Investing in Justice Campaign in Action


October 12, 2018

Clearing Voting Barriers for Chicagoans with Disabilities

Imagine you are excited about casting your ballot on Election Day and are turned away simply because you have a disability. Or imagine having to cast your ballot where other voters can see exactly how you vote.

Cynthia, a voter with a disability, was unable to use the accessible electronic voting machine at her polling place because the election judges did not know how to operate it. She was forced to cast her ballot sitting at a table in plain view of other voters with absolutely no privacy. Her only other option was to not vote at all. Cynthia’s experience illustrates the type of barriers people with disabilities routinely face when they seek to vote but are denied access to the election process.

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November 17, 2017

Serving as the Court’s Eyes and Ears to Protect the Vulnerable: CVLS’ Guardian ad Litem Program

Ajay Sundar, an associate at Skadden Arps, wanted to put his legal skills to help others, and he volunteered to do just that through the CVLS Guardian ad Litem for Minors Program.

As Ajay recently recounted, CVLS quickly assigned him a pro bono case involving an eight-year-old named Ley’gacy, who was living with her grandmother. Her grandmother had guardianship because Ley’gacy’s mother was unable to care for her, but her mother—who had a history of mental illness and instability–was now seeking to assert her parental rights. Then, one day, Ley’gacy disappeared from her grandmother’s home. She had been kidnapped by her mother.

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August 21, 2017

Navigating People Through the Maze of Bankruptcy

The Bankruptcy Court Self Help Assistance Desk, run by LAF, does just what you would expect it to do—helps clients file for bankruptcy as they seek relief from suffocating piles of debt. But as with bankruptcy itself, the full reality is much more complicated—and the help much more far-reaching—than that.

The Desk aids unrepresented filers at every point in the bankruptcy process, which can be daunting and complex. In Room 622 of the Dirksen Building, pro bono attorneys and lawyers from LAF answer general questions about bankruptcy, help visitors decide if bankruptcy is their best option, and help prepare forms for people without lawyers in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The Desk eases the burden on the court by helping patrons evaluate their options before unnecessarily filing for bankruptcy. Each year, about 44,000 bankruptcy cases are filed in the Northern District of Illinois, the most in the country, so every bit of paperwork reduction helps the court run more efficiently. Launched in 2007 as a partnership with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, LAF and the CBF, the Desk is one of the many projects you make possible through the Investing in Justice Campaign.

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June 26, 2017

Removing Barriers for People with Disabilities

Access Living was founded in 1980 as one of the nation’s first ten Centers for Independent Living (CILs). The organization’s goal is simple: to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as those without disabilities to conduct lives of dignity and independence. With departments specializing in independent living skills, advocacy, and legal services, Access Living provides a unique combination of assistance in championing the rights and empowerment of people with disabilities. Access Living is the only CIL that has a Legal Services Program, and it is this impactful program that you support through the Investing in Justice Campaign.

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May 24, 2017

First Defense Legal Aid Helps Close a Key Gap in Access to Justice on the Criminal Side of the System

When someone gets arrested, the first 48 hours can be a critical time. During this period, police officers have access to any number of resources that detainees may not, including access to the State’s Attorney for legal counsel. Low-income detainees, on the other hand, rarely have legal representation at this point and often don’t understand all of their rights in what can be a very intimidating situation for them.

In Illinois, people who are arrested and need legal counsel but cannot afford it have to wait until a hearing from a judge to have a public defender appointed for them. The problem, however, is that this appointment can take 48-72 hours to take place and happens usually after the arrestee has been formally charged. When looking at the numbers, this lack of legal help for detainees is striking. In 2016, only 1% of almost 87,000 people arrested and in the custody of the Chicago Police Department had access to an attorney.

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April 24, 2017

An Evolving Partnership to Advance Civil Rights

“Kayla,” a mother of three holding Housing Choice Vouchers, sought to move her family into a safer neighborhood. Although she was initially welcomed by a landlord to visit the unit, once he discovered that she held federal housing vouchers, he was no longer interested. The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, one of the many […]

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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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February 27, 2017

Promoting Justice and Due Process for Immigrants for Over 30 Years

Growing up in El Salvador, sisters Maria and Ana lived in constant fear. A gang had forcibly recruited the older sister by threatening to harm the younger sister. On top of that, both siblings suffered significant child abuse from a family member. The sisters fled the country and sought safety in the U.S. Once in the Chicago area, they were connected with the National Immigrant Justice Center, one of the many outstanding organizations you support through the Investing in Justice Campaign. NIJC’s staff spent extensive time earning the children’s trust and learning their story. With NIJC’s legal assistance, Maria and Ana were granted asylum and can now begin their recovery in the United States.

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December 20, 2016

More than a Century of Delivering Justice for People in Need

Whenever there needed to be a legal voice at the table, the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services had a seat. With former U.S. presidents on the board, and handwritten letters from Presidents Nixon and Roosevelt outlining their appreciation for the work the organization does, LAS has a legacy that is unparalleled.

As the second oldest legal aid organization in the nation, LAS, one of the many outstanding organizations you are supporting through the Investing in Justice Campaign, has been a pioneer in defining what “justice for all” really means. Founded in 1886, the organization was one of the first in the country to provide legal services for the poor. Its mission is to protect and strengthen families by providing equal access to justice for the most vulnerable citizens, including low-income people, the elderly and victims of domestic violence.

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November 16, 2016

Worth a Second Chance

The police did not know how to support her. The 12-year-old had repeatedly abused her guardian and seemed to be in an endless cycle of getting arrested and then hospitalized. Time and time again, she faced the criminal justice system, only to be subsequently failed by it.

The staff at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, one of the many outstanding organizations you are supporting through the Investing in Justice Campaign, quickly realized that her core issues were not being addressed. They fought within the school system, advocating that she be residentially placed. They argued that she was unfit to stand trial and could not be held responsible given her complex mental health issues. The court lacked the services to help her with these issues, so The Moran Center attorneys and social workers ensured she would receive these services from her school.

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