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.
Jason applied for and received a loan modification as soon as he fell behind on his mortgage. Problem solved? No. The bank misapplied his payments and filed for foreclosure. Even after the bank admitted its error, the foreclosure moved forward. Then Joe Noonan and Sandra Durkin stepped in and litigated Jason’s rights. After five long years, the bank eliminated the accrued interest, reduced his principal, reinstated Jason’s modification, and removed his past negative credit reporting.
Arnie and his wife asked his brother to co-sign a mortgage so they could buy a house. Unfortunately, they couldn’t manage the payments and the home went into foreclosure. Arnie desperately wanted to leave the property and protect what was left of his brother’s credit but the bank wouldn’t talk to him. Then his attorney, Sal Lopez, got involved. Within a matter of weeks Sal negotiated a deed in lieu of foreclosure. For Arnie, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.
Monique was a responsible driver—she had insurance. Unfortunately, her insurance company wasn’t as responsible. When she was in an accident, they filed suit against her to cancel the contract, claiming she’d lied on her application by failing to identify her boyfriend’s vehicle. Monique lived with and cared for her boyfriend’s mother. While her boyfriend’s car was stored at the house, it had not been operable for some time nor did her boyfriend live there. Luckily, Monique had a good attorney to fight the insurance company -- Elaina Emerick Andrade. Elaina conducted discovery. After her client’s deposition, the insurance dropped their case and agreed to fulfill their obligations to Monique.
CVLS is an organization of over 2,300 volunteer attorneys who donate free legal services to thousands of low-income Chicagoans. Our services are free, accessible and real.
With 24 legal clinics across the Chicago area, hosted evenings and weekends at community organizations and churches, where you can talk with an attorney about your legal problem, CVLS works to ensure that everyone has access to justice, not just those who can afford it.
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.