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IEJF News September 2016
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What is Justice?
When one thinks of justice, words that come to mind are fairness, equality and opportunity. Though these values are intangible, they are the backbone of our democracy. To kick off our new e-newsletter series and advocacy efforts, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) is focusing on making justice in the civil legal realm a tangible reality.

The US Constitution guarantees legal assistance for people convicted of crimes, but people involved in civil cases have no such guarantee. Tens of thousands of Illinoisans cannot afford the help they need when facing potentially life-changing situations, like being scammed by a landlord or trapped in an abusive relationship. They are forced to navigate these complex legal challenges on their own. Without help, many lose their families, homes, and livelihoods.
 
We think everyone deserves access to civil justice, regardless of income, language barriers, disability, age, geography or education. Civil legal aid organizations help balance the scales by increasing access to the justice system for all Illinoisans. By providing legal information, advice, mediation and representation on issues like domestic violence, foreclosure and financial exploitation, legal aid lawyers solve problems that impact the community at large.
 
For example, parents of a very sick eight-year old girl suffering from seizures called IEJF-grantee Legal Council for Health Justice from the hospital in a panic. The girl’s medical card had been cancelled even though the proper renewal documentation had been submitted to the Department of Human Services in a timely manner. The family was told to reapply and the process would take 30 days – time the child did not have as she would quickly run out of her medication and need hospitalization. Legal Council for Health Justice intervened and the medical card was reinstated, stabilizing a potentially life-threatening situation. Legal Aid fought and secured civil justice for this family in need.
 
Over the next several months, we will be sharing more stories about how civil legal aid helped keep fellow Illinoisans afloat as the world crashed down around them. Stay tuned!
Justice Served
The IEJF funds civil legal aid programs across the state, ensuring that all residents, regardless of income, have equal access to the justice system. Funded by a state appropriation, the IEJF has awarded $24.3 million in grants to nonprofit civil legal aid providers serving the critical legal needs of over 560,000 vulnerable families, seniors and veterans since 2001.
 
State funding for the IEJF’s civil legal aid appropriation was negatively impacted by the state budget impasse. Funding for the IEJF was not included in the 18-month stop gap budget for FY 16/FY 17 signed into law on June 30. Two years without a state appropriation for civil legal aid hurts our most vulnerable neighbors the most and chips away at the basic tenets of democracy. We will be back in touch with specifics, but we will be asking all of our stakeholders to lend their voices to the advocacy campaign to reinstate funding for this critical appropriation.
 
Some justice was served, though, when funding was released in the stop gap budget for the IEJF’s Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network project. The project, enacted by the IL Access to Justice Act in 2015 and funded by filing fee income, will provide grants to nonprofit organizations to develop and implement a legal aid hotline and supporting legal aid services for veterans, active duty military and their families. It is anticipated that grants will be awarded in early 2017. Stay tuned for grant guidelines, applications and deadline information.
Latest News
Attorney General Lisa Madigan was on hand to honor IEJF Founding Trustees Tim Bertschy, Chris Ory and Mike Pope for their leadership contributions to the access for justice movement.  The three were feted in a private luncheon on June 30.  Governor Rauner’s office issued a state proclamation commending the accomplishments of these three advocates and the work of the IEJF.
Final Grant Reports Due
Final report forms are now available for fiscal year 16 grants funded through settlement funds awarded to the IEJF by Attorney General Lisa Madigan last summer. The funds are to support the IEJF's operations and grant programs for three years. Final reports are due electronically on September 30, 2016.  
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Lady Justice photo credit: sparkle-motion (user name)/Flickr Creative Commons License
Copyright © 2016 Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, All rights reserved.


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