Champion of Justice: Representative Ken Dunkin
State Representative Ken Dunkin (D) has proudly served the 5th District of Illinois since 2002. In the legislature, he serves as Chairperson of the House Tourism/Conventions and Appropriations -Higher Education Committees. He also serves on the Elementary & Secondary Education, Financial Institutions, Insurance, International Trade & Commerce, Joint Criminal Justice Reform and the Science, Technology, Engineering Committees as well as the Charter Schools Subcommittee.
A social worker, Rep Dunkin served as Director of the Robert Taylor Boys and Girls Club of Chicago prior to his elected service. A member of the Advisory Board of Cabrini Green Legal Aid, an Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) grantee, Rep Dunkin joined the IEJF’s Blue Ribbon Committee* in 2008.
How did you get involved with the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation?
During my 12 year incumbency as State Representative, I have consistently stood up for justice reform. I took a hard stance against the legal discrimination that unfortunately many lower-income citizens face. As a serviceman on the Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee, I took notice of the good work the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation was doing by providing equitable legal aid to communities. The State’s justice system depends on enforcing the rights of all people. I am grateful to continue my partnership with this organization.
How has legal aid impacted your constituents?
There was a family of four in my district that unfortunately fell upon hard times with the economic recession and housing crisis. They desperately needed legal counseling as they fought to keep their house in the midst of foreclosure. My office referred them to a legal aid clinic and according to their testimony, they “received much needed advice and counsel”. This is a traditional family who worked hard to keep themselves afloat, especially with their elder child in college. It is natural for families to go in and out of social classes: it is unfair to only offer legal representation to those who can afford it. This is not the principle our State was created upon. Organizations such as the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation are an unequivocal necessity in providing necessary services to all.
When you talk to legislators and other stakeholders about the importance of state funding for legal aid, what is your elevator speech?
Regardless of income, every Illinois resident should have access to quality legal assistance. Making sure that one’s rights are protected should not be determined by the size of his/her bank account. State funding also ensures that people who are victims of domestic violence, veterans and families facing foreclosure are able to acquire these vital services without more stress being mounted upon them and their families.
*The Blue Ribbon Committee of the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign is a bi-partisan effort to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid, the very funds the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation distributes in grants to legal aid providers.