Advisory Committees

Our Advisory Committees oversee our projects, whether they are conducted by staff, pro bono counsel, or a combination. Members also assist in conducting projects, identifying systemic issues, considering ways to use national and local research in developing proposed solutions for Cook County, and preparing policy and editorial statements.

Access to Justice Committee

Co -Chairs: Emily Seymore, Paul Hastings, and Mark Dupont

The Access to Justice Committee works to identify ineffective, inefficient, and unfair civil court management policies and procedures, recommends improvements, and advocates for their implementation. The Committee is co-chaired by Emily Seymore and Mark DuPont and is staffed by pro bono attorneys, legal aid attorneys, government employees and other institutional stakeholders, and community representatives. It meets at lunchtime every fourth Thursday of the month.

The Committee works on a range of issues that affect the policies and procedures of the civil court system. Some of the projects that the Committee has been working on include:

  • Judicial Performance—Development of evaluation and performance improvement plans for sitting judges.
  • Eviction Court—Systemic reform of eviction courts, and the creation of a pilot project for pro bono representation of tenants.
  • Central Panel of Administrative Hearing Officers—Centralization of the pool of administrative hearing officers in order to professionalize and increase independence from decision-making agencies.
  • Certification of Court Administrators—Promotion of access to training, certification and the professionalization of court administrators.

To join the Committee, please reach out to Aditi Singh at aditisingh [at] chicagoappleseed [dot] org.

Criminal Justice Advisory Committee

Co-Chairs: Alexandra Block, Miller Shakman & Beem, and Michael Johnson, Law Offices of Chicago Kent College of Law

The Criminal Justice Advisory Committee uses research, advocacy, legislative proposals, technical assistance, and project management to improve all areas of our criminal justice system, with a focus on decarceration and racial equity. CJAC’s work varies widely and includes everything from the enforcement of core constitutional rights to evaluation and design of individual Cook County programs. We work in partnership with stakeholders, practitioners, community groups to develop effective, systemic solutions, manageable implementation plans, and the community-based support necessary to bring about meaningful permanent change. Together we strive to decriminalize poverty by bringing the highest standards of justice to Cook County’s criminal courts and to divert people from the criminal justice system entirely. Recent work includes:

  • The Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel—Evaluation of access to counsel in Cook County, development of a new court order, and ongoing monitoring of implementation.
  • Criminal Justice Debt, Court Fines, Fees, and Costs—Research into the impact of criminal justice debt on poor communities and communities of color in Cook County and development of a coalition effort to change both state laws and local practices.
  • The Fifth Amendment Right to Counsel—Joint program evaluation of historic pilot program appointing Cook County Public Defenders to represent people in police custody.
  • Money Bond and Pretrial Justice Reform—Development of the Coalition to End Money Bond and support of state legislation, local policy changes, and supreme court rulemaking.

To join the Committee, please reach out to Sharlyn Grace at sharlyngrace [at] chicagoappleseed [dot] org.

Family Law Committee

Co-Chairs: Nicole McKinnon, Badesch Abramovitch, and Joan Colen, Attorney at Law

The Family Law Committee is a joint program committee of Chicago Appleseed and the Council of Lawyers, working on projects to improve the experience of parents in the Cook County courts, with a particular emphasis on unrepresented parents.

With the guidance of the Committee and the work of dedicated pro bono attorneys, Chicago Appleseed staff analyzed the constitutionality of Cook County’s child support courts that offered one track to divorcing parents and another to parents who had never been married. We were invited to serve on the Presiding Judge’s Task Force to consolidate the division, which happened this year. We helped the court gain additional funding to expand the Hearing Officer program into the branch courts and are working to secure the future of the program.

The Committee is also engaged in creating community-based workshops to help parents navigate the courts without attorneys. With the assistance of pro bono attorneys, staff is assessing the Department of Health & Human Services non-judicial child support process with support of Committee members.

If you are interested in joining the Family Law Committee to identify projects and advise our program work, please contact Elizabeth Monkus at emonkus [at] chicagoappleseed [dot] org.

Immigration Committee

Co-Chairs: Lisa Palumbo, LAF, and Ellen Craig, Consultant

The Immigration Committee is a joint program committee of Chicago Appleseed and the Council of Lawyers, working in conjunction with the Appleseed Immigration Coalition. Most recently the Appleseed Immigration Coalition created and distributed a manual, Getting Off the Assembly Line: Overcoming Immigration Court Obstacles in Individual Cases, on deportation issues for immigration attorneys.

Chicago Appleseed is assisting local immigrants’ rights groups with increasing representation in immigration bond court.

If you are interested in joining the Immigration Committee, please contact Malcolm Rich at malcolmrich [at] chicagoappleseed [dot] org.