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Pilot Pro Bono Conflicts Panel Launches in the 10th Circuit

By Marisa Wiesman 

There are, literally, millions of people who qualify for free civil legal aid in Illinois. But once you venture outside of Cook County, there are only a handful of organizations dedicated to providing free civil legal aid to people who cannot afford an attorney. In all but a few counties, there is just one organization that provides these services. When that organization is unable to help someone due to a conflict of interest, that low-income person usually has nowhere else to turn for legal help. These conflicts are not limited to family law matters. Conflicts arise across the range of issues legal aid organizations handle, including housing, consumer, and public benefits matters.

The 10th Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee and its members have partnered to pilot an innovative pro bono project to address this justice gap in Marshall, Peoria, Stark, and Tazewell counties. When Prairie State Legal Services (the civil legal aid organization that serves the 10th Judicial Circuit) is unable to assist an applicant due to a conflict of interest, Prairie State can now refer that applicant to the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI). PILI will assess the applicant’s eligibility and conduct an intake, and try to place the case with a local pro bono attorney for assistance. While some parts of the state have attempted small-scale, informal pro bono conflicts panels in the past, this project is unique in that it provides formal eligibility screening, intake, and referral processes, as well as malpractice coverage for volunteers.

If successful, PILI hopes to expand this model to other parts of the state. In the meantime, your help is needed to make it a success. More information for attorneys interested in volunteering with the conflicts panel in Marshall, Peoria, Stark, and Tazewell counties is available on PILI's website. Information about other pro bono opportunities is available at www.illinoislegalaid.org or by contacting your local legal aid office.   
 

Posted on March 8, 2018 by Sara Anderson
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