Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.
LCBH is primarily known as a Chicago legal aid agency, but with special funding from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), LCBH is able to provide foreclosure expertise throughout the state. LCBH staff members are often on the road raising awareness about the rights of renters caught up in the foreclosure crisis. Recently, LCBH staff travelled downstate to the city of East St. Louis to visit with elected officials, social service providers, and religious leaders.
At each stop, LCBH staff discussed the foreclosure crisis and how it has impacted each community and were able to provide information about the rights renters have when confronted with the threat of losing their homes as a result of a foreclosure of their rental property. LCBH outreach staff members were warmly received by city officials and civic leaders, state senators and representatives, and US Congressman William Enyart. Staff also visited the St. Clair County Courthouse in nearby Belleville to provide resources for the judiciary and the self help desks at the courthouse law library, and met with Judge McGlynn, who runs the foreclosure docket, and Judge Rudoph, who runs the eviction docket. Both judges responded very positively to LCBH materials and felt they would be a valuable tool in helping local area renters.
This year LCBH’s Supportive Services program is very fortunate to have six amazing interns to help us out: Lizzie Buehler, Caitlin Cubbon, Katy Fohrman, Shannon Skahan, Sally Walstrom, and Blake Wilkinson.
Most people think of summer as a time for picnics, pools, and popsicles. For some of our dedicated volunteers, however, summertime meant pro bono time!
LCBH paired up with two different law firms over the summer to create pro bono opportunities for summer associate law students. Summer associates from Brinks Gilson & Lione and Jones Day worked with senior associates and partners within their firms to handle cases screened and supervised by an LCBH staff attorney. Each summer associate was able to work directly with clients to help resolve difficult housing situations through negotiation, motion writing, and their first court appearances.
We’d like to share one story that had a particularly wonderful outcome. A team of pro bono attorneys from Brinks Gilson & Lione represented June and her five children in an eviction court case. June and her family had lived in their apartment building, subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority, for several years. The family had never had any serious problems with management, and June liked the apartment’s proximity to her children’s school. However, in the early summer everything changed when June received an eviction notice from her landlord. The notice accused June of (1) allowing a friend to stay overnight in the apartment for three days, (2) propping open the back door of the building, and (3) damaging the gate to the building.
In response to a growing need for legal aid to renters in foreclosure throughout Illinois, AG Madigan announced a significant grant, as part of the Illinois foreclosure settlement for LCBH to sustain and expand the foreclosure work that started in 2008 and continues to affect thousands of renters each year. This grant will increase staff by 3 attorneys, and 3 support staff to greatly expand the services and state-wide impact of LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure Project.
At the LCBH Annual Reception and Awards Ceremony, held on Sept. 27th at Jenner & Block, AG Madigan’s keynote speech gave a visceral narrative of the realities that Illinois renters face in a foreclosure crisis.
“When a building enters into foreclosure, its tenants are often thrown into a kind of legal limbo where their rights are either ignored or they are even overtly violated. Consequently, in recent years huge numbers of low income tenants have had their utilities shut off, they’ve received improper eviction notices if receiving them at all, or they have come home and they’ve simply been locked out of their homes. And when this happens, many of those people are able to turn to LCBH for help. LCBH not only helps them understand and enforce their full rights under the law, you also help displaced tenants find new housing and you work with buildings and new owners to preserve affordable units”.
Other jurisdictions have been e-filing for years, and it has finally come to the Cook County Civil Division! E-Filing allows attorneys and pro se litigants to file documents with the Circuit Court online instead of having to go in-person to the clerk’s office. Among the many advantages of e-filing, users can file documents any time of the day, even during weekends and holidays. Users can also schedule motions through the e-filing service and pay court fees by credit card.
E-filing’s major disadvantage is that users are charged a vendor fee for each transaction, including filings for which the clerk does not collect a fee. These charges are prohibitive for most legal aid agencies, including LCBH, to fully utilize this service.
E-filing, if it ever becomes financially viable for legal aid agencies or provides fee waivers for low-income litigants, has the potential to substantially increase capacity for organizations with limited support staff. Instead of sending attorneys and paralegals to wait in line for 30-45 minutes every day, filing can be done with the click of a mouse, saving time and increasing efficiency.
Michael Griffin is a third-year law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Looking for litigation experience, Michael found LCBH’s internship posting on the Illinois Legal Aid Online website (http://www.illinoislegalaidonline.org/). As a long-time Chicago renter, he had an interest in landlord-tenant law and thought it would be a good fit. We did too, and Michael joined our team of legal interns in the fall of 2012.
“When I started, I really didn’t know the difference between a motion and a pleading,” recounts Michael. However, Michael was given real cases immediately and was drafting both motions and pleadings within a few weeks. He was encouraged to dive into assignments, learn the procedural and substantive laws, and confer with senior LCBH attorneys who could assist with creating a better work product.
“I really appreciate that I’ve gotten such great practical experience,” said Michael, who recently won his first jury trial (see story this issue). “A lot of attorneys never set foot in a court room, let alone chair and win a jury trial.” LCBH staff attorney Noah Magaram supported Michael’s interests and was soon sending him cases that had jury potential for preparation.
Governor Pat Quinn recently signed two important pieces of legislation into law. Both bills have the potential to dramatically improve outcomes for LCBH clients.
The Access to Justice Act was signed Thursday, August 15 and the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure bill was signed Wednesday, August 21.
Access to Justice Act
On Thursday, August 15, Governor Quinn signed the Access to Justice Act which will increase access to justice for all Illinoisans. The new law establishes two pilot projects: one creating a statewide military personnel and veterans’ legal assistance hotline and a program to provide court-based legal assistance within a circuit court in each of the five Appellate Court districts in the state.
“On behalf of the Illinois Supreme Court, I thank Governor Quinn and the General Assembly for enacting our proposal into law,” said Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, who attended the signing ceremony. “This law will make the Illinois court system more accessible to veterans and active duty service members and will help citizens in all walks of life. Additionally, it provides funding for self-help centers in law libraries, creates a task force to review the statutory fees imposed on litigation and will establish a pilot project to test how best to provide legal representation in certain civil cases to those who can’t afford an attorney.”
A few months ago we told you about Ms. Foster’s victory in the court of appeals. The court’s decision re-affirmed long standing precedents, from the mid 1990’s, regarding when leases survive a transfer of property during foreclosure. LCBH filed a successful motion with the court of appeals requesting that it publish this important decision. While the mortgage company opposed the publication, the court approved LCBH’s motion and the decision was published on June 28, 2013 as “Fifth Third Mortgage Company v. Foster, 2013 IL App (1st) 121361” and may now be used as authority (precedent) in other court cases around the state. It is available on the State of Illinois website (http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2013/1stDistrict/11...). LCBH would like to thank Ms. Foster for her incredible tenacity as well as staff attorney Frank Avellone and law student Michael Griffin for all their hard work on this case.
This summer LCBH’s Supportive Services program is very fortunate to have two new, and two returning interns to help us out.
- Anais Cotillas
- Grace Pai
- Loretta Maestranzi
- Evelyn Buehler
Welcome to all four of you, everyone at LCBH hopes you enjoy your summer with us.