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FAQs

 

Why was the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign created?
What is civil legal aid?
Why should the state increase funding for civil legal aid?
What is the current goal of the campaign?
How does the campaign work with the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation?
Where in the state budget is funding for civil legal aid appropriated?
Where does Illinois rank nationwide in terms of funding for legal aid?
How much funding does the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation currently get from the state?

Why was the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign created?

The Equal Justice Illinois Campaign was created to advocate for increased state funding of civil legal aid resources for low-income residents. A driving principle of the campaign is that everyone, regardless of income, deserves access to the justice system. The Campaign enjoys strong bi-partisan support, exemplified by its co-chairs – former Governor James Thompson and Illinois Senate President Phil Rock.

What is civil legal aid?

Civil legal aid helps low-income people, who cannot afford legal representation, resolve non-criminal legal problems. Some of these issues include mortgage fraud, domestic violence, consumer scams against the elderly and child guardianship and custody.

Unlike in criminal cases, people who face civil legal problems do not automatically have a right to counsel. Without access to legal aid, many low-income Illinoisans would have nowhere to turn when faced with these major issues.

Why should the state increase funding for civil legal aid?

Now more than ever, the state needs to be strategic about its resources.  Civil aid is a wise long-term investment that will save taxpayer money on costlier social services, increase the efficiency of the court system and bring tangible monetary benefits to the state.  A 2012 report commissioned by the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation measured the economic benefits provided to clients and the state as a whole in 2010.  The report, Legal Aid in Illinois:  Selected Social and Economic Benefits  by the Social IMPACT Research Center, provides a snapshot of the economic return legal aid providers produce for their low-income clients and other Illinoisans.

  • Legal aid providers won $49.4 million in monetary awards for low-income clients.  Examples of monetary awards are child support and alimony, public benefits like Social Security and unemployment insurance, and relief from illegal charges by a landlord or payment to a predatory lender.
  • Legal aid providers won $11.9 million in benefits wholly or partially paid for by the federal government.  It is estimated that these awards were associated with $9.3 million in demand for goods and services, $5.4 million in household income, and 172 non-legal-aid jobs.
  • By preventing or obtaining more time in foreclosures or evictions, obtaining, protecting, or increasing rental subsidies, and assisting clients with other housing issues, legal aid providers avoided $1.9 million in costs to homeless shelters.
  • By obtaining protective orders, divorces, child custody, and legal recognition for noncitizens experiencing abuse, legal aid providers avoided $9.4 million in costs of domestic violence to individuals.

Overall, each dollar spent on civil legal aid in Illinois by government and private donors was associated with $1.80 in economic benefits for clients and the community as a whole. Total economic benefits from cases closed in 2010 in the four areas considered by the study exceeded spending by $32.1 million.

However, a huge unmet need still exists. There are less than 400 legal aid lawyers to serve the more than 1.85 million Illinoisans who live in poverty. The end result is that low-income households have legal assistance for only one of out every six legal problems they encounter.

Illinois must do its share, in partnership with the federal government, private organizations and the legal community, to ensure that no one is denied access to justice.

What is the current goal of the campaign?

The current goal of the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign is to return state funding for legal aid to $2 million, from the current level of $1.4 million.

Our long-term goal is to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid to $5 million. An increase to $5 million would enable nonprofit recipients to help an additional 40,000 families in crisis, victims of domestic violence and seniors victimized by consumer fraud and financial exploitation.

Where in the state budget is funding for civil legal aid appropriated?

State funding for the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation is appropriated through a line item within Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s budget.

How does the campaign work with the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation?

The Equal Justice Illinois Campaign works to increase funding for the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation. In 1999, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Illinois Equal Justice Act which recognizes the State’s responsibility to ensure equal access to the legal system. It also created the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation to distribute the State’s appropriation for civil legal aid to not-for profit organizations throughout the state.

Where does Illinois rank nationwide in terms of funding for legal aid?

Of the ten most populous states, Illinois ranks ninth, spending $1.4 million compared to the average $14.7 million. States that spend more than Illinois on civil legal aid include Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Georgia.

How much funding does the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation currently get from the state?

The FY 2015 state appropriation for civil legal aid currently stands at $1.4 million, a 20% reduction from fiscal year 2013. The appropriation was slashed 50% in FY 10.