Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts

Chicago Appleseed is a social impact research and advocacy organization which uses multidisciplinary research to identify community injustices, and to develop and advocate for practical solutions. We focus on the areas of Criminal Justice Reform, Judicial and Lawyer Ethics, Immigration Court Reform, and Family Law.


Criminal Justice Reform: Advocating for substantial changes in the court system which will allow the diverting of thousands of non-violent offenders into drug and mental health treatment programs and out of costly jail cells. Working closely with the Cook County Justice Advisory Council, we are researching justice system innovations and their potential applications in Cook County. In June 2012 we released our report, Strategies to Enhance and Coordinate Cook County Diversion Programs.

Judicial and Lawyer Ethics: Established the Center for Judicial Performance and Integrity (Center). Within the Center is the Judicial Performance Commission of Cook County, which uses judicial evaluations to help improve the quality of the judiciary through research-based reports, judicial performance improvement plans, and court watching. The Center also focuses on making judicial campaign contributions more transparent, and on making judicial recusal standards more rigorous when judges have received substantial campaign contributions from the lawyers or litigants appearing before them.

Immigration Court Reform: In collaboration with National Appleseed, the Appleseed Network of Justice Centers, and national law firms Akin Gump and Latham & Watkins, Chicago Appleseed produced major reports, Congressional testimony, and advocacy materials detailing recommendations that will make the immigration court system fairer and more efficient. In 2012, we released our latest report, Reimagining the Immigration Court Assembly Line: Transformative Change for the Immigration Justice System.

Family law: Working to make the Illinois child support system more efficient and effective. Projects are underway to identify proposed innovations and review existing improvements to ensure that the court treats fairly and equally both marital and non-marital children.

PILI Opportunities:

We are seeking assistance in the preparation of Policy Briefs – research and advocacy papers that explore current trends in public policy. In particular, Chicago Appleseed policy briefs investigate and propose policy innovations with potential to improve Chicago, Cook County, and/or Illinois courts and legal systems. Chicago Appleseed then advocates for the implementation of these innovations.

This agency is approved to host a Law Student Intern during the summer. They are also approved to host Graduate Fellows.