PRO BONOWEEK 2015– RISE ABOVE YOUR NARROW CONFINES
residing in traditional nursing homes in Cook County. Because Access Living had experience assisting many people living in nursing homes with reintegrating into the community, it was the natural choice for lead counsel in Colbert. Several pro bono law firms represented the Colbert class over the course of the litigation, including the current firm, Dentons. The institutions in the three cases have much in common. Generally, they offer residents little contact with non-disabled people; few opportunities to participate in community life; very little privacy; little or no choice in daily decisions, such as when to wake up, what and when to eat, and when to go to bed; and little or no choice of daily activities, with most residents spend- ing their days in “workshops” while being paid sub-minimumwage or no wages at all. After extensive litigation, consent decrees were reached in all three cases. The consent decrees all have an independent monitor with expertise in developing com- munity systems for people with disabilities. The monitor oversees implementation of the various requirements of each consent decree. To date, more than 7,500 people with disabilities have received community services under the three decrees. This would not have been possible if the private bar had not made such a significant commitment to these cases. The recent budget impasse in Illinois has shined anew a spotlight on the con- sent decrees in these cases. The Illinois Comptroller took the position that she could not make any payments for people with disabilities unless there was a budget appropriation or a court order. While class counsel believed the three consent decrees provided sufficient authority for the Comptroller, we went back to court and secured an Order in each case to ensure that the State would continue to meet its commitments under the consent decrees and pay providers at the same level as the previous fiscal year, until an agreement on the budget is reached. This most recent
Make a Difference
For more information on how you can advocate for people with disabili- ties, and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, visit ADA 25 Chicago at http://ada25chicago.org/. You can also find more opportunities on www.IllinoisProBono.org.
Too often we get so caught up in the stresses of daily life that we march ahead with our heads down and forget to look at the world around us. Pro Bono Week (and pro bono work in general) reminds us that we must consider—and try our best to address— the broader challenges facing humanity:
poverty, discrimination, persecution, oppression, to name a few. Why? Because we’re all in this together.
Allegra R. Nethery Pro Bono and Philanthropy Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP President, The Chicago Bar Foundation
The Chicago Bar Association & The Chicago Bar Foundation’s 2015 Pro Bono Week Oct 26-30
Rise Above Your Narrow Confines www.chicagobar.org/probonoweek
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CBA RECORD 39
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