eNewsletter - May 2016

  
   LAF eNews Update
May 2016   
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.
In This Newsletter
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Meet Matt Lango
 
Matt Lango, Supervisory Attorney, Immigrants and Workers’ Rights
Practice Group
 
Of all of LAF’s attorneys, the team that handles employment cases often get their stories told the least because so much of their work ends up in confidential settlements with giant corporations who want their misdeeds kept quiet.  Matt Lango has been part of LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights group since 2013.  He represents employees seeking unemployment benefits, challenging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, seeking to enforce their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act, and demanding unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, and unpaid minimum wages. 
 
Matt says he enjoys his work at LAF because “LAF is one of the best environments in which you can practice the employee-side of employment law, especially because we can take the cases that private attorneys won’t or can’t take.  Not having to deal with billing clients is liberating,” he confesses.  “And the lawyers at LAF are experienced, smart, dedicated, and successful.  For most of our clients, you aren’t going to find anyone better than us, and we do it for free!” 
 
Matt and his team are often unsung heroes, he’s had some great victories.  Some are big ones that took hours of work, which he can’t tell anyone about.  But there are also small victories and these have just as much impact on a client’s life as the big ones do.  Here’s a story of one of those small victories, in a case from right after he started at LAF. 
 
The client, Phil, had been offered a job at a social services agency, and had filled out and returned all the paperwork to his new employer, when it suddenly revoked the offer and didn’t tell him why.  When Matt met Phil, he discovered that, although Phil looked 35 years old, he was actually close to 60.  Matt devised a theory that the agency had found out Phil’s age during its background check, and revoked the offer because it didn’t want to train someone only to have him retire in a few years.  Matt wrote a letter to the agency explaining that theory, and threatened them with legal action.  Matt explained that he would never have taken Phil’s case on when he was in private practice; he would have told Phil to keep his money and look for another job.  But the agency relented and reinstated the job offer to Phil.  Matt said he’ll never know if his theory was correct or if the employer was just scared by his threat and backed down, but either way, it was a small, satisfying victory for a client who would never have been vindicated without the efforts of a dedicated legal aid attorney.  Way to go, Matt!  
 
Check out LAF on Social Media!
 
Follow us on Twitter at @ChicagoLAF, like our Facebook page, catch up with us on Instagram,
andread our blog at lafchicago.wordpress.com to keep up with all our work!
 

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A special message
from LAF
Executive Director
Diana C. White
"Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it." 
 
Those were the words of President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago, kicking off the War on Poverty that gave birth to the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, and, eventually, to the LAF we know today.  We have weathered many changes, had many names and locations, and survived funding feasts and famines, so we are proud to celebrate LAF’s 50th Anniversary this year.  We would love to have you join us at our 50th Anniversary Luncheon, on June 17th at the Palmer House Hilton. 
 
As always, on behalf of the staff, the Board, the YPB, and all the clients we serve here at LAF, thank you for your continued support of our work.  Your last 50 years of support have helped us remain at the forefront of fighting to improve the lives of people in poverty, and have laid the groundwork for our next 50 years!
 
Best,
 
Diana C. White
LAF Executive Director
 
 
A Luncheon Fifty Years in the Making 
Get Your Tickets for June 17th!
 
 
In celebration of LAF's 50th Anniversary, you're invited to join us for a Luncheon fifty years in the making!  
 
Join LAF's past and present community in less than a month, on Friday, June 17th, at the Palmer House Hilton, to celebrate a half century of incredible work and to honor everyone who helped LAF reach this milestone anniversary - including you!  A table for ten costs $5,000, and individual tickets cost $150 (with an alumni discount price of $100 for former LAF staff).  LAF alumni are also invited to a special reunion cocktail party after the Luncheon to catch up with old friends and share new stories. Get your tickets and tables online now!
 
 
Let's Do Lunch 
The First in LAF’s 2016 Brownbag Roundtable Series with the Housing Practice Group
 
 
members of LAF's Housing Practice Group presenting to a crowded room
 
LAF’s Housing Practice Group has been doing pioneering work of late.  Some cases have created headlines, like the win for Cabrini-Green residents that’s been widely covered in local media.  Other cases are poised to be groundbreaking, involving civil rights issues like gender inequality and racial disparity that have just begun to garner the attention they deserve.  Even others are stories that never get told but have a significant impact on a person or family or community.  Attorneys Dennericka Brooks, Neha Lall, Larry Wood, and Lizzie Rosenthal took time over lunch on May 17 to talk about the Housing Practice Group’s accomplishments and the trails they continue to blaze. “It’s an uphill battle,” said Dennericka, “but I’m ready to fight. We’re ready to fight.”
 
Often, LAF’s incredible work remains unknown to all but the clients whose lives they’ve helped change for the better.  The Housing Practice Group is the first of a series of brownbag roundtables, designed to give people interested in learning more about our work a chance to meet our phenomenal staff, celebrate the day-to-day victories, and gain insight into the crucial public service legal aid provides to people living in poverty.
 
With four other practice groups and newly established medical-legal partnerships eager to meet you, there will be plenty more thought-provoking ways to spend a lunch hour coming soon.
 
 
A Case of Proven Identity 
How LAF was able to Prove Elisa's Name and Birthday so she could Enjoy Retirement
 
A few weeks ago, we received a special donation – it came from a client named Elisa, who was finally able to celebrate her retirement.  She is in her 70’s and had been trying to retire for the last three years, but Social Security turned down her application for retirement benefits again and again.  Elisa had worked at the same community hospital and paid into the Social Security retirement system for nearly 40 years, but she was unable to prove her identity to SSA’s satisfaction. 
 
She has always used her father’s last name, but her mother’s maiden name was listed on her birth certificate, so Vital Records would not give her a copy of it.  She had also allowed her driver’s license to lapse, leaving her no current valid proof of identity.  She could no longer simply renew her driver's license at the DMV without supplying additional proof of identity.  Her true date of birth was also different from the date listed on her documents and in her workplace profile, because when she had her first child at sixteen, her mother urged her to put down a different birth year to show she was older and to help her get employment. 
 
LAF was able to get a certified copy of Elisa’s original birth certificate and her children’s birth certificates to verify her real name and age, which convinced Social Security that she was who she said she was.  Her application was finally approved for retirement benefits, including backpay of over $80,000 and a steady, modest retirement income to support her in her hard-earned retirement.  Elisa was so grateful for LAF’s help, she sent a generous donation to LAF so we could help more people overcome situations like her own. 
 
 
LAF and Sidley Austin Win Big 
7th Circuit Bar Association Recognizes LAF
and Partners with Awards and Article
 
The 7th Circuit Bar Association Pro Bono Public Service Awards, held earlier this month, could have been renamed the LAF awards.  Members of our Housing Practice group were recognized for their incredible work on behalf of the residents of Cabrini-Green.  Longtime LAF volunteer Mary Pearce Argentieri was recognized for her dedicated work at LAF’s Bankruptcy Help Desk.  And our partners at Sidley Austin were recognized with the Pro Bono and Public Service Award for Outstanding Work in the District Courts of Illinois, for their partnership on the Cabrini-Green litigation. 
 
 
LAF is beyond grateful for the partnership it has forged with Sidley Austin LLP over the years.  Sidley has long championed the fight for equal justice, and not only from the sidelines.  Over the last few years, LAF had the good fortune to work alongside Sidley attorneys on a landmark civil legal justice case.  The team ensured that the rights of residents in the former Cabrini Green housing project were upheld by repeatedly taking the Chicago Housing Authority to court to hold it accountable to fulfill its promise to build affordable housing units for them in the old Cabrini footprint.  Most recently, Sidley once again led the charge in supporting LAF and legal aid in our community by increasing its annual financial contribution to $150,000 in 2016, to commemorate LAF’s 50th Anniversary and the firm’s 150th Anniversary.  But more than that, Managing Partner Larry Barden also sent a letter to the other Chicago law firms asking them to increase their support by 50%, as Sidley had done.  LAF, and the people we help, are extremely fortunate to have such steady and committed partners as the people at Sidley Austin LLP.
 
And if that wasn’t enough, Judge Robert Dow, a District Judge in the Northern District of Illinois and the court liaison to our William J. Hibbler Pro Se Assistance Program, along with Associate Judge Elizabeth Joskins Dow, a family court judge in Will County, wrote a wonderful tribute to LAF and our 50th Anniversary for the 7th Circuit Bar Association’s journal.   You can read their Reflections here.  We are deeply grateful for the article, the awards, and the ongoing support of the judges in the Seventh Circuit.
 
 
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!
 
 
Sign up for Monthly Giving!
Pledge your ongoing support to LAF and
make  your recurring gift today!
 
  
LAF
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.
For the past 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 generous investment of individuals and companies to provide the private support we need to fulfill our mission.  
 
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