The Bar News

Spotlight on pro bono: Illinois supreme court access to justice commission begins work

On June 13th, the Illinois Supreme Court announced the formation of a new eleven member Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride named Jeffrey D. Colman, a partner at  the Chicago law firm of Jenner and Block as the chair of the Commission. Seven members of the Commission were appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court.  The Illinois Bar Foundation, The Chicago Bar Foundation,  Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois and the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation each appointed one member.

As Chief Justice Kilbride noted, "The purpose (of the Commission) is to make access to justice a high priority for everyone in the legal system. This includes judges, clerks, attorney, other court personnel and even our law schools." Similar commissions have been formed in twenty-six other states and the District of Columbia. The creation of the Commission was endorsed by the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois Judges Association.

The other members of the Commission include Illinois Appellate Court Justice Mary K. Rochford; Chief Judge Michael Sullivan of the Twenty-Second Circuit; Circuit Judge Daniel J. Pierce, Cook County; Circuit Judge Debra Walker, Cook County; Associate Judge Leonard Murray, Cook County; Kelly Cheesman, Knox County Circuit Clerk; Michael Fiello, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Carbondale; Timothy W. Kelly, Kelly Law Offices, Bloomington; Jennifer T. Nijman, Partner, NijmanFranzetti LLP, Chicago and Michael A. Pope, Partner, McDermott Will and Emery, Chicago.

Under the leadership of Chairman Jeffrey D. Colman, the Commission has focused its first efforts in three of the areas outlined in the rule creating the Commission. These areas include committees on Court Guidance and Training, Language Access and Standardized Forms.  Each committee  is headed by two co-chairs with staff assistance.  Committee membership will be largely selected from outside the Commission. All three committees have already met several times and are in the process of adding members, developing mission and purpose statements and researching existing materials from other states on their specific topics. 

The Illinois Supreme Court will host a half day conference on Access to Justice in Illinois on October 24th in Chicago. A separate Access to Justice Commission committee has been formed to plan this event, developing the agenda and inviting interested individuals to participate in the conference. The purpose of the conference is to both educate and involve a wider body of individuals and groups on access to justice issues.

Posted on September 10, 2012 by Hon. Douglas Knapp
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