News Tag: Courts


April 18, 2017

“They can help you right next to the Starbucks…”

“I am writing this letter today to praise one of your employees…” begins a letter thanking CARPLS for excellent legal advice at the Municipal Court Advice Desk and highlighting the especially kind and supportive service received from an Illinois JusticeCorps member as part of the process. This court patron’s letter highlights the unique and important services being provided in The Circuit Court of Cook County Resource Center for People without Lawyers in the concourse level of the Daley Center, which indeed is right next to the Starbucks there.

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February 21, 2017

Court Fees and Fines Reform Legislation

The CBF is part of a coalition of advocates working with legislators to reform Illinois’ byzantine system of court fees and fines in order to address barriers to access to justice associated with the fees and other court costs in civil, criminal, and traffic proceedings. One of the CBF’s legislative priorities this year is HB […]

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December 20, 2016

A New Year’s Resolution for the Legal Profession: Stop Calling People Non-lawyers!

Every once in a while I will read an article or hear a speech that causes me to recognize I’ve been acting like a fool in one way or another. And I am certain I have many more opportunities ahead of me for that kind of recognition. A great example of this phenomenon occurred for me not long ago when I heard Jordan Furlong, a very perceptive analyst of the legal market and the future of our profession, note that we are the only profession who describes everyone who is not one of us as a “non.”

He’s right. You don’t hear doctors calling everyone else in the medical field “non-doctors,” or CPAs calling their colleagues “non-CPAs.” In fact, it sounds absurd to even imagine them or any other professionals doing that. Yet that’s exactly what we do as lawyers, and I have certainly been guilty of my share of it over the years.

While I have no idea how we got started using the non-lawyer expression, and I don’t think it is something lawyers do with any ill will, it is pretty offensive when you think about it. And it betrays a shortsighted and artificially limiting mindset that has a number of negative consequences for access to justice, the future of our profession, and our public image as lawyers.

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June 23, 2016

Which Way Is the Camera on Our Phone Facing?

A picture can paint a thousand words. And sometimes a good metaphor or analogy can have an even greater impact. I witnessed a great example of that a few weeks ago when Lisa Foster, the Director of the Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice, took out her smart phone and used it as a metaphor for the justice system as the frame for some really thought-provoking remarks.

Ms. Foster demonstrated how she could use the camera on her phone to point it one way and take a selfie, or turn it the other direction and take a picture of the people in front of her. In the justice system, she keenly noted, we take selfies. That is, we look at the system from the perspective of the lawyers, judges and court personnel who are inside of it, not from the perspective of the people who rely on the system for access to justice.

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June 20, 2016

Fees, Fines, & Other Barriers to Access to Justice

The Statutory Court Fee Task Force, created as part of the Access to Justice Act, has issued its findings, including legislative recommendations for addressing barriers to access to justice and additional issues associated with fees and other court costs in civil, criminal, and traffic proceedings. The report found, for example, that court fines and fees are constantly increasing and outpacing inflation.

Check out their recommendations and let us know what you think (ainzano@chicagobar.org or 312-554-4952), as they are likely to be among the CBF’s top legislative priorities for the coming year.

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May 19, 2016

25 Years a Lawyer

A few weeks ago the congratulations emails started to arrive in my inbox because this month marks my 25th anniversary as a lawyer. The emails weren’t coming from anyone I know, but from people trying to sell me “mementos” of the occasion.

While I have been very fortunate in my legal career and remain proud to be a lawyer today, I won’t be buying any of that stuff. As anniversaries often are though, it was a time to take stock of what has happened over the time since I took the plunge, and it specifically got me thinking about the trajectory of access to justice since those heady days when I got sworn in. So I thought I’d take a brief break from pontificating about the future of our cause to look back at where we’ve been and what we can learn from that going forward.

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March 22, 2016

Recent Cy Pres Award Will Help Advance Access to Justice

The CBF recently received a cy pres award of more than $43,000, the result of residual funds remaining in a class action settlement reached in Murray et al v. Bill Me Later, Inc.  In this case in the Northern District of Illinois, McGuire Law, P.C. represented the plaintiff class and Sidley Austin LLP represented the defendant.

“While […]

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December 11, 2015

Take Action: Thank Your County Commissioner

Join us in thanking the Cook County Board of Commissioners for their unanimous vote to support funding for the Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program for another year. Personalized phone calls and emails can go a long way.

Find Your County Commissioner

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November 19, 2015

A Network of Help for Considerable South Suburban Need

Ford Heights, located in southern Cook County, was once pegged as America’s poorest suburb. Three of its neighboring towns now claim the highest suburban poverty rates in Illinois: Harvey, Robbins, and Chicago Heights, all of which fall within the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court’s Sixth Municipal District in Markham.

Markham is a busy courthouse with a large unmet need, and its compact space enhances that challenge. In fact, it is also the only district in Cook County that has additional court call locations in 12 village halls and police departments. For people without a lawyer to guide them through the process, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle.

Your support of the CBF Investing in Justice Campaign has helped build a network of court-based services in Markham that provide legal assistance to thousands in need for evictions, collections, and other matters.

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October 29, 2015

Pro Bono Myths and Realities: The Role of the Courts

Part 5 of a 7-part series

Court-based pro bono programs that address the needs of unpresented litigants can be an effective part of the larger strategy to ensure that the justice system is fair, accessible and efficient for all. There are a variety of successful court-based program models, including help desks that provide brief advice and services; “lawyer for the day” or other limited service appointments such as representation in mediation or settlement hearings; and panels of lawyers who provide extended representation to litigants in particular types of civil and criminal cases.

While pro bono volunteers can and do provide important assistance in ensuring access to the courts, they are not a substitute for robust and properly funded legal aid and public service entities or for a user-friendly and accessible court system. When designed and implemented well, however, these programs can provide an important supplement to these efforts in a way that is a win-win for all stakeholders.

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