Our Issues

The CBF, in partnership with the CBA, centers its current legislative and policy advocacy efforts on the following key issues:

Court Funding
Federal Courts

Full funding of the judiciary is a fundamental prerequisite of a functioning democracy and a critical component of access to justice. The CBF advocates for legislation that provides the judiciary with enough money to carry out its essential functions under the Constitution.

BOBservation: Justice as a Discretionary Expense—Where Did We Lose Our Way and How Can We Find Our Way Back?

Local Courts

At the local level, the CBF focuses on Cook County, which is the primary funder of the circuit courts. In particular, the CBF focuses on funding and other initiatives involving access to the courts, such as legal advice desks. These initiatives make the courts more user friendly and accessible to all, particularly those coming to court without lawyers.

Funding for Legal Aid
Legal Services Corporation (LSC)

LSC  is the entity through which federal funding for legal aid flows. In Illinois, three legal aid organizations receive LSC funds: Legal Aid Chicago, Prairie State Legal Services, and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. Unfortunately, LSC funding is near an all-time low at a time when a record number of vulnerable and disadvantaged Americans are in need of free legal services. The CBF advocates for legislation that increases LSC funding.

Read the fact sheet on this important issue.

Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF)

The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) was created by the Illinois Equal Justice Act and is the statutory entity that helps level the playing field for low-income Illinoisans in the justice system by funding civil legal aid throughout the state. IEJF provides access to legal help for thousands of Illinoisans to protect their families, their livelihoods, their health, and their homes.  However, due to a long-term underinvestment in these critical services, more than half of Illinoisans in need are still turned away through lack of resources.

Read the fact sheet on this important issue.

Court Reform and Simplification
Court Fees and Fines Reform Legislation

The CBF is part of a coalition of advocates working with legislators and the courts on a multi-year effort to implement reforms to Illinois’ byzantine system of court fees and fines in order to address barriers to access to justice associated with the fees and other court costs in civil, criminal, and traffic proceedings. You can read more about some of the key tenets of the 2018 reforms in the CBF’s fact sheet and in the recommendations of the Statutory Court Fee Task Force report released in 2016 with broad bipartisan support from all levels of government.

Simplifying Name Changes in Illinois

The CBF is working with a coalition of other organizations to reduce the barriers to obtaining a legal name change in Illinois, including removing the outdated publication and third party witness requirements, standardizing court forms, and expanding judicial discretion. Learn more here.

Illinois Plain Language Task Force

The CBF spearheaded legislation (P.A. 100-1108) that restarted, and is now working to reinvigorate, the Illinois Plain Language Task Force, intended to provide guidance to assist all three branches of Illinois government in their commitment to plain language reform efforts.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Student Debt Reform

The unsustainable level of student debt and increasing cost of financing higher education is exacerbating inequality in education access and opportunity and inhibiting entrepreneurship. We need long-term, sustainable solutions to this escalating problem that center around fairness, opportunity, and accountability. If enacted, these solutions would create a more fair, rational, and accountable system while simultaneously stimulating the economy. Read our fact sheet for more on this important issue.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), created by Congress in 2007, provides critical support for our nation’s public sector by offering partial relief from often crushing educational debt for public service employees who make long-term commitments to working in the sector. Under PSLF, those who make ten years of payments on their student loans while employed full-time in public service jobs are eligible to have their remaining balance forgiven.

There are active proposals to either eliminate or limit PSLF going forward. This important program should be preserved for the longer-term, and should only be limited if other educational debt reforms are put in place.

In 2020, the CBF worked with a team of pro bono attorneys to propose the Equality in Higher Education Financing and Repayment Act (EHEFRA). The EHEFRA is a comprehensive effort to fairly and equitably tackle the unsustainable levels of student loan debt that are exacerbating existing inequalities in education access and opportunity as well as inhibiting entrepreneurship. The proposed new Act would create a more rational, fair, and accountable system for financing higher education, freeing many Americans from the weight of debt-based decision-making and simultaneously giving the economy a much-needed stimulus during the current financial crisis.

A one-pager that outlines the goals can be found here and the full legislative proposal package can be found here.

Immigration Reform

Our broken immigration system creates a number of unique access to justice issues. The CBF advocates for legislation that takes a comprehensive approach to fixing our nation’s broken immigration system and restoring the rule of law, including through passage of a clean DREAM Act.

Read the fact sheet on this important issue and a CBA Record article laying out the case for comprehensive reform.