In 1973, a private practice attorney, an idealistic church located within the community, and a generous publisher joined forces to respond to the critical legal needs of vulnerable individuals living in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing development. As the neighborhood of Cabrini Green has changed, CGLA has expanded its reach to serve impoverished residents from all of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
We offer quality legal representation to impoverished individuals, at no cost, in areas deemed most critical to the lives of the poor: housing law, family law, criminal law, and expungement, sealing & clemency. Using an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to legal services, our attorneys are supported by a social worker charged with addressing the root causes that led to the legal problem in the first place. We also engage in frequent community education and outreach, hoping to prevent problems that might otherwise end up in court. Each year, hundreds of volunteers assist our professional staff in meeting the needs of a thousand vulnerable families and individuals.
Our mission is to answer God’s call to seek justice and mercy for those living in poverty by providing legal services that strengthen lives, families and communities.
Who We Serve
We serve residents of the City of Chicago with a household income within 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL). In certain cases, we will accept individuals up to 200% of the FPL. We are not required to and we do not ask about a client’s immigration status.
Areas of Service
CGLA plays a vital role in helping to meet the overwhelming demand for family law services in Chicago by handling a full range of matters including custody, child support, divorce, orders of protection, guardianship, parentage and visitation. The most important consideration in deciding whether to accept a family law case is the potential impact CGLA’s involvement will have on the life of the potential client or any children involved. Other general factors we consider include the following:
CGLA’s housing law program is designed to address the array of housing issues on both the individual and community-wide levels. CGLA represents clients in eviction cases, grievance cases and back-rent disputes. We specialize in “one-strike” public housing eviction cases. Through the work of CGLA, individuals and families avoid homelessness, displacement and forced neighborhood relocation. Generally, CGLA will not accept cases simply to extend the time period for the potential client to move, except in unusual circumstances.
CGLA is the only private legal assistance organization in Chicago that offers criminal defense representation. As such, the demand for our help is great. CGLA's criminal cases involve those who are unjustly accused, first-time offenders, juveniles, or others for whom the staff believes its intervention can make a positive difference in the individual’s life. Each case that CGLA accepts is closely examined to ensure that CGLA is, in fact, the best organization to help with their legal needs.
Expulsions: CGLA will represent students facing disciplinary expulsions from public school, concentrating on those expulsions that have a corresponding criminal case.
Expungement, Sealing and Executive Clemency:
CGLA’s staff attorney and trained volunteers run our Expungement Help Desk in room 1006 of the Daley Center, every Monday through Thursday, 9 am to 12 noon. At the Desk, we will assess a client’s rap sheet and assist qualifying individuals complete expungement or sealing forms. Individuals who do not qualify for this relief will be informed about the executive clemency option. The desk operates on a first-come, first-served basis. A client can only be seen if s/he brings a current RAP SHEET from the Chicago Police Department (available at 35th and Michigan). To secure the rap sheet, individuals must first be fingerprinted and pay a $16 fee. Fingerprints are taken Monday through Friday, 8 am to 12:30 pm. RAP SHEETS are picked up Monday through Friday, 2 pm to 3:30 pm.
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