Indicted state rep host legal clinic event for residents

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By BEN MEYERSON

Still facing legal troubles of his own after being indicted on federal corruption charges in March, West Side state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-10th) plans to host a legal advice clinic for constituents later this month.

The free clinic takes place on July 21 at his West Side office, 2532A W. Warren.

This is Smith's first publicly organized event since being arrested and indicted on bribery charges just one week before the March 20 Democratic primary. Smith won the primary despite the arrest.

The goal of his upcoming legal clinic, according to a flier emailed by his office, is to offer free legal advice on such topics as bankruptcy, landlord disagreements and domestic violence. The advice will be offered by Street Justice Inc., an advocacy group that provides free and low-cost legal services to low-income people in the Chicago area. Their clinics take place monthly around the city.

"Many people are intimidated by the complexity of the legal system and the cost associated with services," Smith said in a statement on the flier. "As a result, I am partnering with Street Justice Inc. to remove those obstacles and bring needed services directly to area residents."

Carmela Wimberly, who works for Smith in his West Side office, said this was the third legal clinic they've done since Smith was appointed state rep last year. She said she didn't see any connection between or irony involving the clinic and his current legal troubles.

"Actually, this is for the community - this has nothing to do with him personally," Wimberly said. "For his issues that he has to deal with legally, he has a whole separate outside attorney. These attorneys have nothing to do with his case. So far, people are happy because they say they need help."

On top of facing criminal charges for allegedly accepting the bribe, Smith could face disciplinary measures in the Illinois House, including expulsion. The House committee that will decide his fate is due to meet sometime before July 6.

If he survives that, Smith also faces a battle in the general election this November. Several of Smith's former colleagues and backers, including Secretary of State Jesse White, recently selected former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's chief of staff, Lance Tyson, to run against Smith as a third-party candidate.

Wimberly said she wasn't sure if Smith himself would be at the legal clinic.

"He may or he may not," she said. "Sometimes he comes in and sometimes he doesn't."

Ben Meyerson is the editor of Chicago Journal newspaper.

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