Described appropriately by her colleagues as an “unsung hero,” Judge Catherine Schneider has been dedicated to legal aid, pro bono, and access to justice from the time she graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1994. Early in her legal career, she was the Pro Bono Coordinator for Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing and a public interest career counselor at Loyola. While in private practice she served as a volunteer attorney, associate board member, and then treasurer of the Board of Directors at CARPLS.
Judge Schneider’s volunteer work with CARPLS led her to make a full-time commitment to work there, and she would serve with distinction for almost ten years before becoming a judge. As supervising attorney, she ran the Municipal Court Advice Desk for CARPLS, which gives legal advice and brief assistance on a wide range of civil matters to unrepresented litigants with cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Municipal Division. She was also the primary author of civil case self-help resources and civil practice training and support for CARPLS’ intake and knowledge management system.
Of her many accomplishments, the most wide-reaching has been Judge Schneider’s work as co-chair of the Forms Committee of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice. Since the Forms Committee was established, Judge Schneider has been involved in the development of statewide standardized court forms, which are primarily used by self-represented litigants. These forms are essential in promoting a more accessible court system by providing individuals with clearer and more user-friendly documents that demystify the court system.
Judge Schneider also continues to focus on public service through her work with the Illinois Judges Association. She currently is an IJA board member and serves as co-chair of its Pro Bono Committee, which promotes volunteerism throughout the state by retired and sitting judges.
Judge Schneider’s selfless commitment to public service and access to justice throughout her legal and judicial career makes her a very fitting recipient of this year’s Justice Kilbride Public Service Award.