Illinois Supreme Court Changes Seek To Help Citizens

Jun 25, 2013

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court has changed its rules in a move intended to make the civil court system more accessible to everyday people. The changes are aimed specifically at those who have to go to court without a lawyer.

As chairman of the Illinois Supreme Court's Commission on Access to Justice, Chicago lawyer Jeff Colman has toured the state, hearing from lawyers, social workers and average citizens on their experiences with the courts.

A common thread across Illinois, he says, is fear.

"Not just fear of the courtrooms, fear of the courthouses, and struggling with: Which courtroom do I go to? How do I address the judge when I don't have a lawyer? How can I be fairly heard?" -Jeff Colman

The economic collapse a few years ago put more and more homeowners through the foreclosure process.

Colman says that's affected tens of thousands of people in Cook County alone.

"The estimates are that about 50 percent of the people who are threatened with the loss of their homes cannot afford legal counsel, do not go to court, and they lose their homes."

Among the changes are a plan to get more translators in civil cases, and a notice to judges that they can help people understand how to get access to the courts without compromising their impartiality.

Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey contributed to this report.