In a June 2008 article, "For the Public Good", from the Federal Lawyer, Judge JAMES S. RICHARDSON SR. says that "A former attorney general of the United States once remarked that "to a poor man, the law always seems to be taking something from him." Although it may be idealistic or even trite to do so, as attorneys we must not allow this to be only picture of justice held by persons of limited or no financial ability to pay for legal services..."
Giving substance to this call, there are several legal organizations which provide much needed legal services to lower-income and vulnerable Illinois residents. The current issue of Timeout Chicago includes a useful listing of some of these local organizations in the column "You asked for it" by Tomi Obaro :
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services One of the longer-running pro bono outfits in the city, CVLS has been providing free legal reps for low-income Chicagoans since 1964. Its services run the gamut from foreclosures to immigration issues. 100 N LaSalle St, suite 900 (312-332-1624).
James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy After a young man hanged himself while in police custody in 1976, the Evanston City Council founded this org (then known as the Evanston Defender Project) to do criminal defense work for poorer residents and give free legal representation to youths 21 and under. 1123 Emerson St, Evanston, suite 203 (847-492-1410).
Life Span Center Founded in 1978 by a group of women passionate about providing care for victims of domestic violence, Life Span has since broadened its services to include litigating the often violent conflicts that can emerge from divorce, custody cases and orders of protection. 20 E Jackson Blvd, suite 500 (312-408-1210).
Metropolitan Family Services This 154-year-old social-justice organization, which has seven area offices, provides child and youth development programs, older adult services and economic stability initiatives. Its legal aid bureau assists victims of domestic violence, elderly discrimination, consumer fraud and subsidized housing terminations—all free of charge. 1 N Dearborn St, suite 1000 (312-986-4200).
Not on this list, but two other valuable legal services for Illinois residents are these :
Illinois Legal Aid Online - Mission Statement : Increase access to justice for lower-income and vulnerable Illinois residents through the innovative use of technology to assist and educate the public and to train and support legal aid providers and pro bono attorneys.
Vision : Illinois Legal Aid Online’s vision is to extend its role as an information resource to become a system connector: linking potential lower income users to the available online tools and court processes, volunteers to pro bono opportunities and training, legal aid advocates to best practices and to clients.
The John Marshall Legal Support Center & Clinic, one of the first such clinics in the country, is dedicated solely to addressing the legal needs of veterans seeking benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
In addition to representing veterans, the VLSC continually trains both students and attorneys through Continuing Legal Education programs and Veteran Advocacy training throughout the State of Illinois.
The dedicated attorneys from these organizations can hopefully change the picture that Judge Richardson describes, by giving low income persons a fair shot at their day in court.