A Productive Spring for Access to Justice in Springfield

Several key CBF advocacy priorities moved forward in the Spring legislative session in Springfield that will advance access to justice, including new funding for innovative eviction assistance programs, improved access to court documents, and a bill to increase access to legal help for people facing consumer debt cases.

New Funding for Innovative Eviction Assistance Programs

Thanks to the great leadership of Representative Anna Moeller, the FY 24 state budget includes $2 Million for court-based eviction resolution programs like the Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt program, and an additional $2 Million for Eviction Help Illinois, which supports similar programs outside of Cook County. This new funding for court-based programs builds on the already strong leadership and funding commitment from Cook County, the City of Chicago, and other local governments throughout the state and will help sustain these critical programs that were launched during the pandemic.

Court Document Accessibility

HB2624 will improve access to court records in Illinois by creating uniform definitions and standards for restricted court files, and clarifying how authorized parties can access restricted court records in appropriate instances. The CBF worked with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts and lead sponsor Representative Nabeela Syed on this bill, which ultimately passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. Governor Pritzker signed the bill into law in June as Public Act 103-0166.

Reciprocal Attorney’s Fees for Consumer Debt Cases

With the active leadership of Representative Will Guzzardi and Senator Michael Halpin, HB3314 will help increase representation for low-income and disadvantaged Illinoisans facing consumer debt cases based on adhesion contracts. Specifically, the bill provides courts with the discretion to award attorney’s fees to consumers who prevail in consumer contract cases where the plaintiff creditor itself was seeking to enforce a contractual attorney’s fee provision as part of their complaint. The bill was negotiated with the Illinois Creditors Association, and the amended version passed the General Assembly unanimously and is currently before Governor Pritzker for signature.

Annual CBA/CBF Advocacy Trip to Springfield

Led by CBF President-elect Kenya Jenkins-Wright, an enthusiastic team from the CBA and CBF visited Springfield in April to work on the above issues and other related advocacy priorities.  Along with Kenya and CBF staff, the CBA/CBF team included CBF Advocacy Committee members Brent Vincent, Leslie Corbett, and Rachel Cheng as well as CBA Legislative Counsel Tom Suffredin. The team negotiated real-time resolutions to longstanding legislative priorities, enjoyed great meetings with legislators and government officials, and still managed to find time for some sightseeing and fun.

For more information, or if you’re interested in getting more involved in the CBF’s advocacy efforts, check out the CBF website or contact Roya Samarghandi, Associate Director of Advocacy, Innovation & Training for the CBF, at rsamarghandi@chicagobarfoundation.org.