Building a Fairer and Better Justice System Together in 2023

In this 75th Anniversary year of the CBF, the work you are making possible is more important than ever. You continue to make a tremendous impact through your foundation by coming together with your peers throughout our legal community to make it possible for thousands of people in need get to critical legal help and make the legal system more fair, accessible, and equitable for all. Below are some examples of how you have continued to make a real difference over the past year while building a fairer and better justice system for the future.

Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD) Program Continues to Make a Big Difference

The CBF continues to be a lead partner with the Circuit Court, Cook County, and many other legal aid, government, and community partners in developing and managing this groundbreaking program, which provides critical legal help and other assistance for people facing evictions, consumer debt challenges, foreclosure, and other housing issues.

Through CCLAHD, we collectively have reimagined the court process for evictions and consumer debt cases to try to achieve three interrelated goals:

  • Create a fairer and better court process for all parties;
  • Level the playing field for tenants and debtors, and
  • Avoid preventable evictions and consumer debt judgments whenever possible.

The program has helped more than 60,000 people since its launch, was featured Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and her cabinet Offices Under the President (OUP) as part of its Innovation Spotlight this past fall, and has been recognized as a national model by the White House and other national organizations.

A Productive Year on the Advocacy Front

Several key CBF advocacy priorities were approved this year in Springfield that will advance access to justice, including new funding for innovative court-based eviction assistance programs, a bill that clarifies and improves access to court documents, and a bill to increase access to legal help for people facing consumer debt cases.

The CBF also continues to advocate for access to justice initiatives in Washington in partnership with the CBA, ISBA, and ABA. Priorities this year included increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation, ensuring adequate funding and security for the federal courts, and passing a long-term, sustainable solution to the student debt crisis.

A Milestone Year for the CBA/CBF Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon

Nearly 600 people came together to honor seven amazing lawyers and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CBA/CBF Pro Bono & Public Service Awards Luncheon, which has become a signature event in our legal community.

Since the first edition of this event in 1999, it has been our great privilege to honor more than 150 unsung heroes of our Chicago legal community for their inspiring pro bono and public service commitment, and this year’s seven award recipients were no exception.

Innovative New Court-Library Partnership Kicks Off

People in communities in the Chicago area and throughout the state will have improved access to remote court proceedings and other legal resources thanks to an exciting new partnership between the CBF, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, and the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. This innovative pilot project will create community access centers in libraries throughout the state. Recognizing libraries as important community hubs for information and assistance, these access centers will provide new resources to assist patrons in navigating the legal system. People with limited technology capabilities or transit challenges can more easily get legal information and assistance, including with e-filing, and participate in remote court proceedings.

A Great Year for the Investing in Justice Campaign

More than 4,000 lawyers and legal professionals came together to contribute more than $1.4 million to the 2023 Investing in Justice Campaign. With the exemplary leadership of Amy Manning of McGuireWoods LLP, 130 law firms, corporate legal departments, and other law-related organizations participated in this year’s Campaign to help raise awareness and much-needed funds. We celebrated this year’s successful Campaign with a wrap-up concert held by our true rockstar Campaign Chair, Amy Manning, and her band Flood Waters. Since its inception in 2007, the Campaign has raised more than $20 million while leveraging millions more in additional support for the pro bono and legal aid organizations serving the Chicago area.

27th Annual Fall Benefit Another Big Success

Nearly 2,000 people came together for the 27th annual CBF Fall Benefit at the Museum of Science & Industry. The casual, family-friendly event again featured tasty comfort food, special kids’ activities, a silent auction and raffle, live music, an open bar, complimentary parking, and access to the museum’s many popular exhibits including Christmas Around the World and this year’s special exhibit Pompeii: The Exhibition. Special thanks to our co-chairs, Robert Collins and Kathy Malamis, and our many law firm and corporate sponsors who continue to make this great event possible.