Articles Posted in Community Service

The pro bono work of DLA Piper attorney James Garrett cannot be understated. Mr. Garrett was recruited to help gain veteran benefits for Stanley Friedman, 92, who served in the U.S. Army during WWII and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Mr. Garrett was enlisted in the case from The John Marshall Law School’s Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic.

Mr. Friedman, who now lives in Lake Bluff, Ill., with his wife, had received no benefits since his service in WWII ended in 1945. Mr. Friedman was born in 1920, grew up in Brooklyn and enlisted in the Army right before the U.S. entry into the war. By 1941, he had gained experience as a toolmaker and became an instrument repairman in the service. On board a ship headed to the Strait of Gibraltar, he said his ship took fire from German combat ships.

During those 4+ years that he served in the army, Mr. Friedman experienced many of the horrors of war and its devastation. He was with a group of troops who searched for scrap metal from the remains of tanks from the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia.

Even some of the lowest level arrests and criminal convictions can haunt a person for life. Through the volunteer work of attorneys at the Cabrini Green Legal Aid clinic (CGLA), Cook County Clerk Dorothy A. Brown, and The Center on Halsted, work is under way to provide expungement and record-sealing assistance for Chicago-area residents. This is vitally important because arrests and convictions pose hurdles for anyone who wants to apply for student loans, federally funded housing, state licenses and a whole host of other employment opportunities.

A seminar was held at The Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. in Chicago, to educate 20 volunteer attorneys who will help those with records of crimes and/or arrests to expunge or seal their past deeds.

The hurdle is high to expunge a criminal record of arrest, but many who plead guilty to low-level crimes don’t understand that a conviction cannot be expunged. Beth A. Johnson is the program director at CGLA who is one of the attorneys leading this effort.

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When you are first learning to ride a bike, you take precautions to ensure your safety – perhaps by wearing a bicycle helmet, or by using training wheels. But as we become more confident bicyclists we tend to abandon those safety measures. However, the decision not to wear a bicycle helmet and to engage in dangerous bike riding behavior can lead to potentially fatal bicycle accidents.

According to a recent report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2009 alone 630 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle accidents and 51,000 bicyclists were injured. Of those bicyclists who were killed, the study showed that 91 percent of them were not wearing bicycle helmets. And according to the National Highway Safety Administration, only about 35% of bicyclists use bike helmets on a regular basis.

Illinois does not currently have a bicycle helmet law in place that would require bicycle riders to wear an approved helmet while riding their bicycles. In fact, only 37 of the 50 U.S. states actually require bike riders to wear helmets; most of the bike helmet laws in place only apply to riders aged 18 and younger.

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On Sunday, June 22, 2008, I (Robert Kreisman) gathered with thousands of people to fight against hate in all forms. The 9th annual Race Against Hate is a race in memory of Ricky Byrdsong, a former Northwestern University basketball coach. The 5k course loops along Northwestern University’s campus and Evanston’s lakefront, starting and finishing on Long Field.

Early Sunday, the skies darkened and it rained briefly, delaying the start of the race for 30 minutes. But the rain did not dampen the spirits of those gathered for this annual event. I loved the juxtaposition of adults sweating through the 5k lakefront course and finishing to be rewarded with the sight of kids poised at the start line waiting for their opportunity to show their stuff in the follow up kids’ race. (See the photo below showing the start of the kids’ race.)
We enjoyed seeing neighbors and friends who both participated and rooted for those who ran or walked. It was an invigorating experience, without losing the connection of the root of the event, the tragic and senseless murder of an innocent man, Ricky Birdsong, because of the color of his skin.

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On Sunday, May 18, 2008, thousands of walkers turned out for Walk Now for Autism, a 5k walk to raise funds for autism research. Bob Kreisman, Yolanda Flores, and Catherine Russell of Kreisman Law Offices were all in attendance, each contributing in their own way.

Yolanda showed up at 6:00 a.m., two hours before registration opened, to help organize the tents and booths in preparation for the busy day. Once walkers began to arrive Yolanda headed up the t-shirt booth, handing out box upon box of t-shirts to participants over the course of the next several hours. And through the long day she always had a smile on her face and kept the atmosphere of the t-shirt booth light and fun.

Bob and Catherine both participated in the walk itself. The 5k (3.1 mile) course started at Soldier Field, then looped along Chicago’s lakefront before backtracking to Soldier Field. The course was full of families and friends of children with autism that came out to show their support for both their loved ones and for the organization itself. Oftentimes individual groups could be distinguished by t-shirts they wore or large banners with slogans and messages of support and love. Despite the large number of people there was not a cross word to be heard- everyone was happy and excited to be involved.

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