leaving a legacy of chicago pro bono

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Ralla Klepak, CVLS Legacy Circle Member

Attorney Ralla Klepak died last April at the age of 82. This January CVLS received a $100,000 bequest from her—a legacy to Ralla’s passion for and belief in the value of social justice. CVLS is proud to have been honored in this way by such a wonderful woman.

I first met Ralla while working on several family law cases in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. She was tough but fair and we always got along, even as we advocated on opposite sides. Ralla was no nonsense and she didn’t mince words. If she thought you were full of bunk, she’d tell you. But if you were straight with her, she’d treat you in kind. I enjoyed talking and working with her.

Ralla cared strongly about protecting children, frequently serving as a Child Representative or GAL in custody and visitation cases. She fought hard for her kids even when she knew that she’d never see a dime in payment. She worked to get the best results for them and to protect them from people who hurt them.

After she died, I discovered that Ralla had also spent decades fighting for the rights of LGBT Chicagoans. As early as the 1960’s, when legal services for LGBT people were virtually non-existent, Ralla defended owners, employees and patrons of gay bars against police raids and harassment. She championed same sex adoptions, helped trans people change birth certificates and legal names, defended gay soldiers in court martial cases and provided estate planning services for people dying of AIDS. Ralla was inducted into the Chicago’s LGBT Hall of Fame as a “Friend of the Community” in 2017.

Ralla was a mensch. She will be missed but her legacy of kindness and fighting for the underdog will live on. Thank you.

-Margaret Benson, CVLS Executive Director