Madison Wiegand Brown

The Project

Madison (she/her/hers) represents low-­income individuals exposed to lead in housing, in collaboration with community partners and private attorneys, strategically targeting portfolio landlords to achieve the highest impact.

Illinois has one of the highest rates of childhood lead poisoning in the country. Lead exposure in housing—the most common type of lead exposure for children—disproportionately burdens communities of color and people living in poverty. Lead exposure in children can cause life­long brain damage that impacts communities for generations. In housing, lead can be abated, and even small reductions in lead exposure can make a difference, preventing future harm.

Madison knew that she wanted to pursue justice for marginalized communities before she knew she wanted to a lawyer. Madison’s work is rooted in the belief that marginalized communities are knowledgeable, capable, and worthy of human rights. She hopes to use her voice and privilege to uplift those without the opportunities she has been given.

Fellowship Plans

Madison will directly represent low-­income families in Chicago who have been exposed to lead due to unsafe housing conditions with community ­informed impactful legal solutions. Madison will target portfolio landlords and landlords with repeat offenses. She will identify these bad actors by collaborating with community organizations in the areas most affected by lead. She will also work with community organizations to identify potential clients and directly represent these organizations. In pursuing these lawsuits, Madison will collaborate with pro bono and private attorneys, seeking holistic outcomes for her clients and creating a toolkit to provide comprehensive, enduring services.

Media

Making Our Communities More Equitable

I know what it is like to look around the room, as a small child and as an adult, and realize that no one is going to defend you, even if you are right. Tenants living in under resourced communities have the knowledge and strength to evaluate their needs, but an avenue for justice is missing.

Madison Wiegand Brown /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Carl will manage the only in-court brief advice desk for pro se tenants and identify and represent tenants who have viable claims related to uninhabitable conditions or landlord retaliation to secure relief and prevent displacement.

30,000 evictions are filed in Cook County annually, yet 95% of tenants do not have an attorney. Due to the expedited nature of eviction court – and lack of in-court resources – tenants are deprived of due process and pressured to take unfavorable settlements. Unfortunately, many of these tenants have meritorious defenses related to uninhabitable living conditions, yet those defenses are rarely heard due to lack of legal aid resources.

Carl is inspired by tenants who fight for their rights, even as they face landlord retaliation or unsafe living conditions. Carl has seen the creativity of tenants who face landlords on their own, or who band together, and is motivated to use that same ingenuity in approaching the seemingly intractable problem of assembly-line justice in eviction court.

Fellowship Plans

Carl will expand the Eviction Brief Advice Desk to cover all courtrooms multiple times per week by training additional pro bono attorneys. Additionally, he will develop litigation resources to assist with bringing disrepair claims, including FOIA toolkits, model pleadings, and expert pool of certified real estate appraisers. Also, he will litigate in eviction and ancillary courts for injunctive relief and damages. Finally, he will collaborate with community organizing groups for referrals when tenants experience building-wide conditions issues.