(February 14, 2012) Washington, D.C. In a foreclosure settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks in March 2012, the state of Illinois received a portion of a $25 billion settlement to help the state rebuild and recover from the foreclosure crisis. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan received a wide range of proposals and suggested solutions in order to find the most effective way to allocate the settlement funds; in her decision, she chose to award Equal Justice Works with a grant to fund four legal fellows to work in Chicago and Champaign over a three year period to assist distressed and at-risk homeowners and tenants in Illinois. The four Equal Justice Works Illinois Foreclosure Fellows, Lacy Burpee, Tracy Walsh, Steve Uhrich, and Komal Vaidya will join the network of lawyers dedicated to helping Illinois and the nation recover from the foreclosure crisis and prevent future crises from occurring.
In Chicago, Lacy Burpee will work with the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, incorporating her legal housing experience with low-income communities; Tracy Walsh will use her eviction, foreclosure risk, and immigration experience to assist the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services; Steve Uhrich will help at Chicago Legal Clinic to defend the rights of victims of predatory lending practices and the use of contempt to jail debtors; and at the University of Illinois College of Law Community Preservation Clinic in Champaign, Komal Vaidya will utilize her community lawyering experience to represent borrowers in mediation and outreach to homeowners and renters in foreclosed properties in central Illinois.
With their organizations, the Fellows will help negotiate new financing terms, defend against predatory practices, ensure that lenders follow proper guidelines and regulations of law; and assist families and other residents of Illinois in keeping their homes. Fellows will receive training and professional development at the annual Equal Justice Works Leadership Development Training and the National Consumer Law Center Conference in order to help them more effectively contribute to their organizations, work towards resolving this crisis, and help the residents of Illinois.
Equal Justice Works has a history of providing legal assistance during the foreclosure crisis. In 2009, as the foreclosure crisis was beginning to hit communities across the country, Equal Justice Works received funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for 30 AmeriCorps Legal Fellows to provide immediate assistance to low-income communities across the country. In the first six months of service, these Fellows provided legal services to more than 3000 clients and kept 852 homes from foreclosure.
Since the initial grant, Equal Justice Works has continued this line of support, placing AmeriCorps Legal Fellows in underserved communities each year to work on housing and foreclosure issues, foreclosure defense and assistance, and protection from mortgage fraud and real estate scams. The four Fellows working in Illinois represent the first time Equal Justice Works has received funding from a state for legal assistance.
According to RealtyTrac’s 2012 Year-end Foreclosure Market Report, 1.8 million properties had foreclosure filings across the United States in 2012; in the state of Illinois, foreclosure activity increased by 33% from 2011 to 2012, and 1 in 39 housing units received a foreclosure filing during the year, placing it in the top 5 states with the highest percentage of foreclosure. In helping Illinois address this issue, Equal Justice Works Illinois Foreclosure Fellows will develop effective practices and advance policy reform that will help prevent future mortgage abuses and crises.
“We are very proud to be able to place attorneys in Illinois to assist the state at this crucial time,” said Equal Justice Works Executive Director David Stern. “Though it has dropped from media attention, the foreclosure crisis is still very much an issue affecting millions of people across the United States every day. We are excited to help Illinois in its efforts to find sustainable solutions to this problem”.
For additional information on Equal Justice Works, please visit www.equaljusticeworks.org.
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Equal Justice Works is the national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. Collaborating with the nation’s leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills that enable attorneys to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes. Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For additional information about Equal Justice Works, please visit www.equaljusticeworks.org.
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