Volunteer Success Stories: March, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

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


James, a single father who works hard to provide a good life for his children, Tasia and Chris, rightfully claimed his children under the Earned Income Tax Credit. Unfortunately, the IRS did not believe that James had children! After sending him a Notice of Deficiency, the IRS not only froze his tax refund of over $6,500, but also assessed him more than $1,200 in fines. James had plenty of documentation showing he was entitled to the refund, but his only chance of getting it and avoiding the penalties was to contest the IRS’s decision in Tax Court. Facing the daunting task of taking on the IRS, James came to CVLS for help.

Luckily, with less than two weeks before James had to file in Tax Court or lose the audit, CVLS volunteers Andrew Roberson and Levi Kahn of McDermott, Will, & Emery LLP agreed to take his case. Andrew and Levi reviewed James’ documents, crunched the numbers and saw that their client was clearly entitled to the refund. After filing a petition in Tax Court, Andrew and Levi submitted a report detailing every deduction and tax credit to which James was entitled, along with why he was entitled to each one. The IRS was left with no choice but to concede. 

James is grateful for the peace of mind that knowing he is not in trouble with the IRS brings. “Andy and Levi were awesome...the knowledge they displayed was awesome,” he said. The goodwill is mutual. According to Andrew, “James was the most responsive and easiest client to work with. It was a joy to help him.” Thank you Andrew and Levi!



Even someone with a good, stable job can withstand only so many financial blows. In one year, Rose had to pay funeral expenses for two family members, as well as her own serious knee surgery.  Although she has worked for the State of Illinois for 24 years, she found herself unable to catch up and in foreclosure, with nowhere to turn.  

Rose finally got a break when she entered the Cook County Foreclosure Mediation program and volunteer Stephanie Kevil took her case.  Stephanie lent an expert hand, submitting documents and mediating a full settlement.  Rose now has a permanent loan modification, which has her back on her feet. Great work, Stephanie! 



When Efraim, a retired veteran, was attacked by an unleashed dog, he received emergency medical treatment for puncture wounds. Due to his other unrelated health conditions, he feared that this treatment would cost him because it could exceed the benefit limits of his health insurance. Efraim visited our Drinker Biddle & Reath clinic for legal advice, and volunteer Sara Shanti agreed to help. 

Efraim was worried for his physical and financial health. He wanted an assurance that the dog bite had not exposed him to any potentially harmful diseases, and he wanted to ensure that his emergency room expenses would be covered. 

To his relief, Sara obtained records of the dog’s health and vaccination history, which showed that the dog was in good health and did not pose a health risk. To his relief, Sara obtained records of the dog’s health and vaccination history, which showed that the dog was in good health and did not pose a health risk. 

Then, Sara appeared before an Administrative Law Judge in the city’s lawsuit against the dog owners and argued that her client was entitled to full restitution because the Chicago Municipal Code required that animals be restrained.  Her request was granted, and the owners of the dog were ordered to pay the out-of-pocket costs resulting from Efraim’s emergency room visit.  

Sara ultimately negotiated a settlement agreement with the owners to ensure any future expenses would be covered and, further, to compensate Efraim for his distress and inconvenience. 

Extremely grateful for Drinker Biddle’s assistance, Efraim is looking forward to enjoying his well-deserved retirement with the additional security of addressing his future health care needs without a threat of devastating expense.



Latasha and her three children had lived in Chicago Housing Authority Section 8 housing for many years. In 2011, her daughter got into a fight at her high school after an inflammatory conversation on Facebook, and was charged with misdemeanor battery.  Despite fulfilling her community service and attending anger management classes, graduating high school and enrolling in City College, the CHA terminated Latasha’s Section 8 voucher.  

Latasha appealed CHA’s decision to the Chancery Court, which sent the case back to the CHA for a new hearing and appointed CVLS to handle the case through the Access to Justice program. Brand new volunteer Bibek Das agreed to take the case, despite a lack of experience in administrative hearings.  Bibek represented Latsha well at the hearing, leading to a reversed decision from CHA. Latasha now has her CHA Section 8 voucher back and all is well. 



Marisol moved into her home in 2008. Taking her career into her own hands after a time of separation and underemployment, Marisol opened a daycare business in her home but she struggled to make ends meet and defaulted on her mortgage. After applying for a loan modification, she entered the Cook County Foreclosure Mediation Program, where CVLS volunteer Rich Orman agreed to represent her. 

Rich learned that Marisol had been denied for any and all modification programs. Inspired to make things right, he pored over her finances and determined the denials had been based on her earlier, and much lower, income.  

A grueling mediation session made it clear that convincing the bank Marisol was earning enough to sustain a loan modification was not going to be an easy sell. The bank did not believe that Marisol’s income could have increased so drastically in such a short time, but Rich and Marisol provided undisputable proof.  

Upon a re-review, the bank approved Marisol for a loan modification and gave her a payment structure she can afford and sustain.  Thanks to Rich, Marisol kept not only her home, but her business too! 



CVLS’ Ark Clinic reached out to volunteer Ross Edwards when several homeowners received notice from their condominium association demanding immediate payment of thousands of dollars in overdue assessments and repair bills. The condominium association claimed a possessory interest in the clients’ condominiums and demanded immediate relinquishment of their ownership rights to satisfy the overdue association fees. 

After conferring with the homeowners, Ross sent the association a notice disputing the amounts owed which temporarily halted the collection process. He then contacted the association’s attorneys and negotiated a settlement which reduced the amount his clients owed and established a manageable monthly payment plan.  

The association agreed to stop the immediate collection efforts. Now, the homeowners, all low income and many with mental or physical disabilities, are steadily paying the reduced bills without the threat of losing their homes hanging over them.