The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) honored Kirkland & Ellis LLP for its pro bono service as co-counsel on Hill v. Erickson, a class action representing 732 pregnant and parenting state wards and their children, at its annual Justice Circle event.
The youths are in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and brought a lawsuit, Hill v. Erickson, against the state agency. A 1994 consent decree established a broad range of rights, placements and services to help them develop as adolescents and as capable parents. However, in June 2009, DCFS sent letters to foster care providers across Illinois proposing to drastically cut budgets, curtail services and end placements for these young people.
The CCH Law Project, with pro bono assistance from Kirkland, returned to court to protect the rights of the class members. In March 2010, CCH and Kirkland secured a mediated resolution in Cook County Circuit Court, with fee settlement, that protected the state-funded services and installed a class monitor.
For Kirkland's hundreds of hours of pro bono work on the case, CCH honored partners Andrew McGaan and Emily Nicklin; of counsel David Grassmick; associates Jessica Bailey and Sylvia Winston; legal assistants Kathleen Cawley, John Kanive and Joseph Whittingham; and case assistant Kim Davenport.
"We are proud to receive this award from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless," said Kirkland partner Andrew McGaan, "and extremely pleased that the class members have protections in place to challenge any future service changes proposed by the state of Illinois."
"The Hill foster youth are some of the poorest, most neglected young people with diminished life prospects, unless they get the support, services, education and direction that the Hill decree requires," said Laurene Heybach, director of the CCH Law Project. "Kirkland really came to the rescue in not only protecting the decree but strengthening it."
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