I am seeking election as Circuit Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit which includes and is determined by the voters of Champaign County. I will bring to the office a background of service to this community and pro-bono legal services to those who cannot afford legal representation.
In my 14 years as a licensed attorney and more than a quarter century living in Champaign County, I have represented and assisted community members in almost every aspect of the law and every issue that comes before judges in our courthouse: representing men and women going through divorces and custody cases, Special Immigrant Juvenile cases, guardianship cases, juvenile abuse and neglect, orders of protections (both those seeking an order and those defending against an order), criminal defense, torts, traffic, small claims, landlord-tenant cases, replevin, foreclosure, and even appellate court cases both in Illinois and in the Seventh Circuit.
In the more than a quarter century that I have been involved in this community, I served on the Urbana City Council for eight years and volunteered for and worked with numerous community organizations including the Champaign-Urbana Tenant Union, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, New American Welcome Center (helping to set up a volunteer legal clinic monthly to provide immigrants with free legal advice), National Organization for Women (NOW), The Urbana Free Library Foundation, East Central Illinois Women Attorneys Association, Champaign County Bar Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Professionally, I do more pro-bono work than any other attorney in Champaign County (and have received most recently the Sixth Judicial Circuit award for pro bono work in 2018, as well as the Champaign County Bar Association award for pro-bono representation).
It is perhaps my family’s experience, in addition to the needs I see in this community on a daily basis, that has led me to do the work that I do.
My mom escaped Nazi Germany with her parents when she was only 5 years old. She and her parents were allowed entry into Chile while much of the rest of her family perished. For 16 years, she was not a citizen of any country — having lost her citizenship as a Jew in Germany and not having received citizenship in Chile until she was in her 20s.
It was the generosity of others that saved my mother and her parents when so many others had turned their backs or just decided that helping refugees was not something they wanted to deal with. It is that family history that has certainly influenced who I am today, and what I do.
I grew up with my twin sister and older brother in Normal, Illinois. Both of my parents were teachers and have since retired. We are all still close, and my husband and daughter and I still visit with my parents a couple of times each month. Like many people in this community, I came to Champaign-Urbana to attend the University of Illinois and graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1995. I stayed in Champaign-Urbana, working and volunteering in the community before I decided to go to law school, graduating from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2004. I was sworn in as a lawyer that fall.
Much of my law practice has been focused on representing those who cannot get legal representation — often because they cannot afford an attorney and/or because they do not qualify for free legal services for the poor (due to their status as undocumented immigrants or because the representation is simply not offered for that area of law), or, simply because no one wants to or knows how to represent them.
In fact, the first criminal defense client I took on after I started my own office was a young African American father who was charged with sexual assault. His girlfriend’s parents asked me to take on the case because they could not afford any of the other private defense attorneys. I was promised a couple thousand dollars which they were going to try to raise to represent him in facing the charge and the state’s offer of 17 years in prison as a plea offer (which his public defender was urging him to take). I took the case, met with the client in jail over the next several months as I prepared the case for trial, and requested additional documents that the state was not required to turn over. After the jury deliberated for less than an hour, the verdict was ‘not guilty.’ Today, the client is not only actively involved in his son’s life (and helping out with his Cub Scouts Troop), but also recently was the first person ever in his family to receive an associate degree and will soon be the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. We have been working together to get him on the path to law school as well.
It is these kinds of cases that I will often take – not because I will always win the case or because it’s an easy case (they usually are not), but because I believe that everyone should have the right to effective legal counsel – regardless of the issue or allegation.
Attorneys who are willing to work diligently to represent those who cannot afford representation, and a court system that understands the diversity that makes this community and this country strong, are essential to making the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution a reality.
If elected judge, I will strive to achieve this ideal: that everyone be treated fairly, and equally, under the law. Everyone.