Highlights of Our 40 Years of Service

LAND OF LINCOLN LEGAL ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION, INC.
1972 – 2012


1972

Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc., is incorporated, combining seven local legal aid organizations, six formerly under the sponsorship of local bar associations and one sponsored by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

13 counties served:  Jackson, Williamson, Pulaski, Alexander, Union, Clinton, Bond, Washington, Marion, St. Clair, Madison, Champaign, and Vermillion.

 

1973

Lightfoot vs. Walker is filed, which will successfully challenge the constitutionality of the prison health care system at Menard Correctional Center resulting in the appointment of a medical director to supervise health care in all Illinois prisons.

 

1974

The federal Legal Services Corporation Act is passed.

 

1975

Kendrick vs. Moss, a civil rights class action on behalf of black residents of Cairo challenges the at-large form of government alleging that it cancelled out black voting power and precluded black participation in the Cairo political process.  The case results in a change to a ward form of government and in the next election two black candidates are elected to the city council for the first time since 1896.

 

1976

Legislative Support Center opened in Springfield (later Illinois State Support Center).

 

1977

5 counties added to Land of Lincoln service area. Springfield office opened and Decatur office added when the Legal Aid Society of Macon County merges with Land of Lincoln.

 

1978

14 counties added to Land of Lincoln service area. Mattoon and Quincy offices opened.

 

1979

23 counties added to Land of Lincoln service area.

Effingham and Harrisburg offices opened.

 

1980

10 counties added to Land of Lincoln service area, bringing number of counties served to 65.

 

1981

Branch office planning complete for 13 offices with total projected staff of 126, including 64 attorneys.

 

1982

Legal Service Corporation (LSC) funding reduced by 25%.  Land of Lincoln begins to implement phased in retrenchment plan:  Danville and Harrisburg offices closed and 18 staff positions eliminated.

 

1983

The Effingham office is closed and 12 staff positions are eliminated.

 

1984

In Glasoe vs. Trinkle, the Illinois Supreme Court holds warranty of habitability applies to all residential leases, regardless of existence of a housing code.  This Land of Lincoln case firmly establishes that all persons are entitled to rental housing that is fit to live in.

The Quincy and Cairo offices are closed.

 

1985

Mary A. vs. Kemp is filed by public housing tenants in East St. Louis challenging deplorable living conditions.  In response to the lawsuit, the Department of Housing and Urban Development takes possession of the East St. Louis Housing Authority and allocates an additional $150 million for modernization work and replacement housing.

The Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois makes its first distribution of funds to Land of Lincoln.

 

1989

A Land of Lincoln class action successfully challenges the constitutionality of the Illinois wage garnishment statute.  In 1990, a new statute is passed requiring the persons whose wages are garnished be given written notice of their exemption rights and a hearing to assert those rights.

 

1990

A Land of Lincoln client from southern Illinois is sued on a student loan in a case filed in Chicago.  She cannot afford to appear to defend the case, and Land of Lincoln files suit.  The Illinois Supreme Court finds that the law requiring the Scholarship Commission to file all collection cases in Cook County is unconstitutional.

 

1991

Lawyers Trust Fund provides computers for all Land of Lincoln offices.

 

1992

With home care services, elderly and disabled persons can live at home instead of in nursing homes.  In two class actions, Land of Lincoln prevents home care services from being cut-off to 4,000 frail, elderly persons and requires applications to be processed for persons with AIDS or severe disabilities who have been on a waiting list.

 

1995

Low-income homebuyers in East St. Louis file a class action, Carol A. vs. DP Realty Trust, seeking appointment of a receiver to manage over 500 pieces of property that have been used by out of state investors in a scam to obtain the assets of troubled insurance companies.  This will be the last class action filed by Land of Lincoln prior to the 1996 LSC restrictions.

 

1996

Land of Lincoln receives 28% reduction in funding from LSC:  23 staff positions are eliminated.  Congress also enacts new restrictions on the types of work that LSC-funded programs can do, including prohibiting class actions and seeking attorneys’ fees.

The Illinois State Support Center loses its LSC funding and is closed.

 

1997

Land of Lincoln has eight offices and a staff of 66, including 44 attorneys.

Land of Lincoln completes long-range planning process and Board adopts Strategic Action Plan 2000, including goals of diversifying funding, developing new service delivery methods, and implementing a centralized intake and advice unit.

 

1998

The Land of Lincoln Board approves the Legal Advice & Referral Center to be phased in beginning in 1999, to provide telephone intake, advice and referral services in all 65 counties.

Land of Lincoln begins its first private bar fund raising campaigns in Madison and St. Clair Counties, raising over $800,000 dollars over the next 3 years.

The Champaign office collaborates with local social services providers to launch Transportation Resources of Urbana – Champaign (TRUC), a not-for-profit providing reliable and affordable cars for the working poor.

We expand services to victims of domestic violence with court based projects and outreach services in rural areas with funding from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (VOCA) and the Department of Justice (VAWA).

The East St. Louis office helps incorporate and obtain tax exempt status for Citizens for the Future, Inc., a new not-for-profit organized to take title to several hundred pieces of property involved in the Carol A litigation and use them to provide safe and affordable housing.

 

1999

The Illinois Equal Justice Assistance Act is signed into law, providing a mechanism for state funding of legal services to the poor.

Our Springfield office establishes the first court based Legal Information Desk, in Sangamon County, providing legal information at the first appearance docket for eviction and small claims cases.

The Champaign office launches PAID (Partnership Accounts for Individual Development), one of three pilot programs statewide providing financial education and a matched savings program.

In October, Land of Lincoln holds its first all staff retreat at Rend Lake.

 

2000

As a result of diversifying funding, Land of Lincoln reduces its LSC funding to less than 50% of total revenues.


2001

The Illinois Equal Justice Assistance Foundation provides its first grants, totaling less than $400,000 dollars statewide.  By 2007, the appropriation climbs to $3.5 million.

 

2002

Our East St. Louis office begins a major initiative to defend homeowners from predatory lending practices.  In October 2002, the U.S. Postal Inspector seizes and forfeits assets totaling nearly $1 million dollars of one of the defendants, Marvis Bownes.  We represent 27 clients seeking restitution, and in January 2004, the federal court enters an order requiring Mr. Bownes to pay our clients $428,000 dollars from forfeited assets.

Our Carbondale office enters into an innovative collaboration with a local health care provider, Southern Illinois Healthcare, to start the Law and Health Project, providing services to low-income persons onsite at a local health clinic.

 

2003

As a result of the 2000 census figures showing a loss of population in rural areas, we will lose over $500,000 dollars a year in LSC funding phased in over the next several years.  In 2003, Land of Lincoln loses $278,000 dollars.  The current office structure is maintained, but 18 staff positions are eliminated, including 13 full-time and part-time attorney positions.

In October 2003, Land of Lincoln’s long time Executive Director, Joseph R. Bartylak, announces his retirement.  In December, the Board approves hiring Lois Wood, Managing Attorney of the East St. Louis office, as the new Executive Director.

 

2004

Our Alton and Springfield offices avert the eviction of hundreds of tenants whose Section 8 rent vouchers the housing authorities planned to terminate.  In response to the advocacy, HUD provides the housing authorities additional funding to prevent termination of the vouchers.

 

2005

The Illinois Legal Needs Study is released documenting that low-income Illinois residents had assistance for only one out of every six legal problems.

We engage in a Futures Search strategic planning process, and in September 2005, the Board adopts a plan restructuring the program into 5 regional offices with 3 satellite offices.

The Board approves buying a building to house the Administrative offices, LARC, and the East St. Louis office.

 

2006

The City of Champaign donates a lot and awards a $200,000 grant towards the cost of construction of a new building for our Champaign office.  The Board approves, and Land of Lincoln begins its second building project.

Our Champaign office partners with Carle Foundation Hospital to begin a new medical-legal partnership.

The Lawyers Trust Fund grant to Land of Lincoln exceeds $1 million for the first time.

 

2007

The congressional appropriation for LSC increases for the first time in seven years.

The Illinois Supreme Court approves a comparable interest rate rule for interest on lawyers trust accounts, expected to significantly increase revenue to Lawyers Trust Fund in future years.

An East St. Louis office attorney discovers the St. Clair County Housing Authority overcharged Section 8 tenants by utilizing an inadequate utility allowance.  Her advocacy results in the Housing Authority adopting a new utility allowance that will benefit voucher holders by $600 per year for each of the 1600 households, a total savings to tenants of almost $1 million/year.

The Building for the Future capital and critical services fundraising campaign reaches its goal of raising $2.1 million dollars.

A new Medical Debt Relief Project providing brief services is added to LARC to help people burdened with hospital debt obtain charitable care from hospitals throughout our service area.

 

2008

Legal Services Corporation staff conducts a program engagement visit, and the reviewer “is impressed by the collaborative legal work provided by Land of Lincoln.” She concludes: “Your program is truly making a difference in the communities you serve.”

We increase the number of active pro bono lawyers by 50%, bringing the total number of volunteers to over 430.

With the foreclosure crisis escalating, we start a new Homeownership Defense Project and conduct extensive outreach to distressed homeowners. We begin providing housing counseling services with a grant from Neighborworks under the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program.

Our East St. Louis office implements an innovative new Education Advocacy Project, supervised by a part-time attorney and staffed by AmeriCorps volunteers. The project provides advocacy services to over 400 children in District 189 in East St. Louis.

 

2009

With grants from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, we continue to expand Legal Self Help Centers in collaboration with local courts, libraries, Illinois Legal Aid Online and the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice, opening 10 new centers this year.

With a grant from Lawyers Trust Fund, we implement a new online case management system, Legal Server, developed in collaboration with Prairie State Legal Services and Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

The Energy Assistance Act is amended to include a Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) to assist low income utility customers afford service by establishing a monthly energy payment based on 6% of household income. The Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity sets up committees of utility providers, community action agencies, and low-income advocates to develop the PIPP plan and rules. One of our attorneys begins working on the steering committee to develop the rules to implement the program.

 

2010

The appropriation for the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation is cut in half, going from $3.5 million to $1.75 million.

We receive our first grant through the Illinois Attorney General from the Married Families Domestic Violence Fund, to provide domestic violence legal advocacy throughout the 65 counties we serve.

At the request of the Chief Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit, our Alton office begins working on a pilot foreclosure mediation project and recruits an Americorps VISTA attorney to staff the court committee and administer the project.

Carle Foundation Hospital, a not-for-profit hospital, merges with the for-profit Carle Clinic, and as a result, in part, of advocacy by our Champaign office, over $4 million of medical debt by clinic patients is forgiven.

Attorneys in our Alton and Springfield offices successfully advocate for tenant rights with regard to demolition of public housing and loss of project-based Section 8 units in Sangamon, Macon and Madison counties.

We initiate a major pro bono recruitment drive, with Supreme Court Justices Garman and Karmeier signing the recruitment letter.

 

2011

We expand our medical-legal partnerships, with a new partnership between our East St. Louis office and Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation and Touchette Hospital. An Americorps VISTA is recruited to help staff the project.

We complete a comprehensive legal needs assessment for our service area. Low-income respondents gave highest priority to critical legal issues involving housing and income.

Our Springfield office moves to newly renovated, centrally located office space, completing our office moves and upgrades.

Our Education Advocacy Project supervising attorney is invited to serve on an Advisory team for the Illinois State Board of Education after it takes over supervision of District 189. We also recruit an Americorps VISTA Attorney to create our juvenile justice initiative to address the “school to prison pipeline,” in which students are increasingly dropping out or being forced out of failing schools into the juvenile justice system.

Land of Lincoln staff and volunteers serve over 13,400 clients.

 

2012

The LSC appropriation is cut by 14%. When combined with the 2011 reduction, this will reduce our annual LSC grant by over $500,000.

The Illinois Supreme Court increased the civil legal services portion of the ARDC filing fee from $42 to $95, to help make up for the loss of Lawyers Trust Fund interest revenue.

“Debtors’ prison” gets local and national media attention. Three of our attorneys and their clients are interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan makes this one of her priorities, and the Illinois Dept. of Financial and Professional Regulation asks three of our attorneys to participate in public hearings and provide suggestions to change this practice.

The Medical Legal Partnership of Southern Illinois in our Carbondale office celebrates its 10 year anniversary. The project is honored at the National Medical Legal Partnership Summit as the National Medical Legal Partnership “Program of the Year”.

This year, the Medical Debt Relief Project of LARC, will exceed $1 million in hospital debt relieved since it started.

The staff in our Western Region works closely with Judge Crowder to organize a 3rd Circuit Pro Bono Coordinating Council, believed to be the first in the state.

We receive a $4.5 million grant from the Illinois Attorney General under the national bank foreclosure settlement, enabling us to significantly expand our work for homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

Land of Lincoln now has 5 regional offices, 3 satellite offices, a centralized Legal Advice & Referral Center, and 83 employees, including 47 full and part-time attorneys.