Post Authored by Chastidy Burns and Kenneth Matuszewski

In response to national discussions surrounding racial injustice, inequality, and police brutality, the Young Lawyers Section of the Chicago Bar Association has convened a coalition that will promote social justice by channeling the voices, skills, and support of younger attorneys to work toward the implementation of meaningful change and reform.

The CBA’s YLS Racial Justice Coalition was formed with the purpose of collaborating with leading forces in the Chicagoland legal community to take action against racial injustice through service programs, educational events, and community engagement, according to Chastidy Burns, the Second Vice-Chair of the CBA’s Young Lawyers Section.

“As leaders in bar associations and organizations across the Chicagoland area, we want to use our law degrees, knowledge, and connections to help end racial injustice and to enact lasting change in all of our communities,” said Burns.  “We believe that there is strength in numbers, and we are very excited to have so many motivated and enthusiastic partners joining in our efforts.”

The Coalition held its first meeting on June 25th via Zoom, and the initiative already has investment from 30 diverse bar associations and legal advocacy groups.  For its first official event this coming Friday, July 17th, the coalition has secured U.S. Senator Dick Durbin to participate in a live webcast discussion about the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.  To register for the free lunchtime program go to www.chicagobar.org/chicagobar/RJC.

According to the Coalition’s mission statement, the group will concentrate on the following areas:

Service – Collaboration with other bar associations to facilitate pro bono and community service opportunities that focus on combating racial disparities, addressing the concerns of minority groups, and building a bridge between the legal community and the clients it serves.

Community Engagement – Building relationships with community organizations and local government leaders to promote social justice and work to impact action and legislation supporting the eradication of systematic racism.

Education – Encouraging bar association members to collaborate to provide training, seminars, speakers’ series, and workshops focusing on diversity and inclusion.

The Coalition has already begun planning and scheduling events, including the panel discussion featuring Senator Durbin, as well as a discussion with local government leaders about the Civilian Police Accountability Council and a call to action for community members, according to Kenny Matuszewski, the CBA YLS Public Service Manager.

“Education is the cornerstone of change. All efforts to make change are shaped around it, and the resulting structures and systems from this foundation either stand or fall. Through these events, we hope to empower members of our coalition to write to their representatives and express the changes they would like to see in their communities,” said Matuszewski.

“Further, if there’s one thing that this year has taught us, it’s that time is of the essence. Life’s script was flipped overnight, yet people have adapted, organized, and responded to injustice at a rate that would have been previously impossible to imagine. By coming together and working under the Coalition’s three central pillars, we collectively amplify our central message that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” said Matuszewski.

The bar associations and other legal organizations that have joined the coalition include the Appellate Lawyers Association (ALA), Arab American Bar Association of Illinois (AABAR), Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (AABA), Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago (BWLA), Catholic Lawyers Guild, Chicago Bar Association (CBA), Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women, Chicago Bar Association’s Lawyers In the Classroom Program, Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF), Chicago Women in IP (ChiWIP), Chinese American Bar Association (CABA), Cook County Bar Association, Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI), Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), Illinois Association of Defense Counsel (IDC), Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IL ARDC), Illinois State Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ISBA-YLD), Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism (2Civility), Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago (IPLAC),  Justinian Society of Lawyers (Justinians), Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago (LAGBAC), National Lawyers Guild (NLG), North Suburban Bar Association (NSBA), Serbian Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association (SABA), South Suburban Bar Association (SSBA), Southwest Bar Association (SWBA),  UIC John Marshall SBA, Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), and the Women’s Criminal Defense Bar Association (WCDBA).

To learn about joining the coalition or for more information about plans and programs, go to   www.chicagobar.org/chicagobar/RJC.

About the Authors:

Chastidy Burns has been an Assistant Public Defender in the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender since July of 2013. She is currently assigned to the Felony Trial Division. Prior to joining the office, she was an Associate Attorney for the Shiller Preyar Law Offices where she practiced criminal defense and civil rights litigation. She graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 2008, and she received her Juris Doctorate with a certificate in Public Interest Law from the DePaul University College of Law in 2012. In addition to being the Member Services Manager of the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, Chastidy is the Immediate Past President of the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Inc., a member of the Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization Associate Board, a founding member and Past President of the DePaul Law Alumni Engagement Board, and a member of the University of Chicago Alumni Club of Chicago Board of Directors.

Kenneth “Kenny” Matuszewski is an Associate Counsel at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, LLP, and concentrates his practice in patent prosecution, counseling, and litigation. Representative technologies he has worked with include electronic gaming machines, blockchain, drones, microphones, power tools, cancer treatments, and autofluorescent tissues. He double-majored in Biological Sciences and Spanish at the University of Notre Dame, earned his J.D. at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and later obtained a B.S. in Computer Science at Oregon State University. In addition to serving as the Public Service Manager, Kenny is also a Co-Chair of the YLS IP Committee. He received the YLS’ Rising Star Award for Leaders with Exceptional Promise in 2019. In 2020, he earned both the David C. Hilliard Award for Outstanding Committee Service in Intellectual Property and the Impact Award for Leaders with Substantial Impact on the Section. In his spare time, Kenny plays tuba and euphonium in the CBA’s Symphony Orchestra and Barristers’ Big Band.