2017 – Christen David Lee

Christen David Lee started each of his high school days on the bus from his home in Austin and North Lawndale to Lincoln Park High School. Outside the windows, he watched the blocks of vacant lots and dilapidated buildings of the city’s west side slowly change into an entirely different world, where mansions sat across the street from his school. Chris, recipient of the 2017 CBF Abraham Marovitz Scholarship, was struck by the incredible inequalities of Chicago. “As I matured,” he says, “I wanted to help make the difference in lifestyles of those in the neighborhoods along the way to school less glaring.”

While studying at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Chris worked as a fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. There, he helped study the effects of eviction records on housing stability and advocated for more tenant-protective sealing laws in such cases. He also helped develop a suite of presentation materials for educational outreach efforts on the subject. His materials for the eviction presentations resonate deeply with affected communities according to Mark Swartz, Executive Director at LCBH: “Chris understands the people impacted by eviction.”

After graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016, Chris accepted a year-long position as a full time Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow. He led a team of over twenty part-time AmeriCorps volunteers help people without lawyers navigate the court system at the Daley Center. Begun by the CBF as a pilot program in 2009, the innovative program seeks to make courts across Illinois more welcoming and less intimidating for people without lawyers.

Chris started law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law in the fall of 2017, and he is determined to further his burgeoning public interest law career. He strongly believes that legal disputes should be resolved based on the law, rather than on variable and unequal access to legal institutions. With a law degree, he hopes to be better able to expand access to legal aid and help right some of those inequalities. The Marovitz scholarship will help ease the burden of law school debt and will make a career in public interest law financially viable as Chris turns his dreams of a more just world into reality.