eNewsletter - April 2018

 
  
    LAF eNewsletter
April 2018    
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.
In This Newsletter
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Meet Myka Held
 
 Myka Held, Staff Attorney, Children & Families Practice Group
 
Myka Held is a staff attorney on our family law team, where she assists survivors of domestic violence break free from their abusers and begin new lives in safety.  She has also become one of LAF's leading experts in working with survivors of sexual assault.  The main difference between domestic violence and sexual assault, as Myka explains it, is that it’s often harder to prove in court that sexual assault has occurred, especially in intimate partner relationships when, too often, men believe they're owed sex “because they’re still married,” even if they are separated from their wives.  “It is very difficult to litigate these cases, and to ask a judge to recognize that someone’s been raped.” 
 
Myka came to LAF specifically to work with survivors of sexual assault.  She has tremendous compassion for her clients; she sees their vulnerability and knows how hard it is for them to report what’s happened to them.  If it happened on the job, or in their homes, it often threatens their incomes or their homes, especially when they’re low-income.  There’s so much overlap in their issues, and they often have multiple legal needs.”  LAF is able to help them on several fronts, to help them make a fresh start with a clean slate.  “There’s such teamwork here.  Often I need to get a police report, and then I give it to someone to help with an immigration issue, or we have to work together to help a client get benefits.  There’s such a strong knowledge base at LAF.” 
 
LAF has the resources to make a real impact on these survivors’ lives, and the lives of others like them.  Myka also has the opportunity to educate judges about myths surrounding sexual assault.  For example, there’s a provision in civil no-contact orders that give victims a right to testify without their rapist in the room, but lots of judges don’t enforce it.  There’s a law in Illinois to prevent rapists from getting parental visitation rights, but so many judges don’t know that.  Myka’s work not only helps her own clients, it also helps all people these judges will see in the future. 
 
One of the myths she helps dispel is that all victims of sexual assault are female.  One client she recently helped is Jamie (a pseudonym to protect his identity).  Jamie is an 11-year-old boy, who was raped  by his best friend, a fellow classmate.  The school did nothing to punish the other boy, and instead placed the blame on Jamie for what had happened to him.   Myka made sure Jamie could testify in court without his rapist in the courtroom, and secured an order prohibiting the other boy from being near him during school. 
 
Thank you, Myka, for this important work on behalf of LAF’s clients.  We’re grateful for all you do. 
 

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A message from LAF's
CEO and Executive Director
John N. Gallo
The outcomes of our many cases are, of course, critically important.  In that regard, we consistently deliver.  For example, in 2017, our Housing Practice Group represented 415 tenants facing eviction.  In 397 of those cases, our clients avoided eviction and were able to stay in their homes.  That’s an amazing 96% success rate in the eviction cases we litigated—a remarkable performance by a team of lawyers dedicated to serving those suddenly threatened by the loss of their home.
 
So, yes, our staff delivered remarkable statistical outcomes in 2017, but their work was no less significant for the other eighteen, the 4% of our clients who still lost their homes.  We were and are proud to have not just served those eighteen, but to have stood next to them in a courtroom.  We were and our proud to stand with those living in poverty who otherwise would face daunting and intimidating legal proceedings without an advocate at their side.  Statistical outcomes are unquestionably important, but treating those living on society’s margins with dignity is at least equally so.
 
Your support makes all of that work possible.  Thank you for standing with LAF as we fight for our clients. 
 
Sincerely,
 
John N. Gallo
LAF CEO and Executive Director 
 
 
Safety at last after 39 years 
Kathryn Huber helped Kim start again
after decades with her abuser
 
After 39 years of abuse, Kim finally gathered the courage to call the police for protection. The next morning, her husband went to court, filed a verified petition replete with lies, and obtained an Emergency Order of Protection against her. He brought the order home, forced her to do whatever he wanted, and told her if she called the police again she would be arrested. A few days later, after an especially horrific beating, she called the police again and he was arrested. Then Kim called LAF.
 
Staff Attorney Kathryn Huber immediately filed to vacate the order of protection against Kim, and prepared her to testify against her abuser. Because LAF only handles civil law, we coordinated with the States Attorney’s Office for a day-long combined trial on the criminal charges against her husband and the cross orders of protection. While the State elicited testimony about one isolated incident of abuse, Kathryn elicited the long history of abuse on the civil side. With Kathryn’s support, Kim transformed from a timid, confused witness into a confident survivor who stood her ground through over three hours of cross examination. Kim’s testimony was critical to her success in her cases. She was granted a two-year Order of Protection, and her husband was found guilty of domestic battery and his Order of Protection against Kim was vacated. LAF was also able to file a petition for attorney’s fees from the husband, which is rare in cases like this, because the judge declared the allegations in his Order of Protection to be “egregious, untruthful, and part of a pattern of abuse.”  Great work, Kathryn! 
 
 
Justice was Served! 
And raised more than $78,000 for LAF
 
 
Earlier this month, more than 200 supporters of LAF came together at City Winery to celebrate LAF's mission, bid on fabulous works of art, sports and theatre tickets, and vacations in our silent auction, and enjoy great food and wine. Between auction proceeds, ticket sales, and donations, your support helped us raise over $78,000, all of which will be put to work to increase access to justice and disrupt the cycle of poverty for our fellow Chicagoans. To put that number in perspective, it’s enough to help us to save roughly 20 families’ homes from foreclosure, gain about 65 Orders of Protection for victims of domestic violence, or secure medical insurance and nutrition benefits for 150 people. It’s work that we’re proud to do, and we’re grateful to you for making it possible.
 
You can relive all the fun in photos from the event on LAF’s Facebook page here
 
 
Findings on Special Education 
A State Inquiry reports on Chicago Public Schools' responsibility to special ed students
 
A few months ago, a WBEZ investigation revealed how Chicago Public Schools underwent a secretive process to overhaul their procedures on how students may access special education services. LAF joined a coalition of partners -- along with the Chicago Teachers Union, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and Access Living – to work with the Illinois State Board of Education to conduct a Public Inquiry into the special education practices across Chicago Public Schools.  LAF’s own Rich Cozzola served on the three-person inquiry team.  The Public Inquiry was a novel approach to finding facts about a systemic issue in a school district, and a way to look at evidence from a variety of angles and in a transparent way so that the special education policies are determined to be trustworthy and beneficial to students. 
 
Last week, the Inquiry Team’s findings were released.  They found “systemic problems” with special education in Chicago Public Schools that “delayed and denied” services to children.  You can read more about it in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and WBEZ.  Our Education Law team looks forward to the hearing at the ISBE meeting on May 16th on what ISBE’s next steps will be to bring CPS into compliance with the law.  LAF intends to continue our fight both for our individual clients and for larger systemic change – so that all CPS students with disabilities are given the services they are entitled to under the law.
 
 
Katten De Diego Clinic
Celebrates Anniversary 
Five Years of Pro Bono Legal Aid
in Humboldt Park and Wicker Park
 
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Volunteers from Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
at De Diego Community Academy
 
We’re proud to share that the Katten de Diego Community Legal Clinic celebrated its fifth year serving Chicago’s Humboldt Park and Wicker Park neighborhoods this month!
 
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP has had a longstanding relationship with the Jose de Diego Community Academy in the form of tutoring, school supply drives, a Lawyers in the Classroom program, and other efforts. In 2013, the firm began providing their legal expertise to the school’s families as well. The first clinic was held in April of that year and has since served over 400 members of the surrounding community with the help of more than 70 volunteers.
 
None of this would be possible without our partnership with Katten. They provide volunteer attorneys and paralegals each month, in addition to administrative support. “[The clinic] provides an incomparably rewarding opportunity for our attorneys to use their skills to make a tangible difference,” says Jonathan Baum, Katten’s Director of Pro Bono Services. “I have never had an attorney who came to the clinic once and didn’t come back again.” Katten also offered invaluable support to de Diego Academy last year by renovating and increasing the space used by the clinic, allowing us to host more attorneys and meet with more clients at once.
 
Katten's Director of Pro Bono Services, Jonathan Baum, calls their partnership with LAF "indispensable and delightful." He says, "We simply could not have established and maintained the clinic without the insights of LAF lawyers into its creation, the training provided by LAF lawyers, and the close collaboration and mentorship from LAF lawyers both onsite at the clinic and in long-term representations that come from it."
 
The clinic commonly addresses matters in family law, housing, and public benefits, exposing corporate attorneys to a range of legal aid issues they may not otherwise encounter. Clinic volunteers are often able to expand LAF’s capacity by working alongside LAF attorneys on cases, or handling cases that LAF is unable to take for various reasons. Even in the instance where someone does not need full representation, but rather a demand letter written or a simple phone call made, our volunteer lawyers have been willing to go above and beyond to stand up for a client. “That’s a major benefit of the Katten clinic – that the pro bono attorneys independently take things on,” says Dana Harbaugh, LAF’s AmeriCorps VISTA attorney who coordinates the clinics.
 
LAF is excited to see Katten de Diego and our other clinics continue to grow in their ability to increase access to civil legal services in Chicago. Many thanks to our firm, corporate, and community partners who make it all happen!
 
 
Holistic Help from Medical-Legal Partnerships 
LAF connected Gary with insurance, social security benefits, transit help, food stamps,
and medicine
 
Over the course of just a few months beginning last summer, Gary rapidly lost his vision to retinal detachment. At the age of sixty-one, he was without a source of income, unable to work, and as Kaitlyn Quigley, Gary’s attorney with LAF’s Public Benefits practice group, notes, lacking some of the skills for living with vision loss.
 
This kind of assistance is what LAF’s medical-legal partnerships are all about. As Kaitlyn puts it, “there are aspects of your health that a doctor can’t fix. There are social determinants of health.” By working closely with Camille as Gary adjusted to living with a disability, LAF was able to help Gary resolve these issues, all of which could have adversely affected his health, as they arose.
 
Gary’s case is just one example of how MLPs connect us with people that can use LAF’s help, but the kind of holistic service we were able to provide for him is exactly why those partnerships are so valuable to the communities we serve.  You can read much more detail about Gary and LAF's Medical-Legal Partnerships on LAF's Wordpress blog here.
 
 
Check out LAF on Social Media!
 
Follow us on Twitter at @ChicagoLAF, like our Facebook page, catch up with us on Instagram, and read our blog at lafchicago.wordpress.com to keep up with all our work!
 
 
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LAF
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.

For more than 50 years, LAF has provided free legal services in non-criminal matters to the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community, ensuring they have the same access to legal services as those who can afford it.  By resolving critical legal problems that systemically trap people in poverty, such as domestic violence, consumer fraud, and unfair evictions, LAF has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals get their lives back on track and given them hope for a brighter future.  
We rely on the generosity of individuals and companies to provide the private support we need to fulfill our mission.  
 
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