December 18, 2018
It is not hyperbole to say Danielle Elyce Hirsch has improved the civil justice system since joining the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts six years ago. As Assistant Director of the Access to Justice Division (formerly Civil Justice Division) and as primary staffer to the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, she has worked ceaselessly to actualize her vision of a court system where litigants without lawyers or litigants who do not speak English can participate meaningfully in their court cases and the court system may forever be in her debt.
Just a handful of Danielle’s achievements during her tenure working on access to justice policy issues (first at the Chicago Bar Foundation, as Director of Advocacy) are:
- Advocating for the creation of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice and serving as its Executive Director for two years.
- Creating the Illinois JusticeCorps program which places college and law students in various courthouses across the State to assist people without lawyers.
- Leading the successful effort to create statewide, standardized, legal court forms in a variety of areas of law, including, but not limited to appellate, divorce, expungement, eviction, name change, and procedural processes to ensure self-represented litigants could participate in their case.
- Drafting the Illinois Supreme Court Language Access Policy that developed statewide language access protocols and policies to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
- Overseeing the creation of a statewide court interpreter certification program and judicial branch court interpreter reimbursement program to ensure litigants who speak languages other than English had access to qualified interpreters.
- Drafting and promulgating a statewide Illinois Supreme Court Policy on Assistance to Court Patrons by Circuit Clerks, Court Staff, Law Librarians and Court Volunteers (also known as the Safe Harbor Policy), which provides guidance to people acting in a non-lawyer capacity as to what services may and may not be offered to assist court patrons.
- Bringing together many different people to build a coalition around important and complex issues. For example, she staffed the Statutory Court Fee Task Force made up of 15 sitting and retired state court judges, state legislators of both parties and chambers, circuit clerks and attorneys around Illinois, which resulted in a comprehensive report analyzing Illinois' current system for assessing court fees and fines in criminal and civil cases with legislative and judicial recommendations to improve access to justice.
When Danielle leaves the AOIC at the end of the month to tackle access to justice initiatives on the national level, there will be countless numbers of court stakeholders and justice partners who will miss her passion, intelligence, and voice. The loss may be felt most acutely by those who had the opportunity to call her their boss. A visionary leader, she gave her colleagues the support they needed to succeed, and we are grateful. Thank you, Danielle.
Note: Alison Spanner, AOIC Senior Program Manager of Forms for the Access to Justice Division, has been promoted to the position of Assistant Director of the AOIC Access to Justice Division. Ms. Spanner brings a wide range of expertise and experience to the position and her promotion will allow for an effective and efficient transition in division leadership. Alison will officially become Assistant Director on Monday, December 24, 2018.