CBA Record Sept-Oct 2019

Chicago Bar Association Drives Change in the Community By Maryam Ahmad and Sally Daly

that caused them to be invalid. “I came with my parents, because they need proper identification. I was prepared to stay for hours, but everyone was patient and courteous and we were relieved that it didn’t take as long as we thought it might,” said Cook. Pilsen Neighbors Community Council Board Member Alex Garcia, who chaired the Expo, said his agency makes it a prior- ity to help residents obtain a valid driver’s license or government issued identification card. “This was an event organized by the community serving hundreds of Cook County residents,” said Garcia. “It was much larger than any of us expected, prov- ing that this is a huge public need. We’re excited to plan a larger event with more partnering agencies.” Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli’s office provided pre-Expo attorney training and volunteer public defenders on the day of the event. Deputy Cook County Public Defender Parle Roe-Taylor said she was amazed by the significant turnout. “We were humbled by the response of those who came out and sought our help at this first-ever Driver’s License Rein- statement event. The vision of the Pilsen Neighborhood Council and its partners to bring Court to Fiesta Del Sol was truly a labor of love for the community,” said Roe-Taylor. Ahmad said the CBA is already plan- ning to participate in next year’s Expo and will continue to work with all community and government partners to bring an even bigger and more successful event to address this important issue. Maryam Ahmad is Chief of the Juvenile Justice Bureau for the Cook County State’s Attorney’sOffice andCBA1 st Vice President. Sally Daly is Public Affairs Director at The Chicago Bar Association.

CBA First Vice President Maryam Ahmad helped to coordinate the program. She is pictured here (third from left) at Benito Juarez Community Academy along with (left to right) Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans, Alex Garcia and Manuel J. Medina of the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council, and Juan F. Soto, Executive Director of Gamaliel Metro Chicago.

I n the spirit of driving positive change in communities, the Chicago Bar Associa- tion played a lead role in coordinating a first-of-its-kind Driver’s License Rein- statement Expo for Chicago-area residents seeking legal assistance for a suspended or revoked license. More than 700 residents turned out at the July 27 Expo to seek assistance to help navigate the legal process and reinstate their driving privileges. Volunteer attorneys from the CBA, the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, a judge from the Circuit Court of Cook County, and staff from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office and the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Office provided services in partnership with the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council, Gamaliel Metro Chicago, the Chicago Legal Clinic, and Malman Law, among others. First Vice President Maryam Ahmad spearheaded the program for the CBA. She noted that thousands of residents are court-involved due to suspended or revoked driver’s licenses, in many cases due to minor infractions such as failure to pay municipal

parking tickets or a forgotten fine. Driv- ing abstract records can be complicated to evaluate, and often residents don’t know how to seek reinstatement without a law- yer’s help, according to Ahmad. “We are the Chicago Bar Association, and our name invokes a commitment to our city, county, and state,” Ahmad said. “As an association of lawyers and jurists, we are uniquely positioned to help these individuals become lawful drivers and to get free of the criminal justice system.” Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans issued a special court order declaring Benito Juarez Community Academy a court house for the day of the event so a Circuit Court Judge could be present to reinstate cases that had previ- ously gone to judgment. “We want the community to under- stand that courts are accessible. They are not just for the privileged, they are for everyone,” said Circuit Court Judge Gerardo Tristan, who presided over the day’s court proceedings. Chicago resident India Cooks attended the Expo with her parents, who both had expired licenses and unique circumstances

12 September/October 2019

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