A new study of the Legal Services Society points out that this widespread lack of access has a huge impact on trust in the justice system, with less than a third believing that people like them are treated fairly in the system. This is a call to action for all of us, and our legal community must lead the way.
To improve access and build trust, we must continue to expand the pool of free and affordable legal aid, make the courts more user-friendly and accessible, and improve fairness across the system. Although there is still a long way to go, CBF and our many partners in this cause are making steady progress on these fronts and redouble our efforts.
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Meeting this challenge requires an equal dedication to the interrelated values of diversity, equity and inclusion across our profession and our legal system. In recognition, CBF has made a unified commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, or JEDI, as a central part of our strategic plan.
Our legal profession does not reflect the diversity of the community we serve, and we need to increase diversity to tap into the experience and talents of our entire community and build trust in the system. We must also improve fairness, ensuring that we give people from diverse backgrounds a fair chance in our profession and at all levels of the legal system. Finally, this cannot simply be a “build it and they will come” approach – we must ensure that our profession and the legal system are inclusive and welcoming to all.
From the Supreme Court of Illinois to virtually every corner of our legal community, there is a renewed sense of urgency about JEDI. While it will take time to remedy what, in many cases, amounts to centuries of discrimination and injustice, our legal community must lead by example to deliver on the promise of justice for all.
“Building a fairer and better justice system together” is not only our slogan at the CBF, it is our commitment to Chicago. We encourage all members of the Chicago legal community to join in this quest.