Shared from the 6/8/2020 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin eEdition

Rogers steps into ITLA presidency

Plaintiff’s attorney is second black lawyer to head bar organization


Larry R. Rogers Jr.

Larry R. Rogers Jr., who was sworn in as president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association Friday, is only the second black attorney to lead the plaintiff ’s bar organization.

The first was his father and law partner at Power Rogers LLP, Larry R. Rogers Sr.

Given that, Rogers said one of his objectives is to increase the diversity of the organization.

“There are a number of different African American and Latino and other minority trial lawyers out there that I think can benefit from membership and participation in ITLA,” Rogers said. “ITLA has great resources in terms of its cadre of top litigators who can share their knowledge and experience, and are willing to do so. I look forward to introducing more minorities to ITLA and encouraging them to be a part of it.”

The father and son have worked together at Power Rogers since Rogers Jr.’s 1993 clerkship while studying at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Rogers has earned multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs in wrongful injury and death cases, including a $10 million settlement on behalf of Tarance T. Etheredge III in February.

Etheredge was paralyzed after two plainclothes Chicago police officers shot him after a foot chase in 2012.

He was also part of the legal team that represented the estate of Bettie Jones, who was killed by police officer Robert Rialmo in December 2015, for $16 million.

Jones was killed when Rialmo opened fire on 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier. It was alleged LeGrier threatened Rialmo’s life with a baseball bat.

“Right now, people have become a lot more aware of what’s happening in terms of police brutality,” Rogers said in an interview. “Plaintiff trial lawyers have been on the forefront of taking those cases and making sure those injured parties’ cases are heard.”

In addition to his legal practice and work at ITLA, Rogers is a past president of the Cook County Bar Association, which was founded in 1920 to serve black attorneys in Chicago and Cook County.

He is also one of three elected commissioners on the Cook County Board of Review, which adjudicates property-assessment appeals. First elected in 2004, he is the longest serving commissioner on the board of review.

The Daily Law Bulletin spoke to Rogers about his path to becoming a personal-injury attorney, his view of ITLA’s role in the current discussion about police misconduct and the issues ITLA is focused on in the coming weeks and months. He succeeds Antonio M. Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin as ITLA president.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

CDLB: How did you decide to become a plaintiff ’s attorney?

Rogers: I became enamored and interested in what we do as personal-injury lawyers from clerking and being exposed to litigation and hearing stories of what my dad did in representing injured people, who went through tragedy and needed help, and how the courtroom was more or less the ultimate level playing field where you know you could take a homeless person, or person of average and put them against a corporation, and you as a trial lawyer would level the playing field presented to the jury and present their case. That was very appealing to me.

We fight for people who have been wronged, taken advantage of, catastrophically injured, and we try to right the wrong as best we can. My exposure to that as a clerk over from my dad’s stories and then seeing it as a clerk, is what really made me grow to love it.

CDLB: As a minority attorney who has litigated these cases of police violence and is the president of ITLA, what role should ITLA play in this moment, and what kinds of specific reforms should the group advocate for?

Rogers: The way I view this is from the perspective of what trial lawyers historically have done. Even before there were dash cams and body cams, there were trial lawyers who took on the plight of individuals who were discriminated against and who were the victims of police brutality. They took their cases to trial.

Trial lawyers have been doing that. Trial lawyers continue to do that…

I think in the current climate, with the national recognition of just how blacks and minorities in particular have been victimized by the police, ITLA has the opportunity to use its experience in those cases, to help reshape the laws and change the way use of force policies have been crafted in Illinois and across the country.

The use-of-force policies, for instance. Why are we allowing officers to utilize choke holds on individuals when we know they can be deadly?

There have to be limits placed upon officers’ abilities to utilize force, particularly when you’re talking about individuals who have clearly surrendered to the authority of the officer.

Out of this tragedy comes an opportunity for ITLA to really play a role in reshaping the framework of how use of force is defined and how it should be exercised. I look forward to being a part of that discussion and being a part of that change.

CDLB: What other issues are at the forefront that you expect ITLA will lobby for?

Rogers: COVID-19, for the foreseeable future, is going to have an impact on our ability to have jury trials, and it’s going to be difficult to place 12 people in a jury box sitting within inches of one another.

ITLA stands ready and willing to work with Cook County Chief Judge [Timothy C.] Evans and the Illinois Supreme Court, and all interested parties, in preserving the right to trial by jury, and the ability to have cases presented before a jury of your peers, while still respecting and accommodating concerns with COVID-19 and social distance.

We will participate and assist the court in whatever ways we can on getting things back on track, so that litigants cases can be heard and presented. It’s such a fresh issue, that I don’t know if all the solutions are determined. We look forward to getting back into the court.

And we want to make sure we can all do that in a safe and suitable way.

See this article in the e-Edition Here