Posted on: July 31, 2014
Betsy Shuman-Moore has been committed to public interest work from the start of her career, starting with a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois and continuing through to her present positions as director of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s Bias Violence and Fair Housing Projects. Betsy has shown great dedication toward eliminating housing discrimination and furthering fair housing opportunities for Chicago residents. She served for seven years as a staff attorney and legal director for the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities – the same organization where she completed her PILI Internship in 1981. “It was quite an education for me,” she says of her Internship. “I learned about housing discrimination and the powerful tool of fair housing testers to prove discrimination, and was excited to join the attorneys in federal court and learn about federal legal practice on the ground.” During her Internship, she recalls working on two major cases involving affordable housing and racial discrimination in the Chicago area, Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. and Phillips v. Hunter Trails. And she remembers working for Leadership Council’s then-general counsel Bill Caruso fondly: “The Leadership Council made a lot of the early fair housing case law, a record to be proud of.”
After moving from the Leadership Council to the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, Betsy spent 17 years as director of its Hate Crime Project. She led volunteer attorneys to advocate for hate crime victims in criminal court and file civil suits against those who commit hate crimes. “We also have successfully advocated for many improvements in the Illinois Hate Crime Act and policy, educated thousands of community residents, and trained hundreds of law enforcement and other professionals,” she explains. This worked has influenced her current career mission with the Fair Housing Project to further educate Chicago residents about fair housing and lending laws, advocate for progressive laws and policies, and represent those who need assistance in enforcing their right to fair housing.
Betsy currently serves on the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In addition to receiving the PILI Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993, she has also received the Thomas and Eleanor Wright Award from the Chicago Commission on Human Relations in 2002, and was selected as a “Super Lawyer” in Illinois in civil rights in 2005. Her dedication to public service extends to her personal, charitable work as well. “I just joined the Metropolitan Tenants Organization board. I’m a tutor with Family Matters in Rogers Park, where I live. I do a lot of social justice work through my Lutheran church in Lakeview, including currently helping resettle a refugee family from Bhutan,” Betsy explains.
Betsy says her PILI Internship “introduced me to what is now a huge network of lawyers dedicated to public interest law in the Chicago area.” She is proud to be a part of this network and community. Her Internship gave her the necessary exposure to the skills and tools she needed to pursue a career in social justice, including litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, education and training, and working with law enforcement. She states, “teaching people what their rights are and the importance of asserting them is critical to achieving equality for all in the Chicago area and the country.”
This perspective has helped Betsy become one of the region’s preeminent fair housing leaders, and has driven her to work extensively for organizations whose mission is to help others gain equal access housing in Chicago and beyond. “I have been very fortunate to have spent my entire career in public interest law,” says Betsy. And being a PILI Intern “reinforced my desire to dedicate my career to the public interest.”