How do you define advocacy?
How does the CBF get involved in court-based advocacy?
How does the CBF get involved in legislative and policy advocacy?
How does the CBF choose its legislative/policy advocacy issues?
How can I get involved in the CBF's legislative and policy advocacy efforts?
Q: Why does the CBF get involved in advocacy?
One of the CBF's top priorities is advocating for government at all levels to do its part to ensure access to justice. To be sure, lawyers and legal professionals have a critical leadership role to play by contributing our time and money to ensure access to justice. And those efforts continue to be a central focus of the CBF's work. However, an equally important part of our responsibility as lawyers is to use our influence to ensure that the courts and government also do their part. Government bears the primary responsibility for ensuring access to justice, and if we as lawyers do not take the lead in making this case to the courts and officials at all levels of government, who will?
Q: Why is this primarily a government responsibility?
People often forget that the Constitution opens with a call to "establish justice" before mentioning other core responsibilities of our democracy, and the Pledge of Allegiance's familiar refrain of "liberty and justice for all" underscores the importance of this vital principle. However, the promise of justice for all is an empty one without access to legal assistance, and providing adequate funding for legal aid for people in need is an essential responsibility of government at all levels.
Q: How do you define advocacy?
Advocacy is the act of promoting a cause, idea or policy to influence people's opinions or actions on matters of public policy or concern. In the CBF's case, our focus is to support initiatives that promote access to justice, both within the courts and in the legislative and policy arena.
Q: How does the CBF get involved in court-based advocacy?
Within our court-based advocacy work, the CBF partners with the courts, the legal community, pro bono and legal aid organizations and other justice system stakeholders to develop and facilitate a user-friendly continuum of legal assistance for people without lawyers to navigate the legal process.
Specifically, the CBF is working to: develop and nurture a network of legal advice desks that provide advice, brief assistance and appropriate referrals; facilitate and support the availability of user-friendly web-based information and resources on court websites, Illinois Legal Aid Online and other significant online access points; develop court-based pro bono and legal aid projects and mediation programs; and develop and support self-help centers in each major courthouse in Cook County that serve as a central starting point and resource for people without lawyers entering the courts.
Q: How does the CBF get involved in legislative and policy advocacy?
Working closely with the CBA and other national, state and local partners, the CBF's legislative advocacy is focused on the federal, state, and county levels. Our advocacy efforts center on ensuring adequate funding for legal aid and related initiatives that promote access to justice. The CBF has been working to build a strong community of justice system supporters in the legal community who can lend the power of their voices to the CBF's policy advocacy efforts.
Q: How does the CBF choose its legislative/policy advocacy issues?
The CBF's core advocacy issues include government funding for the pro bono and legal aid delivery system, government support for loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs for public interest lawyers, and other efforts to improve access to justice on a systemic level.
Q: Why does the CBF primarily focus its advocacy efforts on civil access to justice issues?
The CBF has made the strategic decision to focus on civil access to justice issues in its advocacy efforts because, unlike in criminal cases, there is no right to legal counsel in civil matters. Because there is no right to counsel, a large number of people with urgent and important issues at stake too often find themselves without legal assistance to help them with their legal problems.
That said, the CBF periodically works on criminal justice issues related to access to justice as well. In addition, there are some access to justice issues that cross over between civil legal issues, criminal and juvenile law. One example is advocacy surrounding government support for loan repayment assistance for lawyers working in the public interest, which affects state's attorneys, public defenders and other public service lawyers as well as civil legal aid attorneys.
Q: How can I get involved in the CBF's legislative and policy advocacy efforts?