At a neighborhood block party Stephanie noticed a neighbor’s 19 month old run away from her aunt and into the street. Stephanie pulled the child to safety, but before she could take her home, the child darted back into the path of a CTA bus. This time, Stephanie couldn’t save her. When the child’s mother sued the CTA for the terrible accident, the CTA sued Stephanie for not protecting the child. Experienced trial attorney Debra Davy represented Stephanie. After two years, 70 depositions and many court battles, the CTA released her client from the case with no liability.
Florence needed an attorney to help her probate her husband’s estate. Their home was in her husband’s name and the mortgage company refused to communicate with her. Time was running out before the home went into foreclosure. She’d tried to represent herself but couldn’t navigate the paperwork or the process. Attorney Jeannine Broadnax completed the case for Florence in short order and everyone was happy: The judge, who thanked her for her pro bono service at the final court appearance; her client, whose home was now safe; and Jeannine because, “The good you put out always returns.”
Disabled, Ricky lived in subsidized housing for twenty years. When he and his brother had a fight in Ricky’s apartment, the Chicago Housing Authority terminated his voucher and tried to evict him. But, after the fight, Ricky was diagnosed with a mental illness and began to take medication and started therapy. He tried to convince the CHA to let him keep his voucher but he couldn’t articulate his defense. When he appealed the termination, the court appointed CVLS to represent him.
Sharief El Gabri and Joseph Deloney clearly communicated Ricky’s diagnosis and the changes he’d made. They convinced the CHA that he was entitled to a reasonable accommodation, noting his improved mental health and his family support. Thanks to their clear communications, Ricky is back in his apartment and back in the voucher program, safe and sound.
When her daughter died, Belinda petitioned for guardianship of her two grandchildren. But Belinda had a criminal history that included state and federal convictions and 14 years in prison. The Court appointed CVLS as Guardian ad Litem to investigate and report on Belinda—then and now. Kevin Hanbury dug into Belinda’s past and got to know this grandmother. Belinda bared her soul, anxious to do what was necessary to provide for her grandchildren. After patiently investigating every facet of her story, Kevin told the court that Belinda “has a wisdom that was expensive to procure, and she, better than anyone, is positioned to teach her grandchildren about the horrible consequences and shattering cost of having followed her peers into a criminal life.” Based on Kevin’s strong recommendation, the judge awarded Belinda guardianship of her grandchildren.
In 1979, a group of Schiff Hardin attorneys adopted the CVLS neighborhood legal clinic housed in the Howard Area Community Center in Rogers Park, a culturally vibrant, yet economically under-resourced community in the Chicago area. Our lawyers headed up to the clinic each week, helping low-income Rogers Park clients get the legal assistance they needed to protect their rights.
Four decades later, the CVLS clinic, still staffed by Schiff Hardin attorneys, continues to serve low-income Rogers Park clients – proving the power of pro bono to advance change, improve lives, and bring justice.
2019 marks the 40th anniversary of Schiff Hardin’s partnership with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, a preeminent pro bono civil legal aid provider. Over the past 40 years, more than 500 Schiff attorneys have represented 2,700+ CVLS clients, worked 75,000+ pro bono hours, and donated $15+ million in legal services for CVLS clients alone.
In 2003, CVLS represented Synola when she adopted her three grandchildren. She came back for help last year after their biological father died. The children saw their dad from time to time and he’d helped financially. After he died, Synola applied for his pension benefits on behalf of the children. The board denied the application, saying that he was not their legal father because of the adoption. Eleni Katsoulis challenged the decision and argued it before the pension board. She won. The children get pension benefits until their 18th birthdays, including two retroactive years.
Larry was living with his grandparents
because of his mom’s drug problems. Mom
fought her habit with treatment, therapy and a
Despite a few missteps along the way, she got clean and petitioned to regain custody of her son. The Court appointed CVLS as GAL.
After volunteers Rawn Reinhard and Aidan Gilbert verified that mom was well into recovery, employed, and with a supportive husband, they crafted a therapist-approved schedule to increase visitation and transition Larry to his mother’s custody over the course of a year. Now Larry lives with his mother, stepfather and new baby brother while enjoying frequent visits with his grandparents.
CVLS was appointed GAL after Alcelia
petitioned for guardianship of her 86-year
old grandmother Ruth. Karen Callahan
visited Ruth at Alcelia’s home and saw her
happy, comfortable and safe. Although Karen
recommended guardianship, Alcelia had a
criminal history and the court had to determine
Alcelia’s fitness to serve as guardian.
Alcelia testified about life with her abusive, alcoholic mother. At age 12, Alcelia was on the streets, working as a prostitute, in and out of prison. Clean and sober since 2007, Alcelia said that Ruth had cared for Alcelia’s children during that time and should not spend her last years in a nursing home.
Alcelia was proud and happy when the court appointed her guardian. She will make sure that Ruth’s final years are good.
A victim of domestic violence, Lithuanian native Jurgita had been living in the U.S. on a u-visa.
After three years, she wanted to become a permanent resident. CVLS volunteer Renae Yoo, made it happen, proving that her client qualified for a green card. Jurgita cried when she discovered she was able to stay in America for good. It meant she could finally visit her family in Lithuania assured that she would be welcome back into her new country.
Together, Charles and his sister took out a home improvement loan to repair the family home.
The sister paid the loan until she moved out of state. Charles, elderly and on a fixed income, could not afford the payments by himself. His attorney, Erik Diggs, negotiated an affordable payment plan and makes sure that Charles makes his payment, on time, every month.
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