In February, the Illinois Supreme Court created the Volunteer Pro Bono Criminal Appeals Program to assist the Office of the State Appellate Defender with a backlog of appeals that has accumulated over many years due to underfunding. This is an important initiative for the Court, and furthers the Court’s commitment to improving access to justice.
The Program provides a unique opportunity for appellate lawyers to get involved in pro bono service. There are a number of ways to participate:
1. Volunteer to handle a direct criminal appeal. The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued amended eligibility criteria for serving as a volunteer pro bono attorney. Appointed attorneys must only have participated in two prior appeals, or have served in various government agencies or judicial clerkships. Oral argument will be strongly considered in these appeals.
2. Supervise an attorney who does not meet the eligibility criteria. Newly licensed attorneys and friends and colleagues who do not otherwise meet the eligibility criteria may handle these appeals under the supervision of a qualified appointed attorney. This is an excellent opportunity to help others get appellate experience.
3. Mentor a law student looking for legal experience. Law students may not be of record to handle these appeals. However, a qualified appointed attorney may informally mentor a law student by having them work on limited aspects of the appeal (e.g., conducting research, assisting in writing the appellant’s brief, etc.), while the attorney makes all appearances before the court. If you are interested in mentorship, please contact Gretchen Sperry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OSAD is also offering a free, CLE-eligible online training program to assist pro bono attorneys with substantive and procedural criminal law and to offer guidance on issue spotting. OSAD is also making some of their internal training materials available for review. Registration closes July 2nd. Please contact Laura Weiler at email@example.com for more information.
The Illinois Supreme Court has long been a supporter of the ALA, and this is our opportunity as ALA members and supporters to give back. Please consider applying for this program.