Earlier this month, most of LAF’s staff attended the 2017 Illinois Legal Aid Advocates Conference hosted by the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois. The two-day event is only put on every three years, and this year it was held at the McCormick Place in downtown Chicago. The conference gave our staff the chance to learn new things, meet new colleagues and reconnect with old ones, and renew their commitment to serving our most vulnerable populations. The guest speakers encouraged attendees to recognize inherent racial biases and remember the importance of the work. Many LAF attorneys led break out sessions and were featured panel speakers, which covered all legal areas our organization handles.
Fifteen years ago, Matthew Gray was dating a woman. Four years ago, after having been broken up for over a decade, he stabbed her, and was found guilty of domestic battery. On appeal, he successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA) as it applied to his relationship with the victim, since they hadn’t dated for a number of years and were “just friends” at the time he attacked her. In essence, his argument was that because they were not currently dating, he should only be guilty of battery, not domestic battery, which is a more serious charge.
When the case made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court, LAF authored an amicus brief in partnership with pro bono attorneys from Dentons LLP, arguing that the Illinois legislature has intentionally continued to broaden the scope of protection for domestic violence survivors under the IDVA over the past 30 years, and that “the definition of a dating relationship under the IDVA should not be construed to restrict access to the legal system.”
The Illinois Supreme Court agreed in a unanimous decision issued on Friday, reversing the appellate court’s judgment and upholding the current, broad definition of a dating relationship. “This is an important decision because it upholds the constitutionality of the IDVA and protects survivors of domestic violence seeking Orders of Protection from former intimate partners, regardless of when the dating relationship ended,” says Jennifer Payne, Supervisory Attorney in LAF’s Children and Families Practice Group.
Whether it’s representing individual clients or advocacy on a broader scale, LAF is proud to be on the front lines fighting for survivors of domestic violence.