The largest civil legal aid organizations in the home cities of the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians have raised a bet on the outcome of the 2016 World Series. Both organizations work to provide free civil legal services to people living in poverty in their regions, and have entered into a friendly wager on behalf of their teams, who are each hoping to break the two longest championship droughts in Major League Baseball.
From Chicago, LAF has promised a deep-dish pizza lunch to Cleveland Legal Aid’s staff if the Cubs can’t win their first World Series since 1908. Cleveland’s Legal Aid answered the challenge, offering Cleveland pierogis to the staff of LAF if the Indians lose the series.
LAF’s Executive Director, Diana C. White, explained “For the last 50 years, LAF has flown the W flag in the courtroom for people living in poverty in our community. We’re so excited to cheer on the Cubs and Chicago in the World Series!”
Cleveland Legal Aid’s Executive Director, Colleen M. Cotter, highlighted “Our attorneys hit home runs each day for our clients, so it is terrific to celebrate some sports success with LAF through this friendly bet.” Cotter adds, “The last time Cleveland won the World Series, our Legal Aid was celebrating its 43rd year of serving the community. I don’t think our attorneys back in 1948 ever imagined our Legal Aid would be celebrating its 111th year when we win our next World Series.”
As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary this year, we’re looking back over some of the most impactful work LAF has been involved in over the last half century. Some of those cases have been on behalf of the residents of the Cabrini-Green Housing Development. Check out our interactive retrospective on our website now!
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of Chicago’s Landlords and Tenants Ordinance, a landmark piece of legislation that governs most residential dwelling units in Chicago. “Prior to the RLTO’s passage,” says Larry Wood, Director of LAF’s Housing Practice Group, “there was a significant imbalance of power between residential property owners and their tenants, and unscrupulous landlords took terrible advantage of this imbalance.” Thousands of low-income tenants suffered the worst abuses, including deplorable living conditions, retaliation for complaining about such conditions, excessive late fees, unreturned security deposits, and lock-outs (i.e., evictions without authority of law).
Recognizing the need for legislation that would help them address these problems, LAF attorney Bill Wilen and Henry Rose, now a law professor at Loyola University, drafted the RLTO, and Chicago Alderman David Orr tried to get some version of this legislation passed every year after Harold Washington was elected Mayor. Finally, on September 8, 1986, the Chicago City Council passed the RLTO.
“It withstood an immediate constitutional challenge from the Chicago Board of Realtors,” said Mr. Wilen, “and it leveled the playing field by giving all residential tenants, including those with extremely limited resources, fundamentally important rights and protections, as well as the means to enforce them.” For example, the RLTO set forth rules governing the treatment of security deposits, authorized a tenant to withhold rent to address a landlord’s failure to properly maintain the premises, and prohibited excessive late fees, retaliatory evictions, and lock-outs. It also imposed automatic financial penalties for violating RLTO provisions, and contained an attorneys’ fee provision to motivate lawyers to represent low-income tenants who have meritorious claims under the RLTO.
LAF is proud of its instrumental role in the RLTO’s passage, and of the way LAF and other tenants’ rights groups have used the RLTO to help thousands of Chicago tenants improve their living conditions and defend themselves against unprincipled and overreaching landlords.
This summer, LAF hosted 31 law student interns and six law graduate Fellows. They hailed from 13 law schools across the country and served clients in each of our five Practice Groups. Our interns and Fellows brought enthusiasm for learning, dedication to our clients, and commitment to social justice. They left with a deeper understanding of poverty law and the challenges our clients face. As a result of the hard work of these interns and Fellows, LAF was able to provide advice and representation to more clients and impact more lives in a positive way. We are so grateful for the time that they devoted to us this summer, and wish them all the best as they head back to school later this month. We profiled their work in this month’s eNewsletter, which you can read here.
On behalf of everyone at LAF and all the clients we serve, thank you for your generosity and support of our work. Your investment in LAF is not just an investment in our clients’ lives, it’s also an investment in the next generation of civil legal aid lawyers, who will continue to improve the world for people living in poverty.