September News from Ascend Justice

Dear Friends,

Across the country, schools are back in session. No matter your connection to the schools – whether it is as a parent, student, employee or just as a concerned citizen – you probably know a lot more about school operations this fall than ever before. The pros and cons of in-person vs. virtual learning have been analyzed, debated and, in many cases, protested on virtually every media platform.
The intensity of the scrutiny is appropriate: not only is the safety of our children and teachers at stake, a functioning, equitable education system is fundamental to democracy. So are the courts. For most, our court system may not have the daily impact of schools, but its mission and impact are every bit as fundamental to a functioning democratic system. In addition to their more visible jurisdiction over criminal matters, our state courts determine whether renters get to stay in their homes, with which parent a child will live, and whether survivors of gender-based violence will be protected.
Yet how much do you know about how the courts are functioning now? Are you aware that the courts (which have historically struggled to implement new technology) took over three months to set up Zoom accounts for judges (causing most court business to be delayed during that time)? That efforts to inform the public of how the court is currently working are mainly limited to the publication of a series of (technical) court orders? Could you guess that the phone numbers and email addresses designed to inform the public about court operations often go unattended? Or that the court has limited access for people seeking Orders of Protection, and done so without making the limitations clear to the public? Have you followed our colleagues’ lawsuit against the Clerk’s Office for failing to perform one of their most basic responsibilities – providing litigants with their court orders?
As with our schools, some of the most significant risks are the ones we don’t see: like students who cannot access e-learning, litigants who cannot access courts are literally unseen and unheard. And the impact of these barriers extends beyond their impact on individuals. The failings of courts have implications that won’t be apparent for years if trust in the competence and integrity of systems continues to erode.
This decline is not inevitable. This issue impacts us all – and while Ascend Justice advocates inside courtrooms, we all need to advocate for courts that are accessible, efficient and fair. Please join us as we fight for our clients and for systems that work better for everyone.

Margaret Duval
Executive Director
Ascend Justice
Welcome New Board of Directors and YPB Members
We are thrilled to welcome new members to both our Board of Directors and Young Professionals Board.
Ascend Justice’s Board of Directors is a diverse group of professionals who are committed to governing our organization and achieving our mission. We are thrilled to welcome Kapil Gudivada (PwC), Lauren Reeves (RSM US LLP), and Jessie Swider (Greater Chicago Food Depository) to the Ascend Justice Board of Directors. If you are interested in learning more about our Board of Directors, please email Margaret Duval.
Ascend Justice’s dedicated Young Professionals Board helps us grow our resources and expand our community. We welcomed Olivia Basu (The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC), Sophia Bradshaw (The Angeletti Group at Baird), Julia Class (Spark Foundry), Cait Farry (Pritzker Private Capital), Ellen Horne (Kirkland & Ellis), Khadija Lalani (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP), Kate McClennon (Rabobank), Justine Shanner (Rabobank), Leah Song (Jenner & Block LLP), and Jessica Stricklin (Seyfarth) to the Ascend Justice Young Professionals Board recently. If you are interested in learning more about our Young Professionals Board, please email Fawn O’Brien.
Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards

Earlier this month, Abbott Laboratories Legal Department was honored for their volunteer work with our Order of Protection Clinic at the 2020 Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards, presented by The Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. These awards recognize individual and corporate volunteers through a statewide award program to highlight the importance of volunteerism and community service in the State of Illinois.

Abbott has organized multiple “Abbott Clinic Days” where their staff volunteers in our Order of Protection Clinic where they work directly with clients to complete petitions for an Emergency Order of Protection and accompany the clients to court. Thank you Abbott for your support, we are so proud to partner with you!