Over the course of a legal aid career spanning more than a quarter century, Eugene Edwards has participated in a multitude of groundbreaking cases. When, for example, the City of Markham was unlawfully terminating residents’ water service, Eugene filed a federal class action suit that resulted in a consent decree and the cessation of the improper practices. Currently the supervisor for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago’s South Suburban Office, Eugene's responsibilities include managing the office, training staff attorneys, coordinating and evaluating their work, cultivating and maintaining relationships with local community groups and fundraising, while simultaneously managing his own caseload of complex litigation.
Eugene is a well known expert in education law, focusing on the rights of students facing improper placements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as well as expulsion, suspension and residency disputes. Eugene’s successful 1993 appellate court decision, Washington v. Smith, is often cited to support the argument that school districts do not have unfettered discretion in expelling students for misconduct. It is a testament to Eugene’s work in the area of education law that he has developed an excellent working relationship with numerous suburban school districts. Now he can accomplish with a phone call what might otherwise require a lawsuit. In addition to providing a forceful voice for students’ rights, Eugene is a sought-after lecturer to parents, social workers and fellow attorneys on a wide range of education-related issues.
In the words of Eugene’s own staff, Eugene’s work “continually exemplifies the dedication, passion, legal talent and compassion it takes to be an outstanding lawyer for the poor.” His commanding presence, humor and tremendous litigation skills provide a limitless source of inspiration for other legal aid and pro bono attorneys in their quest to ensure equal access to justice for their clients.
Update: Eugene was named Advocate of the Month by Illinois Legal Aid Online in August, 2009. View a video of Eugene talking about his work, clients and career in legal aid.