CBA Record July-August 2019

Juan Dawson

Melissa Segarra

Clarissa Todd

Spanish, Russian, French, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, and Japanese—allowing us to assist diverse populations in need of legal help. For individuals with cases pending at the Daley Center, many free and low-cost services are available. But, understanding what those services are and how to access them can be nearly impossible if you are not familiar with the Chicago legal world. During our time as JusticeCorps volunteers, we have become experts on what resources exist for those who could not otherwise afford traditional representation, allowing us to direct people to the resources that are best for their needs. It continues to be a privilege to see and understand Chicago’s pro bono and legal aid community at work. We are in constant awe of the legal aid providers we work with who continue to stretch their limited resources to tirelessly provide assistance to the underserved populations of Chicago. Clarissa Todd, George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Chicago As one of the first JusticeCorps Fellows placed at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, my job is to offer neutral assistance to the many different types of court patrons who visit the courthouse every day. I work with all the parties intertwined in the criminal justice system including victims, jury members, law enforcement officers, attorneys, press, and court personnel. Interacting with this wide array of individuals has given me the opportunity to assess the needs of the

public as they pertain to criminal court proceedings and, in turn, to promote more patron-friendly practices within this courthouse. While JusticeCorps volunteers in the civil system primarily help self-represented litigants move through the court process, our work in the criminal system focuses more heavily on access to information. Accurate and reliable information is crucial to following and understanding a criminal case, but it is often difficult to access, even if a defendant has a public defender. In listening to the needs of defendants and their loved ones and then seeking answers, JusticeCorps volunteers have become a one-stop shop where court patrons can have their questions answered and learn how to use public information tools to follow criminal proceedings. Sometimes the information provided about a case is outdated, or altogether inaccurate. With a criminal justice system as large as Cook County’s, miscommuni- cation between agencies can go undetected until an individual arrives at court and is told the information they relied upon is incorrect. Every day, JusticeCorps members at this courthouse encounter confusion, frustration, and mistrust of the court because of situations like these. Even if we are unable to remedy every situation, we can take the time to listen to court patrons, find out what they need, and adapt so that we can better serve defendants and the public at large.

both parties are self-represented, and nearly every day, local attorneys volunteer to help mediate cases and prepare orders. This past year, I have assisted many people with cases pending in that courtroom, and it has been a great privilege to work alongside judges, lawyers, and court personnel who are so dedicated to facilitating access to justice. Juan Dawson & Melissa Segarra, Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago Serving as volunteers in the Illinois JusticeCorps program at the Richard J. Daley Center has given us the unique opportunity to improve access to justice for people without lawyers in Chicago. Navigating the civil court systemwithout a lawyer presents many challenges for people without a legal background, and when those challenges are encountered in one of the largest civil courthouses in the country, they can sometimes feel insurmountable. As JusticeCorps volunteers, we try to either eliminate or diminish those challenges by directing them to the appropriate courtroom, helping them fill out court forms, accompanying them through the filing process, and almost anything else that would help ease the process. On a daily basis, we encounter people who do not speak English as their native language and struggle to communicate with court staff. At the Daley Center, in addition to the two of us, over a dozen other JusticeCorps volunteers give their time to help people without lawyers. Our team of volunteers has a multitude of foreign language abilities—including


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