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Highlighting a Few Access to Justice Champions

8/28/2017

August 28, 2017

In these waning days of summer, we thought it was a good time to celebrate the vibrant access to justice community in Illinois, and express appreciation for the judges, lawyers, circuit clerks, law librarians and court staff who work so hard in this area. With this month's column, we recognize a few of the many individuals who have made contributions to improve the justice system in Illinois.

At the onset, it is necessary (and hopefully obvious) to point out that this list of wonderful partners is only representative and that we could fill many, many newsletter columns highlighting the great work being done.

But, for now, we highlight just a few of the Access to Justice (ATJ) champions:

Noor Alawawda, Administrative Assistant, Civil Justice Division
The AOIC and ATJ Commission have launched an ambitious foreign language court interpreter certification program, and for interested court interpreters, their first person of contact is usually Noor. Noor handles the day-to-day administration of our AOIC court interpreter certification program—including logistics for orientation sessions, scheduling and administering written and oral exams and updating our Language Access Interpreter Registry—with competence, grace and attention to detail. Thanks so much, Noor!

Denise Bezick Hume, Prairie State Legal Services
Denise became involved in the ATJ Commission's Language Access and Community Trust Committees over the past year. In that short time, she has proven to be an invaluable partner. Denise helped develop materials that explain language access rights for limited English proficient litigants in state courts, planned how best to engage with self-represented litigants about their court experiences and brainstormed about how the ATJ Commission can begin its new community trust initiative. We appreciate your efforts, Denise!

Maureen Josh, Circuit Clerk, DeKalb County
Maureen has been enthusiastically involved in several ATJ Commission committees since its founding in 2012. Most recently, Maureen and her team in the DeKalb County Clerk's Office launched a mobile app to assist users, which is a state model for how clerk's offices can use technology to improve access to court information. Despite the many and varied demands on her time running a busy clerk's office, Maureen joins various committee calls and meetings, and has launched this innovative mobile app resource that other clerk's offices can use. Tremendous work, Maureen!

Jeff Kaplan, Research Director, Second Appellate District
Like so many of the dedicated members of the Forms Committee and its substantive subcommittees, Jeff has been an invaluable resource in drafting and revising plain language standardized forms for use by self-represented litigants. In addition to being an active participant in the appellate drafting committee since 2014, Jeff has graciously jumped in to help the ATJ Commission redraft the published forms to comply with electronic filing—especially for those with appellate matters. Jeff, thanks for being a part of our work!

Dan Wallis, Trial Court Administrator, 22nd Judicial Circuit
Dan is a trial court administrator and regular partner of the ATJ Commission because he is always willing to think creatively and boldly to advance access to justice. As but one example, the Circuit Court of the 22nd Judicial Circuit is running a Civil Justice Improvement pilot project in partnership with the National Center for State Courts, State Justice Institute and the ATJ Commission that will review judicial case management practices and pathways to hopefully increase expeditious dispositions of civil cases. Well done, Dan!

Hon. Timothy McCann, Presiding Judge, 23rd Judicial Circuit
Judge McCann has been a vital partner of the ATJ Commission for many years, especially in the area of language access. In 2014, Judge McCann was the leader of the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges' language access working group that helped the ATJ Commission draft and revise the now adopted Illinois Supreme Court Language Access Policy. Over the past few years with Judge Esteban Sanchez, Judge McCann has been conducting language access training for all new state court judges as well as participating in other ATJ Commission training sessions for practitioners and judges on how to work with interpreters. Judge McCann, we applaud you!

Hon. Sharon Sullivan, Presiding Judge of the County Division, Circuit Court of Cook County
Judge Sullivan makes the time to help the ATJ Commission think about how we can best engage various stakeholders in brainstorming and planning how to improve access to the civil mental health courts. For the past two years, Judge Sullivan has partnered with the ATJ Commission to host Kennedy Center/Chicago Community Trust "On the Table" lunch discussions concerning access to civil mental health courts. These lunches fostered engaging conversations between mental health professionals, government lawyers, judges, social service providers and technologists about how we can improve by working together. Judge Sullivan, we support you!

Please join us in thanking not only these incredible people for their contributions to improve the Illinois judicial system, but all of those who have been so involved in achieving access to justice.