Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation Newsroom

August 27, 2012

Land of Lincoln Receives Grant for Homeownership Services

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced the grant prior to Land of Lincoln’s 40th Anniversary Celebration.  Click the link below to watch a news story highlighting her announcement.

http://fox2now.com/2012/08/24/illinois-to-help-homeowners-facing-foreclosure/

August 22, 2012

Madison County Pro Bono Committee and Bar Association to hold legal seminar

Western Regional Office Managing Attorney Joan Spiegel and Judge Barbara Crowder created a seminar for pro bono attorneys to get trained on family law issues usually encountered in the Legal Advice Center in Madison County.

Pro Bono Committee and Bar Association to hold legal seminar
8/21/2012 3:00 PM By Christina Stueve Hodges 

The Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee and the Madison County Bar Association are holding a seminar next month to train more lawyers to help those who need family law advice in the Circuit’s Pro Bono programs.

“The demand for appointments to answer family law questions in the Legal Advice Clinic is huge and a number of attorneys requested additional training in order to volunteer for these appointments,” said Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder, chair of the Third Circuit Pro Bono Committee.

The program was designed by Crowder and Joan Spiegel, director of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. Spiegel also heads the Madison County Bar Association’s pro bono efforts.

The training is called Pro Bono Advice: Effectively Handling Legal Advice Clinic Family Appointments. The seminar will be held from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Sept. 7 in the Madison County Board room, and is free with three hours MCLE credit.
Read the entire article in the Madison County Record here: http://www.madisonrecord.com/news/246221-pro-bono-committee-and-bar-association-to-hold-legal-seminar

August 20, 2012

Stories of elder abuse emerge at conference

Regional Long Term Care Ombudsman Brenda Acoff recently attended a conference on elder abuse held in Madison County. This recently published article provides a summary of topics and participating organizations.
 
http://www.thetelegraph.com/news/local/article_6c8a673c-e8d0-11e1-8c62-0019bb30f31a.html

May 29, 2012

John Lafond to receive the Illinois State Bar Association with the ISBA First Annual Joseph Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award

Below is an article that was published in The News-Gazette about John Lafond, Senior Attorney with our Eastern Regional Office in Champaign.  He has dedicated a quarter of a century to serving our clients!  In recognition of his dedication, he will receive the first annual ISBA Joseph Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award at the ISBA Annual Meeting in June.  The ISBA’s Delivery of Legal Services committee established this Joseph R. Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award to annually honor the extraordinary commitment and dedication of a civil legal services attorney who has provided the highest caliber of compassionate legal representation and outstanding service to Illinois’ vulnerable and low-income population.  Congratulations to John on a well-deserved award!

25 years in public service law have suited Urbana man just fine

Mary Schenk, The News-Gazette, Sunday May 27, 2012

CHAMPAIGN — John Lafond is one of those rare people who enjoys being slapped up side the head day after day with perspective.

“Every day I see people getting by with not very much at all. I’m grateful for every little bit of what I’ve got. It’s just an added bonus when you can do something that brings spiritual satisfaction to the material comforts,” he said.

Lafond is not a minister or a counselor. He’s a lawyer practicing in a niche that few pursue: public service law.

The 52-year-old Urbana man has spent all of his 25-year career with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, advocating in civil matters for those who can’t afford a lawyer. For that, he’s being honored next month by the Illinois State Bar Association with the first annual Joseph Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award.

Bartylak, of Alton, was the first executive director of Land of Lincoln and directed the public service agency for nearly 30 years. He died in 2010.

Established in 1972, Land of Lincoln is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation that provides free legal services to low-income and senior citizens in 65 central and southern Illinois counties. Much of its funding comes from the federal government, but it also receives state money. Lafond works in the Champaign office. There are also offices in Carbondale, East St. Louis, Alton and Springfield.

Lafond called Bartylak “our George Washington.”

“He was remarkable in so many ways. He would be embarrassed to have this award named for him. I’m feeling even more humility,” he said.

Colleagues say Lafond has an exceptional ability to solve problems, has done staff training for them on guardianship issues and created a fact sheet on custody for non-parents.

“John is probably the smartest person I know. You can’t find a question he can’t answer,” said Ramona Sullivan, a fellow Land of Lincoln attorney in Champaign who nominated Lafond for the award.

“I call him Encyclopedia John. Whenever I’m thinking about a new issue to try to figure out how it fits within a more general context, I go to him,” said Valerie McWilliams, a 28-year Land of Lincoln staff attorney.

Both women agree that Lafond’s sense of humor is one of his finer attributes.

“You won’t find a funnier person. Any event, any time there needs to be entertainment, John is the go-to guy,” said Sullivan.

A 1986 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, Lafond knew he wanted to practice public service law long before graduation. His father might have had an influence.

“Dad was an accountant, a principled man who, a lot of times, fired his bosses,” said Lafond, whose family moved from southern California to Illinois when he was in junior high school.

“Our family was broke for some years, and I was definitely broke when I got out of college,” he said.

With an undergraduate degree in rhetoric and a yen to help others, public service law was a natural. He worked in a welfare rights clinic while in law school and realized he preferred the hands-on experience to the classroom. Still, he passed the bar exam on his first try.

After college, he spent about nine months in construction and making pizzas before landing his position with Land of Lincoln.

While it’s not the kind of law office where clients can expect to be offered a Perrier or a Danish pastry or see their lawyers driving BMWs, Land of Lincoln has provided a decent living for its attorneys, Lafond said.

TO READ THE ARTICLE IN ITS ENTIRETY: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/people/2012-05-27/25-years-public-service-law-have-suited-urbana-man-just-fine.html

May 11, 2012

Congratulations to Russell Scott, a long-serving member of our Board of Directors, on receiving the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Madison County Record: 5/10/2012 

By Christina Stueve

Attorney Russell K. Scott, a senior litigation officer and co-manager of the Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale Belleville office, has been named the 2012 recipient of the prestigious American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Scott received the award May 7 at the Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference in Chicago. He and other 2012 award recipients also will be recognized at the American Inns of Court annual Celebration of Excellence Oct. 20 at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Inns of Court Professionalism Awards are given each year to one lawyer or judge from each federal circuit, whose life and practice display sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with ongoing dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession and the rule of law. Award recipients are selected by a panel of representatives from the circuit and the American Inns of Court.

In nominating Scott for the award, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, wrote, “In addition to his considerable skills as a trial lawyer, Russell has throughout his career, exemplified the highest ideals of the legal profession. His record of service to the profession, especially in the area of legal services to the poor, is exceptional.”

Cherie Macdonald, an officer at Greensfelder and co-manager of the firm’s Belleville office said the award is very special.

“This honor for Russell is even more special since the Seventh Circuit typically bestows the award on judges from the Chicago area,” Macdonald said.

Scott focuses his practice on the defense of legal and medical malpractice suits, product liability actions, industrial accident cases, premises liability, as well as automobile, construction, insurance coverage, class action, toxic tort, general commercial and personal injury litigation.

He has more than 35 years of experience in all aspects of state and federal trial and appellate work. Scott also has a history of public service work, having served as president, chair of the board and chief volunteer officer of the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc., for 16 years and as chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Select Committee on Pro Bono Publico for 10 years.

He also is a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois State Bar Association and past president of the Illinois Bar Foundation.

Scott earned his J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and has an A.B. from Earlham College.

Read the original here: http://www.madisonrecord.com/news/243924-russell-scott-receives-prestigious-professionalism-award


Richland County Legal Self-Help Center Opens

By Matt Courter, Olney Daily Mail: Posted May 10, 2012

A new way to receive legal assistance online was announced Tuesday at Olney Public Library.

According to information provided by John A. Dailing, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice, Richland County Legal Self-Help Center was developed to provide accurate information on Illinois law to the growing number of people who represent themselves in court.

Those using the service will have access to information about “simpler civil legal problems,” including videos on going to court, court pleadings and information on other legal organizations.

Richland County Circuit Clerk Sandy Franklin said deputy clerks in the office regularly meet people who need legal information. She said they cannot give such advice, but with the new online system, they now have a place to refer people.

Stacie Colston, Outreach Coordinator/Attorney at Law for Illinois Legal Aid Online, said that the anonymity the service provides can also be an attractive feature, especially in a small area in which a judge may be involved in the community outside of court.

The Richland County Legal Self-Help Center is the 80th to open in Illinois since 2007. Illinois Legal Aid Online and Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice provided technical support and assistance to the Planning Committee of Richland County. Judge Larry Dunn said the county is the last in the Second Judicial Circuit to receive the service.

He noted that the county’s local legal aid, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, has more requests for service than it can meet with its staff or volunteer attorneys. The new self-help center will provide access to information to those who will have to represent themselves.

Colston said that each online center is geared to its county. She said she gives the Planning Committee a list of approximately 100 content items, including issues such as small claims, unemployment benefits and child support, and it chooses six that will be highlighted on the site.

“Each county’s site seems different,” she said.

Olney Public Library will serve as a place where people who don’t have Internet access can use the service.

Those who have worked to implement the center include Richland County Circuit Court and the Richland County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Olney Public Library, SWAN and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance. Start-up funding comes from a grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation through Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation.

The center may be accessed at http://richland.illinoislegalaid.org.

Read the original here: http://www.olneydailymail.com/news/x1809315500/Legal-site-unveiled

April 18, 2012

Illinois Lawmakers Target Practice of Jailing Debtors

Illinois Lawmakers Target Practice of Jailing Debtors

By CARLA K. JOHNSON The Associated Press April 17, 2012

CHICAGO (AP) — Jailed for unpaid debts? It happened to breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay.

She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it. But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.

Debt collectors have become so aggressive in some parts of Illinois that they commonly use taxpayer-financed courts, sheriff’s deputies and county jails to squeeze poor people who fall behind on small payments of $25 or $50 a month, according to supporters of the proposed legislative reforms. Lawmakers in Springfield are pushing to make it harder to jail poor people who miss court dates or are found in contempt of court as they struggle with unpaid debts — an aggressive practice that got worse, some say, during the recession.

Lindsay, a teaching assistant from Herrin in southern Illinois, ended up paying more than $600 because legal fees had been added to the original amount.

“I paid it in full so they couldn’t do it to me again,” Lindsay said.

The Illinois bill would require court appearance notices to be served to a debtor’s home, rather than merely mailed. It would require arrest warrants to expire after a year, and it would return most bail money to the debtor, rather than allow it to be used to pay off the debt.

Disabled roofer Jack Hinton sat in jail until he could come up with $300 on a debt he owed a lumberyard.

According to a hearing transcript, a central Illinois judge listened to Hinton’s story, noted he’d recently been paid after finishing a roofing job, and said: “Mr. Hinton, you had $1,000 in your pocket, you chose to spend it elsewhere in violation of the court order. That lands you in jail.”

Hinton’s wife took out a loan to buy his freedom. Her $300 went to the debt collector.

Michelle Gilliam, an unemployed Urbana resident, was picked up by sheriff’s deputies and jailed twice for missing court dates as a debt collector pursued her in court for a decade, she and her attorney said. Gilliam got help from a nonprofit group offering free legal services and the court dismissed the case, essentially forgiving her debt on the grounds she was too poor to pay.

The problem has surfaced in other states, but there is no model legislation. Advocates in Minnesota unsuccessfully tried to pass a bill that would have allowed debtors to fill out an affidavit stating their income and assets when the sheriff arrived at the door to execute a warrant, according to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.

Madigan, a supporter of the bill, said informal traditions in some Illinois courtrooms “have allowed these abuses to occur.” The recession heightened the problem, she said.

“More people are unemployed, more people are struggling financially and more creditors are trying to get their debt paid,” Madigan said.

The bill, which has passed the House, is supported even by groups representing debt collectors and their attorneys, who agree with Madigan that some judges and attorneys have gone too far. Judges will retain the discretion to issue arrest warrants and to jail debtors for contempt.

Lawsuits against debtors are a last resort, said Eric Mock of the Illinois Collectors Association. “A consumer that has been arrested or jailed can’t pay a debt. We want to work with consumers to resolve issues,” he said.

Madigan learned of the problem last year. Her office was getting reports of impoverished people pursued through the courts for back rent, medical debt and payday loans, she said. One woman who owed money on a vacuum cleaner spent weeks in jail before someone lined her up with free legal services.

“We’re using public resources to collect private debts,” Madigan said. “At what point do you say it’s illegal?”

Lenders can be part of the problem. In 2010, the Illinois agency that licenses lending companies went after a Carbondale storefront lender for exploiting the court system to get its customers incarcerated. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation revoked the company’s license, later reaching a settlement that restored it.

In court, debtors rarely have an attorney, while creditors hire experienced legal representation.

That was the case for Hinton, a 57-year-old from Kenney in central Illinois who became disabled after falling off a roof. Hinton wasn’t working much since he’d hurt his neck and back. He was behind on his court-ordered payment plan on an old debt. He recently had wrapped up a roofing job, but he spent the $1,000 he received to pay other bills.

Without his own attorney, Hinton represented himself. During a quick court hearing, a lawyer representing the creditor established that the roofer briefly had $1,000. That was enough to send him to jail.

“I got no sympathy, whatsoever,” Hinton said.

Illinois law allows some sources of income, such as Social Security, to remain exempt from debt collection. Poor people with only exempt income and no property are being pursued by certain attorneys, said John Roska, an attorney for Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation who represented Gilliam in court.

“She doesn’t have any employment income and no property,” Roska said of Gilliam. “She is a turnip. You can’t get blood out of a turnip. That’s as protected as she can get.”

Read the article here: http://heraldnews.suntimes.com/news/11964280-418/illinois-lawmakers-target-practice-of-jailing-debtors.html

Madison/Bond County Residential Foreclosure Mediation Program Partners With St. Louis University Legal Clinic

Foreclosure Program to Launch

WBGZ Radio 4/15/2012
By Doug Jenkins

Many Madison County homeowners who are facing foreclosure have seen relief through a 10-month-old program. Land of Lincoln Legal Aid in Alton launched the Madison County Foreclosure Mediation Project about 10 months ago, and it has seen such success, it is now partnering with the St. Louis University Legal Clinic. This is a project that is available as part of the legal paperwork that comes with the foreclosure process.

When receiving court papers, those being sued will also receive a request for remediation and a financial questionairre. Homeowners will simply have to fill out those documents and submit them back to the court, but program administrator Linda Jun says that is not to say every case can be fixed.

She says there are about 1,500 foreclosures in Madison County every year. While it is unlikely 100% of those would file for the program, Jun says they have already had 185 inquiries, of which they accepted about 80%, and nearly half of those resulted in homeowners avaoiding foreclosure.

http://altondailynews.com/news/details.cfm?clientid=17&id=28389

 

March 28, 2012

Wabash County courts work with Mt. Carmel Public Library to provide legal information to unrepresented litigants

The Daily Republican Register – Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A press conference will be held Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Mt. Carmel Public Library with Chief Judge Stephen G. Sawyer, Circuit Clerk Angela K. Crum and representatives from the Mt. Carmel Public Library to announce the opening of a new free online legal self-help center for lower income residents of Wabash County.

The center will be accessible to anyone with a computer connected to the internet. People without a computer or internet access can use public access computers at the Mt. Carmel Public Library.

Start-up funding for the new legal self-help center is being provided by the Illinois Bar Foundation. The new online center will provide legal information in civil matters for lower income people who must represent themselves in court. The center also contains non-court related legal information on such matters as Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Compensation and other important topics.

More and more individuals are coming to court without a lawyer. Lawyers can be very helpful in court, but many individuals cannot afford to hire a private attorney and they cannot find either a pro bono or a legal aid attorney to help them.

The new center was developed collaboratively with the Wabash County judiciary and circuit clerk and with representatives from the Mt. Carmel Public Library, the Wabash County State’s Attorney, the Guardian Center and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. Planning and technical support was provided by the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice and Illinois Legal Aid Online.

The Wabash County Legal Self-Help Center will be available online at http://wabash.illinoislegalaid.org. The underlying website has been developed and is maintained by Illinois Legal Aid Online, an Illinois nonprofit organization. The Wabash County Legal Self-Help Center is the 75th center to be opened since May of 2007.

Read the article here: http://tristate-media.com/drr/news/local_news/article_09603e32-7857-11e1-90ae-0019bb2963f4.html

February 17, 2012

County Program Helps Homeowners Keep Their Homes

St. Louis Suburban Journals – Ramona C. Sanders, Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Collinsville resident Jacqueline Hoffmann and her three daughters hope the Madison County Foreclosure Mediation program will help them keep their home.

Following a divorce and job loss in 2010, Hoffmann has had trouble paying her $1,100 mortgage payment with her income — unemployment and child support.

“Since I’m unemployed, I don’t have credit enough to get an apartment,” Hoffmann said. “I’ve gone through all the different agencies I can, I’m trying like everything I can. All I need is for my house payment to come down and I’ll be more than happy to pay.”

That’s why Hoffmann has turned to the newly formed circuit court-based program for residents in Madison and Bond counties. Since the mediation program started in June, it has helped 19 homeowners protect their homes from foreclosure, according to administrator Linda Jun.

Jun said the mediation program helps lenders and borrowers come to an agreement on how to stop the borrower’s home from being foreclosed, or sold by the lender to cover the unpaid loan balance.

“The mediation brings the parties to the table to an alternative arena to the court to explore alternatives, to see if the case can be resolved without a judgment and foreclosure,” Jun said.

County residents are notified that they are eligible for the foreclosure mediation program when they are served with foreclosure court documents. Jun said the homeowner also gets a notice about the program with a request for the homeowner’s information.

Jun said there are usually two pre-mediation meetings held with the homeowner so that he or she can gather all of the required documentation. The full mediation session involves a meeting between the lender and their attorney and the homeowner and their attorney or advocate. It is overseen by one of the 12 attorneys or experienced mediators who volunteer for the program.

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