have needed one that, yes, this sort of thing still goes on in 21st century America. Second, it stands as a warning to anyone who might consider engaging in this kind of conduct that you will pay a heavy price for engaging in it. It will not be tolerated.”

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Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP’s pro bono program has been honored by numerous organizations and provides many services to the underprivileged, including litigation—on behalf of individuals and groups in housing and public accommodations discrimination, civil liberties, immigration, criminal defense, prisoners' rights and consumer matters—and transactional pro bono work—in corporate and tax assistance for nonprofit organizations, intellectual property law, employee benefits and international trade law concerns.

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. advances civil rights and racial justice through the power and the promise of the law. Founded in 1969 as a public interest consortium of Chicago law firms, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee champions equal justice and community development for underrepresented people by partnering with volunteer lawyers to provide litigation and transactional representation. The Fair Housing Project works to eliminate housing discrimination and segregation and promote fair and equal housing in the Chicago metropolitan area through legal representation, education, and advocacy. For more information, visit www.clccrul.org.