CBA Record May-June 2021

Chicago Bar Foundation Report

A Beacon of Hope for People Struggling as a Result of the Pandemic By Samira Nazem, CBF Associate Director for Advocacy & Programs T he past year has been a challenge for all of us. As we look ahead to better times, we know that too many

aid lawyer about their options for resolving their legal problem. The program features access to free legal help and mediation offered through a number of CBF part- ners, including CARPLS, the Center for Conflict Resolution, Legal Aid Chicago, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Greater Chicago Legal Clinic, Center for Disability & Elder Law, and the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services. During ERP court calls, all self-repre- sented litigants – both plaintiffs and defen- dants – are given an opportunity to speak with a lawyer or to work with a mediator to resolve their case in a fair, efficient, and equitable manner. This new program aims to address many of the challenges that have long plagued high-volume court calls – chronically high default rates, inconsistent and inadequate access to free legal help, and large numbers of self-represented litigants struggling to negotiate with represented parties on the other side. The ERP now embeds community outreach, case man- agement, and real-time referrals directly into the court process, making sure that all parties can have an equal opportunity to access resources. The ERP also leverages technology to provide the same resources to all litigants throughout Cook County, with legal aid partners often staffing mul- tiple court calls in multiple courthouses simultaneously. The eviction ERP court calls were the

first to launch, with the consumer debt ERP calls to follow this Spring following a similar process. The previously successful Circuit Court Mortgage Foreclosure Medi- ation Program is expected to relaunch soon as well. A coordinated community outreach effort will also launch this summer with the dual goals of connecting community members to resources as early as possible and encouraging active participation in court proceedings. Ultimately, regardless of when and how someone contacts the ERP, either before or during court, they will have the same access to legal aid and mediation services. With the support and vision of our partners at the Circuit Court and the County and the many other partners in the program, the ERP is changing court as we know it and making sure every resident of Cook County has a chance to get help when faced with legal issues that can impact their housing and financial stability. To learn more or refer people for help, visit or call the program hotline at 855-956-5763.

people in our community are still strug- gling from the economic shocks caused by the pandemic and the inequality laid bare by the events of last year. Many thousands of people in Cook County are facing seri- ous housing and financial challenges right now and are looking for stability as we move toward a new normal. In late 2020, the CBA and CBF joined with the Circuit Court, Cook County, and a network of legal aid partners and other stakeholders to launch a new initiative aimed at helping Cook County residents who had experienced housing and finan- cial problems during the pandemic. The initiative, Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD), serves as an umbrella for several different programs offering a range of services to Cook County residents including landlords, tenants, homeowners, creditors, and debtors. The first program launched under the CCLAHD umbrella is an Early Resolution Program (ERP) for eviction and consumer debt cases. The ERP recently expanded into the Circuit Court with dedicated ERP case management calls held in each of the six municipal districts. All newly filed evic- tion and consumer debt cases will now be routed through the ERP court calls, giving litigants the time and opportunity to consult with a case manager and a legal

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16 May/June 2021

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