20 Years of Improving Lives through Legal Aidiejf_user2021-01-12T15:31:00-06:00
For 20 years, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) has distributed State funds for civil legal aid and helped more than 593,000 Illinois residents access the justice system and improve their lives. From keeping people in their homes, to reducing domestic violence, to protecting seniors and children and helping veterans access hard-earned benefits, the IEJF has made Illinois communities better places to live and work.
With the passage of the Equal Justice Act, the State of Illinois created the IL Equal Justice Foundation to provide equal access to the justice system by funding civil legal aid programs.
Making the Legal Process Easier
Working with Illinois Legal Aid Online, the IEJF began funding the creation of legal self-help centers where people without attorneys can get free and accurate legal information to help resolve their legal problems. Thanks to the IEJF, every county in Illinois had a legal self-help center by the end of 2012.
A Bi-Partisan Boost
The appropriation for the IEJF reached its high-water mark of $3.5 million, thanks to strong bi-partisan support in the IL General Assembly (led by former Senators Kirk Dillard and Jeff Schoenberg), as well as the leadership of former Gov. Jim Thompson and Senate President Phil Rock, who served as co-chairs of the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign.
Keeping People in Their Homes
In the wake of the foreclosure crisis, the IEJF provided grants that saved 2,200 homes and provided 55,750 Illinoisans with legal information, advice and representation. Attorney General Lisa Madigan dedicated $25M from Illinois’ consumer settlement award to the IEJF to assist impacted homeowners and renters.
Soldiering on through Budget Crisis
While other social service programs were forced to shut their doors during the state budget crisis, the IEJF helped legal aid organizations assist more than 54,000 vulnerable families, seniors and veterans. Despite receiving no state funding for two years, the IEJF was the beneficiary of $7.2 million in settlement award funds from the Attorney General Madigan.
Protecting Those Who Serve
The IEJF created the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), a one-stop-shop where veterans and military personnel can obtain free legal help for urgent family, housing and consumer problems, as well as benefit appeals. IL-AFLAN has helped more than 11,000 veterans to date.
Providing a Fresh Start
Given its track record as a trusted State partner, the IEJF was selected to develop and lead New Leaf Illinois, a statewide Cannabis Expungement Network. Through New Leaf, people with past cannabis convictions can get legal assistance to clear their records and remove major barriers to employment and housing.
A Distinguished Honor
The IL Equal Justice Foundation received the inaugural Rock Cullerton Access to Justice Award from the Chicago Bar Association, and accepted the honor with Governor J.B. Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul. The award is named after former Senate President John Cullerton and former Senate President Phil Rock, who were instrumental in increasing the state appropriation for civil legal aid and moving the IEJF to the Attorney General’s office.