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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

New Appellate Resource Specialist/JusticeCorps Officer to Address Service Gaps for Self-Represented Litigants


October 25, 2017

The Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and the Civil Justice Division of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) are pleased to announce the addition of our newly hired Appellate Resource Specialist/JusticeCorps Officer, Kathryn Hensley. Kathryn comes to the AOIC after serving as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society in New York City, where she represented hundreds of youth in child protective proceedings. Kathryn also has an extensive background in program management – she launched a pro bono clinic for low-income LGBTQ clients in Brooklyn, New York, and also served as a coordinator for uncontested divorce pro bono programs. Kathryn's passion lies in bridging the gap between needs and services for underserved populations. We are excited about Kathryn joining our staff and look forward to the implementation of ground-breaking initiatives.

With the creation of the Appellate Resource Specialist position, the Illinois Supreme Court has demonstrated a profound commitment to provide meaningful assistance to the increasing number of self represented appellate litigants. For example, data in the First Appellate District shows that nearly one-third of civil appeals are filed by a self-represented litigant; and yet, there is a dearth of legal aid and self-help resources available to assist unrepresented litigants with their appeals. As such, Kathryn's work will involve developing self-help materials; collecting and analyzing appellate data; providing assistance to self-represented litigants in civil appeals; creating pro bono partnerships with bar associations, legal aid partners and individual lawyers; and initiating public outreach efforts.

Kathryn and other members of the AOIC will meet with appellate justices, clerks and courthouse personnel to better understand the needs of each specific district (including the ATJ Commission Appellate Committee and the First Appellate District Self-Represented Litigants Working Group chaired by Justice Aurelia Pucinski), as well as to obtain feedback on what materials and programs would be useful in serving self-represented litigants in civil appeals. Your input and participation in this new initiative is vital in ensuring its implementation and robust success.

Additionally, Kathryn, as the AOIC’s JusticeCorps Officer, will assist this important program at a time of growth. As you may know, Illinois JusticeCorps was first launched in 2009 and currently exists in 10 of the state’s courthouses. JusticeCorps volunteers provide legal information and targeted referrals to community resources, which is an invaluable resource for self-represented litigants who are attempting to navigate complex court systems.

There has been widespread interest in expanding the JusticeCorps program to additional judicial circuits. With the creation of this position, the AOIC intends to achieve expansion of JusticeCorps by cultivating enhanced relationships with courthouse personnel, conducting more systematic program evaluation, and developing new projects to fill voids in services for self-represented litigants. For example, with e-filing becoming mandatory for all circuit courts on January 1, 2018, JusticeCorps volunteers could play a significant role in assisting self-represented litigants with this requirement. In furtherance of this work, Kathryn will work with our partners, The Chicago Bar Foundation and the Illinois Bar Foundation, along with the ATJ Commission's JusticeCorps Steering Committee and Judicial Committee.

The AOIC and Access to Justice Commission are dedicated to thinking and rethinking sustainable strategies and programs to address service gaps for self-represented litigants in Illinois. The AOIC and the Commission welcome Kathryn as the Appellate Resource Specialist/JusticeCorps Officer. Kathryn joins the other members of the AOIC who are committed to bringing access to justice to self-represented litigants and underserved populations statewide.