CDEL Matters, Vol. 1, Issue 1

In This Issue


                      Michael Roth, Executive Director

elcome to our inaugural issue of CDEL Matters.

CDEL is truly blessed to have such dedicated volunteers, board members, and financial supporters, who enable CDEL to make a difference in the lives of our community's most vulnerable and underrepresented citizens. And it is my hope that this newsletter will help our organization to reach out to you in a new format, updating you on the organization's news on a quarterly basis.

As the holidays approach, I am reminded that it is our quiet, daily actions of serving others that truly matter. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be lawyers can apply our education and experience to bridge the ever-expanding gap between those who have, and those who lack, the means to access the judicial system. CDEL's mission is to aid individuals who are marginalized by age, disability, and poverty by recruiting volunteers to help with legal problems that include housing, guardianship, and estate planning.

As 2010 comes to a close, I can't help but also reflect on the many organizational accomplishments this fiscal year. Here are just a few:

  • Concluded a strategic planning process for the organization. This accomplishment is owed to the efforts of the members of our Board's strategic planning committee and our dedicated team from Executive Service Corporation.
  • Expanded the Young Professionals Board (YPB). Now 40 members strong, this auxiliary board comprises young lawyers, law students, and allied professionals who serve as ambassadors of CDEL to the community, promote CDEL's mission and activities; recruit volunteers to assist CDEL clients, and raise funds in conjunction with CDEL's Board.
  • Won a grand prize in professional marketing consulting services from Chicago Cause. Chicago Cause, a collaboration of Chicago-based Orbit Media Studios, Lightspan Digital, and Flanigan Communications, Inc., awarded CDEL a grand prize in the form of professional web design, video production, social media, and public relations consulting services valued at $24,000. Chicago Cause was launched in July 2010 to create a formal program using the companies' combined resources to make a donation available to a broader scope of organizations. CDEL will launch the fruits of these efforts with a new CDEL website and video in the first quarter of 2011. For more information, visit
  • Further developed the Senior Tax Opportunity Program (STOP) in association with Cook County Assessor James M. Houlihan. The Hon. James M. Houlihan's office spearheads a program in cooperation with CDEL to protect seniors at risk of losing their homes owing to property-tax delinquency, while alerting them to money-saving exemptions. The Assessor's Office has coordinated its efforts with CDEL, Katten Muchin & Rosenman LLP, Navigant Consulting, and volunteer legal professionals. This year, about 50 CDEL volunteers reached out to some 1,600 elderly homeowners who were at risk.

These are few of CDEL's major accomplishments as an organization, setting a high bar for the new year. But further accomplishments take place on the individual and small-team level. A few of these are highlighted in this issue of CDEL Matters, and I hope you will enjoy reading about them. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for CDEL and for the deserving individuals we serve.

 Happy Holidays!

 Michael T. Roth, Esq.

 Executive Director

PAYING FOR PROFESSIONAL LEGAL services is not an option for any CDEL client. Thus, CDEL, through its staff and volunteer attorneys, helps to ensure that seniors and individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to the protections of the law. This past spring, Joe and Jane W.,* an elderly couple, contacted CDEL after being named as defendants in a forcible entry and detainer lawsuit. Rent payments on the couple's home in Chicago's south side had been funded through a housing authority voucher program. Upon the couple's eviction, the law would permit the agency to revoke the couples' voucher. With no other means of affording other housing, eviction of the couple meant homelessness -- not only for themselves but also for their three adopted minor grandchildren who were living with them.

The housing authority had sought to evict the family because an authorized household member, who had moved out before commencement of the action against the couple, had been arrested for a misdemeanor drug-related offense in 2008. The arrest had not led to a conviction. However, the family's lease, which mirrored the federal regulation 24 C.F.R. § 966.4(f)(12)(i)(B) (governing all public housing agencies (PHAs) that receive federal funds and mandating necessary provisions for PHA lease agreements),provided that any drug-related offense of an authorized household member or guest, on or off the residences' property, was grounds for eviction.

The couple was financially qualified for CDEL's services, and their case was assigned to Suma Shah and Brian Raterman, two of CDEL's in-house volunteer attorneys. Both had recently received their J.D. degrees: Suma is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law, and Brian earned his degree from Valparaiso University School of Law. These attorneys filed an answer to the housing authority's complaint against the couple in the Municipal Division on the date set trial call, giving them critical extra time to gather evidence, conduct additional legal research, and develop a legal strategy to keep the family in their home.

In the mean time, the CDEL attorneys' negotiations on the couple's behalf avoided the trial altogether, as a settlement agreement was reached with the landlord and the case was dismissed by stipulation. The couple complied with all terms of the settlement agreement, and the family could rest easy knowing they no longer faced threats of eviction and homelessness. The volunteer attorneys, Suma and Brian, had the unparalleled experience of helping to keep the whole family inside their home.

"In cases like these, CDEL volunteers level the playing field for indigent clients when the opposition's counsel would otherwise often outmatch them," Brian said. "This was the most rewarding moment of my career [so far] because Suma and my efforts helped a family avoid a potentially devastating result. I doubt such a happy ending would have occurred without CDEL's intervention," he said.


*All clients' names in CDEL Matters have been changed to protect their privacy. 


CDEL Helps South Side Senior Citizens with Estate Planning


Attorneys from Accenture and Baker & McKenzie LLP counsel clients on estate planning at Abbott Park Satellite Senior Center in Chicago.

ON OCTOBER 27, 2010, LAWYERS and other volunteers from Accenture and Baker & McKenzie LLP gathered at Abbott Park Satellite Senior Center on Chicago's south side to provide estate-planning advice to a dozen senior citizens from the City's 6th, 9th, and 34th wards. Each client retained one or more attorneys for guidance on whether to execute a living will or a power of attorney for healthcare and a power of attorney for property. Clients received legal counsel on difficult end-of-life decisions free of charge, thanks to the corporate and firm partnerships and the volunteers. So far, CDEL has held more than 100 estate-planning workshops of this kind under its Senior Center Powers of Attorney & Living Will Initiative (SCI).

A living will is an advance directive stating an individual's desires for prolonging life in the event of incapacity and a determination that death is imminent. Alternatively, an individual may execute a power of attorney for healthcare so that a trusted "agent" (often a family member) can make appropriate healthcare decisions in the event the individual becomes incapable of doing so. A property power of attorney, similarly, allows an agent to make decisions on the dispensation of money and assets if the principal becomes incapacitated. 

CDEL volunteer Ruth Caraher has been a part of the SCI since its inception 3 years ago. "The people we aid can't believe they are able to access this kind of help without cost to them," she said. Ruth became a CDEL volunteer in time for the launch of the SCI and now volunteers at CDEL two days a week to organize and plan the workshops. Having retired from her full-time position as a paralegal and nurse consultant for a Chicago law firm, she was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would make best use of her skills. Her focus at CDEL soon narrowed as demand for estate-planning services grew and as CDEL recognized that more people could be reached through a workshop format. Since then, Ruth has organized and attended virtually all of CDEL's SCI workshops throughout Chicago and many Cook County suburbs.

"Facing end-of-life issues can be difficult for some," Ruth said. "But that is why the one-on-one service we provide at the workshops is so helpful."

Seniors who are interested in receiving this type of assistance initially attend informational seminars that are held at the senior facilities. Tom Wendt, CDEL's Chief Legal Officer, oversees those meetings, teaching participants the purpose of the SCI services. In this way, potential clients can make some decisions in advance, such as deciding who should be their agent in a power of attorney.

Volunteer attorneys who counsel the clients at the workshops do not necessarily work in the area of estate planning on a daily basis. The Baker & McKenzie and Accenture lawyers who attended the Abbott Park workshop haled from litigation, employment, and corporate law backgrounds. The initiative gives volunteer attorneys the unique chance to work one on one with clients on a pro bono basis. Other volunteers serve as witnesses and with administrative tasks. All volunteers attend training sessions in advance so that they understand how best to counsel or assist clients, and attorneys attending the training receive MCLE credit.

The documents executed at the workshops are notarized as appropriate, and CDEL retains copies of all forms for the clients' future reference.

In 2009, CDEL held 56 SCI workshops, reaching about 600 clients. CDEL expects the numbers for 2010 to be even higher. Since the SCI's launch, CDEL and its volunteers have counseled about 1,500 senior citizens, none of whom could otherwise afford legal services.

Please contact CDEL if you know of a senior facility in Cook County that may be interested in hosting an SCI workshop, or if your firm is interested in participating in an SCI workshop or in partnering with a corporate client.


CDEL Volunteers Run the 14th Annual Chicago Half Marathon

Team CDEL goes the distance at Chicago's annual

Half Marathon this past September.


SEPTEMBER 12, 2010, BEGAN as a warm, cloudless and beautiful fall morning along Chicago's South Lake Shore Drive. Among the 20,000 runners, thousands of volunteers, and countless spectators assembled in Chicago's Jackson Park for the 14th Annual Chicago Half Marathon were a team raising funds to support CDEL's mission.

Team CDEL comprised 16 runners, 2 coaches, and 7 additional volunteers assisting all runners before, during, and after the Race. The 13.1 miles of the Half Marathon may have been grueling, but the support every runner received from volunteers who distributed hydration along the course, spectators shouting encouragement and waving signs, and live bands playing upbeat music empowered all running to finish their Race.

The physical commitment needed to participate in the Chicago Half Marathon is considerable and, for some runners, required months of training, blisters, and pain. Brian Raterman, a CDEL in-house attorney, was among the 16 volunteers who ran for Team CDEL. "The support I received from spectators and volunteers alike made the Race not only a physically rewarding endeavor but an emotionally rewarding one too," he said.

Team CDEL's slogan for the Race was "Going the Distance for Justice." With approximately $4,500 raised - and every Team CDEL runner finishing the Race that day -Team CDEL performed true to its slogan.

In addition to CDEL staff member Kimberly Hellmuth, the following dedicated individuals ran for Team CDEL: Brian Raterman (YPB), Vickie Argueta (City of Chicago Department of Law); Steve Butler (Kirkland & Ellis LLP); Catherine Diebel (DePaul School of Law); Will Gaus (Baker & McKenzie LLP); Erin Maus (Baker & McKenzie LLP); Gary Maus (Illinois Tool Works, Inc.); Casey McCloskey; Katie McClanahan (Peck Bloom); Patrick Markey (Law Offices of Patrick Markey PC); Ana Petrovic (Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP); Patti Sheahan (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago); Kristen Spath (Deloitte Tax LLP); and Tushar Vaidya. CDEL Coach and in-house volunteer, Ryan Truesdale of University of Chicago Law School. Other volunteers were Masha Bijedic, Virginia Cutshall, Trey Elling, Leigh Frost, Abbey Mae Gaus, Molly Gaus, and Allison Roth.

CDEL would like to thank all volunteers and donors for making the event a success. 



CDEL CLIENTS COME FROM all walks of life. Immigrants are among those who may be least familiar with the workings of the U.S. legal system, which poses roadblocks to most anyone facing difficult familial or personal issues that require access to the courts. This past August, CDEL volunteer attorney Suma Shah (now an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP) represented Ali, an elderly citizen who immigrated from Jordan, in obtaining guardianship of his granddaughter, Adeela.

Born in Jordan, Adeela was raised by Ali after being abandoned by her parents. Ali had immigrated to the United States with his wife and with Adeela and had legal custody of Adeela throughout her childhood. But as with all minors, this legal relationship expired on Adeela's eighteenth birthday, when Adeela was no longer a minor and was automatically considered to be capable of making her own decisions. Unfortunately, Adeela has a mental disability. Owing to low cognitive functioning, she lacks the capacity to live alone or to consistently make decisions that are in her own best interest. And as with many people with mental disabilities, Adeela may be especially vulnerable to fraud and abuse if left to fend for herself without regular and appropriate guidance.

Before contacting CDEL, the family had already attempted to secure a guardianship, but owing to language barriers and misinformation, the guardianship was denied. As a result, there was no one legally capable of making important decisions on behalf of Adeela, who continued to require her family's day-to-day support.

The Illinois Probate Act defines a person with disabilities as an individual of at least 18 years who, because of mental deterioration, physical incapacity, mental illness, or developmental disability, is not fully able to manage his or her person or estate, or as a person of at least 18 years with addictive problems that expose the person or dependents to want or suffering. Two forms of guardianship may be recognized. First, a "guardian of the person" may be appointed where the individual with the disability (the ward), cannot make or communicate responsible decisions regarding her personal care. This guardian is responsible for making decisions about medical treatment, residential placement, social services, and other needs. Second, the court may appoint a "guardian of the estate" when the ward cannot make or communicate responsible decisions regarding the management of her estate or finances. This guardian will, subject to court supervision, make decisions about the ward's funds and other assets.

CDEL has helped many such families like Adeela's in obtaining uncontested guardianships of the person. In this case, after Ali turned to CDEL for help, Suma was able to assist the family by gathering all the necessary documents to show that Adeela was in fact legally disabled, including Adeela's educational and other records. Suma then helped the family file the petition for guardianship and represented the family in court. Suma then made the family's case in court for why guardianship was necessary, and the evidence presented convinced the judge to find that Adeela was a person with a disability under Illinois law.

But Suma faced another challenge:  She had to persuade the court that Ali, Adeela's grandfather, was the person in the best position to care for Adeela. The law requires that the court appoint that person who will make the best guardian and who will act in the ward's best interest, regardless of the chosen party's relation to the ward.

In the end, the court found, after a legal process that lasted several months, that Ali was the best person to act as Adeela's guardian and granted Ali guardianship of the person of his granddaughter. This crucial determination has allowed Ali to continue to act in his granddaughter's best interests and to make needed decisions on her behalf. Adeela is doing well and is attending school.  

"The guardianship process can be overwhelming," Suma says. "To be able to guide a family through it, and to know that such a warm and friendly person as Adeela would be well taken care of by people who have her best interests at heart, was so rewarding."

Copyright 2010 Center for Disability & Elder Law




Up to 30% of your holiday purchases can go to CDEL when you shop online at any of 1,000 stores through

Participating stores include eBay, Barneys New York, Apple StorePottery Barn, and Banana Republic,
to name but a few.
Thousands of money-saving coupons are also available exclusively for users of the site, and there is no fee. 
Simply visit
type in "CDEL" as the
charity you shop for,
select your favorite retailers, and purchase items as you normally would.

A portion of your purchase
will automatically go to benefit CDEL.


YPB members and guests gather at Cactus Bar in Chicago for the
YPB fall fundraiser.
The 2010-11 YPB (CDEL Young Professionals Board), with the help of sponsor Mac One Midway, LLC, hosted its annual fall fundraiser on November 17, 2010, at the Cactus Bar in downtown Chicago.  The event was an enormous success and extremely well attended. Top-shelf spirits and a full Mexican buffet were featured, along with a raffle with prizes featuring some of the best experiences in Chicago. Lucky raffle winners received Bulls, and Cubs tickets, donated by attorneys at Corboy & Demetrio, and White Sox tickets donated by the President and CEO of the National Futures Association. Raffle winners also went home with entertainment packages from Chicago favorites such as Lucky Strike Bowling, Mia Francesca, and El Cid, a spa package from Dr. Anthony J. Geroulis, and a certificate from Tracy Burton Jewelry.

But the real winners of the evening were CDEL and its clients, thanks to the support of the attendees and donors, who raised significant funds to support the organization.

The Fundraiser would certainly not have been possible without the dedication of CDEL's YPB Members, particularly YPB Co-Treasurers Monique Swaback and Hollie Tarshis, both of Navigant Consulting, and YPB Board President Tony O'Neill of Williams Montgomery & John.

CDEL is grateful for the support and generosity of all who attended and made donations to make this event a monumental success.

CDEL Winter Gala
Thursday, February 24, 2011

The annual CDEL Winter Gala will take place on
Thursday, February 24, 2011, from 6 to 9 pm at
Baker & McKenzie LLP,
 130 East Randolph Drive, Chicago, IL 60601.

For information about corporate and firm sponsorship opportunities or
raffle donations, please contact CDEL.

As CDEL celebrates
26 years of helping the community,
consider giving to 
Give online, or mail your contribution to CDEL,
79 West Monroe Street, #919, Chicago, IL 60603.
CDEL is a nonprofit,
501(c)(3) organization.

If you make your donation
in the name of a friend,
family member, or
co-worker, CDEL will
send a holiday card to
that person to notify him or
her of your donation in that person's name.


Please contact CDEL for  more information.




Without the support of corporate and firm financial supporters, CDEL would be unable to offer its high-quality legal services, without charge, to Cook County's most vulnerable and under-represented residents. CDEL is pleased to announce a new partnership with Five ACCESSORIES.

A local socially conscious company, Five ACCESSORIES features handbags, jewelry, and home accessories from 5 locations around the world. The company's mission is to create income-generating programs, foster the use of sustainable materials, and donate a portion of revenues to worthy charitable causes.

Five ACCESSORIES is working with StreetWise and its vendors to create handmade fashion accessories using recycled "urban refuse," such as ticket stubs, bottle caps, and similar items collected from the streets of Chicago. This income-generating program, "Off The Street," helps people stay off the street and helps to clean up city litter. It instills pride in the participants, who are making useful and sustainable goods. CDEL is thrilled to announce that a portion of the proceeds for each frame sold will go to support both CDEL's and StreetWise's missions.


To learn more, please call 312.504.3483 or visit




Writing & Editing

Rebecca Nanney

Kate Ó Súilleabháin

Brian Raterman

Nisha Verma

Nicole Schroeder


Layout & Design

Kevin Mitrick


Michael Roth
Thomas Wendt

Contact Information
Center for Disability & Elder Law 

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