What is Justice?
When one thinks of justice, words that come to mind are fairness, equality and opportunity. Though these values are intangible, they are the backbone of our democracy. To kick off our new e-newsletter series and advocacy efforts, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) is focusing on making justice in the civil legal realm a tangible reality.
The US Constitution guarantees legal assistance for people convicted of crimes, but people involved in civil cases have no such guarantee. Tens of thousands of Illinoisans cannot afford the help they need when facing potentially life-changing situations, like being scammed by a landlord or trapped in an abusive relationship. They are forced to navigate these complex legal challenges on their own. Without help, many lose their families, homes, and livelihoods.
We think everyone deserves access to civil justice, regardless of income, language barriers, disability, age, geography or education. Civil legal aid organizations help balance the scales by increasing access to the justice system for all Illinoisans. By providing legal information, advice, mediation and representation on issues like domestic violence, foreclosure and financial exploitation, legal aid lawyers solve problems that impact the community at large.
For example, parents of a very sick eight-year old girl suffering from seizures called IEJF-grantee Legal Council for Health Justice from the hospital in a panic. The girl’s medical card had been cancelled even though the proper renewal documentation had been submitted to the Department of Human Services in a timely manner. The family was told to reapply and the process would take 30 days – time the child did not have as she would quickly run out of her medication and need hospitalization. Legal Council for Health Justice intervened and the medical card was reinstated, stabilizing a potentially life-threatening situation. Legal Aid fought and secured civil justice for this family in need.
Over the next several months, we will be sharing more stories about how civil legal aid helped keep fellow Illinoisans afloat as the world crashed down around them. Stay tuned!