Circuit Court partners with CVLS to expand Access to Justice pro bono program
Released on 5/10/2012 1:58:18 PM


Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and Chancery Division Presiding Judge Dorothy Kirie Kinnaird announced the court has formed a new partnership with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, the Chicago Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Foundation that will expand the court’s Access to Justice Program providing free legal representation for low income pro se litigants in the Chancery Division.

Under the Access to Justice program, if a judge determines that it is not in the best interest of a litigant to continue to represent himself or herself in a Chancery case, and the litigant responds that he or she cannot afford representation, the judge may appoint CVLS as counsel. Litigants are provided with an order that directs them to the CVLS office at 100 North LaSalle Street in Chicago for an evaluation of their case and income status. CVLS will then appear at the case’s next status hearing to notify the court if representation from a CVLS trained volunteer attorney will be provided.

Pro se litigants in the Chancery Division can include persons who stand to lose their homes through mortgage foreclosure or victims of mortgage fraud filing quiet title claims. However, all matters heard in the Chancery Division are covered by the Access to Justice Program.

Chief Judge Evans thanked the Chicago Bar Association for helping to establish the program, which was launched as a pilot in early 2004. "The Access to Justice Program will greatly benefit from Chicago Legal Services Foundation’s vast resources and experience in providing legal aid for the underrepresented for more than four decades," said Chief Judge Evans.

The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF), the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association, has made a two-year, $80,000 grant to fund the newly expanded program. The CBF’s funding for the project was made possible by several cy pres awards the CBF recently received in cases in the Circuit Court. Cy pres awards are derived from unclaimed monetary awards which courts have the discretion to use to fund legal aid programs as the next best use of the money.

"Designating the CBF and the many outstanding legal aid and public interest law organizations that the CBF supports is a great way for the courts to improve access to justice for the less fortunate of our community," said Bob Glaves, CBF’s executive director. "Residual funds in class actions are a perfect match for this purpose, as the underlying premise for all class actions is to make access to justice a reality for those who otherwise would not be able to obtain the protections of our justice system."