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March 23, 2017

The Right Way to Respond to the President’s Budget Proposal: Using Good Baseball Strategy

As you’ve surely heard by now, President Trump’s first budget blueprint released last week targets the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and 18 other agencies for elimination, and calls for significant cuts to a number of other federal agencies and programs that provide vital help for people in need. This is just the start of the budget process and represents both a challenge and a big opportunity for our legal community to respond. We are advocates by trade with a strong hand to play here. We need to call on those skills to remind our members of Congress of the critical role LSC, as the principal funder of civil legal aid at the national level, and other federal access to justice programs play in assuring fairness in the justice system and carrying out one of our nation’s most fundamental responsibilities.

In honor of it being less than two weeks from the Cubs opening game as defending World Series champs (and how cool is it to be able to say that!), I think it is fitting to use a baseball analogy to frame the issue and talk about key points to remember for our legal community’s response.

It’s only the top of the second inning, but the opposing pitcher has knocked our team off its game by calling unusual and often unpredictable pitches and challenging basic notions of sportsmanship. The good news: it is still very early in the game, we’ve got the meat of our batting order coming up, one of our best pitchers on the mound, and a deep and rested bench and bullpen to call upon. While that is all good, it’s going to take a strong game plan to turn those advantages into a win.

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March 23, 2017

Take Action: Advocate for LSC Funding

As the FY17 federal budget negotiations continue, we encourage you to reach out to your Senators and member of Congress to encourage them to oppose any efforts to reduce or eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), encouraging them to instead support a much-needed increase in this funding.

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March 23, 2017

JEP Shares Ideas, Lessons Learned at National Conference

Justice Entrepreneurs Project attorneys Magda Derisma, Sonny Thatch, Alyease Jones, and Cliff Helm joined JEP Director Trevor Clarke in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Fourth Annual Access to Justice through Legal Incubators and Nonprofit Law Firms conference. As in years past, the JEP played a prominent role at the three day conference, adding our voices to plenary sessions, concurrent sessions, and breakout groups. The JEP is the largest incubator in the country, responsible for the most incubator participants and alumni (objectively), and the most successful and innovative firms (subjective, yes, but we haven’t heard of any challengers). As such, the JEP has learned a lot, and has a lot to share, about meeting the needs of low and moderate income people through new models of legal service delivery.

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March 22, 2017

Improving Financial Stability One Tax Dispute at a Time

“Mark” was awarded a settlement from a wrongful death suit, but his legal problems did not end when he received the money. The IRS processed this money incorrectly, treating it as taxable income. At the point when Mark turned to the Center for Economic Progress (CEP) for assistance, he had an IRS balance exceeding $130,000 and a levy on his wages. A Taxpayer Advocate at CEP’s Tax Clinic was able to help him correct his account with the IRS. Because of CEP’s help, the IRS ended the wage levy, eliminated Mark’s balance, and refunded him over $16,000 for wrongfully levied proceeds.  Almost half of this money has gone to cover Mark’s student loan debt.

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March 21, 2017

March becomes fundraiser time for pro bono aid

A March 21, 2017 article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin features the CBF’s Investing in Justice Campaign. Now in its 11th year, the annual campaign brings the entire legal community together to help ensure that everyone has access to necessary legal help, not just those who can afford it. The Campaign runs throughout the month of March and is chaired this year by Jesse Ruiz, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.

Read the article…

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March 20, 2017

Bills Up in Springfield on Wednesday

Take Action for Equal Justice Today!

Hearings are set this Wednesday, March 22nd in the Illinois House of Representatives for two of the CBF’s priority legislative initiatives this year:

  • In the House State Government Committee at 2pm in support of HB2591, a bill to reform the civil and criminal court fees and fines system in Illinois
  • In the House Civil Judiciary Committee at 8am in support of HB3359, a bill to simplify the law governing evictions in Illinois

Please take three minutes to fill out a virtual witness slip in support of each of these two bills.

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March 17, 2017

Bar groups unite to save aid program

An article in the March 17, 2017 edition of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin focuses on the President’s elimination of all Legal Services Corporation funding in his recently proposed budget and the devastating effects this funding loss would have on legal aid services in Illinois. The article highlights the response of LSC-funded organizations in Illinois and national and local bar groups, including the CBF.

Read the article…

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March 16, 2017

Counsel People in Police Custody

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans recently signed an order designating that individuals in police custody have access to an attorney. Prior to this, less than 1% of arrestees in Chicago police custody had an attorney. The Cook County Public Defender’s office and First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA) are joining forces to meet this need. FDLA needs your help to cover the shifts outside work hours. You can get trained to help on Tuesday, March 28th at noon at the ACLU office (180 N. Michigan).

Register

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March 7, 2017

Chicago Legal Community Rallies Around Fundamental and Unifying Principle of Equal Access to Justice

Thousands of individual attorneys and legal professionals at more than 150 area law firms and companies are participating in the 2017 CBF Investing in Justice Campaign, which raises awareness and critical funding for pro bono and legal aid services in the Chicago area. Chaired this year by Jesse Ruiz, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, the Campaign officially kicked off with an evening reception for Campaign leaders at Drinker Biddle’s Chicago office on March 6th. The Campaign runs throughout the month of March.

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February 28, 2017

Immigration and Access to Justice: A Much Bigger Problem Than It Needs to Be

People come to America for the same basic reasons now as they have from the time of our nation’s founding: to seek economic opportunity and the American dream, to join their families, or to flee persecution or terror. We truly are a nation of immigrants, and from the start of our country to today, immigrants have played integral roles in our economy and in our communities.

Even if we had a well thought out and well-functioning immigration system that reflects these fundamental truths—which no rational observer would mistake our current system for—immigrants would have some unique needs for legal help, and many would also face additional challenges due to the language and cultural barriers they often confront.* Unfortunately, however, immigrants face far greater access to justice challenges today because we have a broken immigration system. These added challenges are unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive for all concerned, and expanding immigration enforcement without fixing the underlying systemic flaws will only make things worse.

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