Volunteer Success Stories: December, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

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


When, after a year of failed negotiations, Wilhemina’s foreclosure case was referred to the Cook County Foreclosure Mediation Program, the bank’s attorneys told CVLS that Wilhemina was not eligible for a modification. 
Despite the bank’s position, volunteer attorney Rich Orman agreed to represent Wilhemina in mediation.  When he reached out to the bank’s attorneys to inform them of his representation, they again responded that his client was ineligible for a modification. 

Ignoring the bank’s position, Rich researched the history of the case and the mortgage, delved into Wilhemina’s finances, and investigated her previous efforts at securing a loan modification.  Rich believed that his client was clearly eligible for a loan modification … and she was. Less than a month later, he convinced the bank and they agreed to modify Wilhemina’s loan. Every homeowner in foreclosure should have an attorney like Rich Orman!

When the economy tanked, Joe lost his job. With a loss in monthly income of nearly $2,000, he and his wife Rachel struggled to make ends meet. Unemployment benefits helped, but were not enough to cover the monthly mortgage payments. Their Forest Park home went into foreclosure. After months of pounding the pavement, Joe eventually found work and the family’s income significantly increased.  

That’s when CVLS volunteer Julie Jones took over.  

Thanks to her negotiating skills and razor-sharp representation, coupled with the Millers’ persistence and single-minded determination, the lender agreed to a modified, affordable mortgage payment. The couple is delighted to be celebrating this year’s holidays in their family home. Well done Julie!


Volunteer attorney and CVLS Junior Board member Justin From recently completed a social security case for his quadriplegic client – and she couldn’t be happier! Judy, who visited our Sidley Austin-sponsored Salvation Army Legal Clinic, had this to say about Justin:

"There are many things that I could write in terms of the professionalism, empathy, incredible competency, and diligent efforts that Justin put forth on my behalf. However, suffice to say that he was able to win the Social Security overpayment dispute with simply writing a brief that was so complete, eloquent, and persuasive that the overpayment issue was overturned by a judge without the necessity of a hearing!

“I am so grateful to him and to Sidley Austin for their generous opportunity that they provide by offering outstanding employees as individuals to work on pro bono cases! You are to be applauded and Justin should get a promotion!”

WOW – great work, Justin! Read about Judy’s case HERE.


For years, Donald James watched with a heavy heart as his neighborhood decayed around him. Donald lived in Englewood, and over the years, violent crime in the area had skyrocketed. His home had been hit by gunfire on more than one occasion. Fearing for their lives, Donald and his wife abandoned their home and moved to senior citizen housing in a safer neighborhood. 

Unfortunately for Donald, the City of Chicago did not see his move as heroic. Instead, they issued fines for not keeping up the property and then for abandoning it.

Living on a fixed income, Donald could not afford to pay the fines or improve the home. When he came to Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Panel Referral Program Coordinator Kristen Harrison, found him volunteers with the expertise to help. Kristen knew that Riccardo A. Di Monte, Managing Partner at the law firm of Di Monte & Lizak, LLC,  (and a 30-year CVLS volunteer veteran), along with his colleague Peter M. Follenweider, would be invaluable in resolving Donald’s legal predicament. 

The city’s lawsuit against Donald asked for civil fines, court costs, and reimbursement for demolition at a total cost between $12,000 and $25,000; astronomical amounts that Donald could not afford. 

Ric and Peter settled the city’s lawsuit against Donald. The city waived the fines and court costs in return for a lien on the property for the cost of demolition. The settlement was a win-win all around—the city got rid of deteriorating property and Donald was spared the upfront costs.

Asked why they took on this case, Ric and Peter stated that attorneys have a unique ability to help others with their legal difficulties and it is rewarding to help save people from that anguish. Thanks to their efforts, Donald no longer fears for his safety or for the huge financial burden caused by an unsafe home in a violent neighborhood.