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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals Launches September 1st

8/21/2020

August 21, 2020

The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC), the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ATJ Commission), and the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) are partnering to launch the first-ever help desk for civil appeals in Illinois. Starting September 1st, self-represented litigants can submit a question and receive an answer from a pro bono lawyer  
through Illinois Free Legal Answers, an American Bar Association platform administered by PILI.

Illinois Free Legal Answers for Civil Appeals is a unique partnership between the organizations and it also consists of an Advisory Board, which is comprised of numerous stakeholders, including appellate justices, appellate attorneys, clerks, and representatives from the Appellate Lawyers Association and American Bar Association. The Advisory Board has been instrumental in laying the foundation for the program, setting forth an outreach program, and establishing a training program for volunteer attorneys. 

The initiative fills a significant need with respect to the number of self-represented litigants in our courts. Each year, tens of thousands of people in our state attempt to resolve complex issues in a court system that has been designed for highly trained lawyers. Recent data collected by the AOIC reflects a large number of self-represented litigants in the Appellate Court. In Fiscal Year 2019, a total of 3239 civil appeals were filed statewide and of that total, 1330 were appeals filed by self-represented litigants, representing 41 percent of the total civil appeals filed during that time period. 

This program is also in accord with other self-help resources and materials that have been developed by the AOIC’s Appellate Resource Program to assist self-represented litigants with understanding the civil appellate process, deadlines, and requirements. You can find statewide standardized forms for civil appeals, appellate guides, overviews, a comprehensive frequently asked questions section, and how-to videos on the Court’s website.

Finally, the program presents a new pro bono opportunity for attorneys to utilize their experiences to help self-represented litigants in civil appeals. The program is currently recruiting volunteer attorneys with appellate experience. To read more about the program and to sign-up, attorneys should complete the registration form on PILI’s website.  

Please see the Court’s press release for further details and contact Kathryn Hensley (khensley@illinoiscourts.gov) for additional information about the program.