December 13, 2010

Legal Clinic to receive award for work with seniors

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University School of Law Legal Clinic will receive recognition later this week for its work with senior citizens.

Legal clinic attorneys will receive the Human Rights Day Award 2010 from the Southern Illinois Chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA. The award goes to John F. Erbes, interim clinic director and visiting assistant professor of law, and Rebecca O’Neill, clinical professor of law.

The presentation is 2 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 15, in the legal clinic in Kaplan Hall, 1205 Douglas Drive, across the street and southeast of the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building. Human Rights Day 2010 was Friday, Dec. 10.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the award presentation. For more information, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine thanked the organization on behalf of the law school for recognizing Erbes and O’Neill.

“Although we may not automatically think of the elderly when we think of human rights work, it is a sad fact that they are very often vulnerable to those in our society who would take advantage of them,” Fountaine said. “I am proud of the work that the Legal Clinic does to defend the human rights of the elderly in Southern Illinois. It is also nice for our students who work with John and Becky in the clinic to see their work recognized in this way. Hopefully, it will help inspire the next generation of attorneys to be human rights defenders as well.”

Erbes, the interim director since July 2009, has been a coordinator of the Civil Practice Clinic since 1996, while O’Neill, also a coordinator, has been with the clinic since 1991. The civil practice portion of the clinic provides free civil legal services for senior citizens 60 and older in 13 counties in Southern Illinois. Last year, the program had a little more than 630 cases, Erbes said.

Erbes said that he and O’Neill are very honored to be award recipients.

“We are especially pleased to be recognized together and accept it on behalf of all the staff of the Legal Clinic and the hundreds of students who over the years have assisted in representing the senior clients of the Legal Clinic,” he said.

“The clinic is proud of its reputation for serving seniors in Southern Illinois, many of whom would likely not have been able to secure legal representation without the clinic,” Erbes said. “The most vulnerable of our clients,some of whom because of their mental capacity,may not even have known we were assisting them, needed the legal help the most. Students in our clinic learn quickly how having legal representation can empower an individual who has felt powerless in a particular situation.”

The clinic provides services to residents 60 and older in Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union and Williamson counties.

The clinic’s services include drafting of simple wills and powers of attorneys, family law matters, guardianship issues, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, and consumer issues. Additional information on legal services available to older persons is available at