Volunteer Success Stories: April, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Here's what our volunteers have been up to this month!


Troubles were piling up for Haywood. First, he suffered a stroke that impaired his speech and forced him into a wheelchair. Next, his landlord terminated his lease. Haywood tried to use his security deposit to cover another month’s rent, but his landlord denied ever getting one and accused Haywood of owing money. The short termination notice forced Haywood to move into a hotel for a bit before he finally found an apartment. Then his wheelchair was stolen! With problems compounding and his financial situation in dire straits, Haywood turned to CVLS for help.

Volunteer attorney Naureen Choudhury stepped up. Documents proved that Haywood was current on his rent and had paid a security deposit. However, it turned out that the landlord was a wiggly fellow with a history of mistreating tenants and dodging service.

Naureen and CVLS Deputy Director Phil Mohr scoured Cook County’s Tax Assessor’s and Treasurer’s websites until they located the landlord’s actual address. Naureen wrote a strong demand letter threatening legal action and setting out, in detail, potential penalties. The wiggly landlord was hooked and returned Haywood’s security deposit, in full.

Naureen was thrilled at the win because it was her first security deposit dispute. However, her greatest joy came from helping Haywood in his time of need. “He was someone who didn't have a lot of hope ... so it was great to get [him] exactly what he deserved,” she said.

For his part, Haywood was ecstatic. “I give them a thumbs-up, they don't mess around,” Haywood said of Naureen and CVLS. Great job Naureen!


Kinya worked hard to raise her three children, one severely disabled. Although she was disappointed when her oldest son dropped out of high school at age 18 and moved in with his girlfriend, she was really upset when she discovered that he’d been arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Especially because she found out when her Chicago Housing Authority housing voucher was terminated.

The Chancery Court appointed CVLS under the Access to Justice Program, and volunteers Steven Hamilton and Timothy Hoppe of McDermott, Will and Emery took Kinya’s case. They deftly argued that the CHA had failed to consider Kinya's disabled son who would be severely impacted and, possibly homeless, if Kinya’s housing voucher were terminated. The argument was successful and the court remanded the case to the CHA for a new hearing. Steve and Tim pressed on.

Thanks to superb representation at the second hearing, the CHA changed its mind and allowe Kinya to keep her voucher. She and her disabled son remain safely housed.


Lakisha ran into some bad luck while driving to work. Not only was she rear-ended into a four car accident, but the car in front of her belonged to the police department. The Secretary of State held a hearing to suspend her license and Lakisha represented herself . . . and lost. Unwilling to accept the suspension of her driver’s license, Lakisha looked for an attorney.

CVLS accepted Lakisha's case through the Circuit Court of Cook County Access to Justice program, and volunteer attorney Cantrell Jones of Dentons jumped in to help. He appealed her suspension to the Chancery Court, focusing on the absence of evidence showing that she was negligent. In fact, the hearing officer had stated, on the record, that Lakisha had done everything she could to avoid the accident.

Thanks to Cantrell, the court overturned the administrative decision and reinstated Lakisha’s license. Having learned the hard way, she now stays far away from police cars anywhere on the road. 


When Ms. Young’s grown sons were arrested for marijuana possession, the CHA terminated her housing voucher. Ms. Young had not reported the arrests when she reapplied for her voucher because she never knew about them. She contested the voucher termination at an administrative hearing, but lost. She appealed the decision to the Chancery Court.

CVLS volunteer attorney and board member attorney Kristi Nelson of Chen Nelson Roberts, was sitting in the courtroom when Ms Young was before Judge Flynn. When Judge Flynn asked Kristi if she could possibly represent this woman, Kristi agreed to take the case through CVLS, aided by fellow volunteer Martin O’Hara of Much Shelist .

Kristi and Marty argued that the CHA had violated Ms. Young’s procedural due process rights at the initial administrative hearing. The CHA attorney agreed to remand the case for a new administrative hearing. Kristi and Marty represented Ms. Young at that hearing, arguing that a termination would cause Ms. Young and her four school-aged children to become homeless. 

After the hearing, the CHA reinstated Ms. Young’s housing voucher. Thanks to Kristi and Marty, Ms. Young and her family are safe and sound in their home.


Shenitha, a single mother of three young children, the oldest with serious health issues, had to vacate her apartment after an upstairs fire caused significant water damage and the city declared it “dangerous and uninhabitable.” When the management company didn’t respond to her request to either fix her place or move her to another apartment, she notified it that she was moving. On moving day, the management company sent her a letter advising her that it was going to repair her apartment.

Naturally, using the late notice as an excuse, the management company refused to return Shenitha’s security deposit and demanded that she pay her final three month’s rent. When she refused, it hired a collection agency and the claim appeared on Shenitha’s credit report.

CVLS volunteer David Lafferty eagerly agreed to represent Shenitha. Recently retired after 31 years in the Chicago Transit Authority’s finance department, David was ready to dust off his 18-year-old law degree and put it to good use. He demanded that the management company drop the unpaid rent claim and pay damages in the amount of two times the security deposit.  Opposing counsel offered $500 but David would not budge. Restating his demand, he included the complaint he intended to file if the parties did not come to terms.

Success! Thanks to David, the management company dropped its attempts to collect the unpaid rent and, instead, paid Shenitha two times the security deposit it owed her -- $1,450.