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Attorney Melissa Staas Awarded Chicago Bar Foundation Sun-Times Fellowship Print E-mail

The Chicago Bar Foundation

321 S. Plymouth Court Chicago IL, 60604

(p) 312-554-1204 (f) 312-554-1203


OCTOBER 26, 2010

CONTACT: Dina Merrell


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Bob Glaves


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$50,000 Fellowships for Five Legal Aid Attorneys Offset Law School Debt

and Allow Dedicated Lawyers to Continue Serving Those Most in Need

Chicago, IL – Last night, five legal aid attorneys received key financial assistance to help them continue serving the most vulnerable people in our community.  On Monday, October 25th, The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) presented the 2010 CBF Sun-Times Public Interest Law Fellowships to:

·         Amany Ezeldin, Life Span

·         Mariangela Monteiro, Equip for Equality

·         Melissa Staas, Family Defense Center

·         Monica Torres-Linares, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago

·         Katherine Zalewski, Uptown People’s Law Center

The Fellows each will receive $50,000 in loan repayment assistance over five years to help them continue their careers in legal aid.

“Each of our Fellows has accepted the financial sacrifice it takes to ensure that those in need have access to our justice system.  Each day these inspiring and impactful lawyers improve our community and make a difference in people’s lives,” said David Mann, Chair of the CBF Sun-Times Fellowship Selection Committee.

First awarded in 2007, the CBF awards five annual fellowships of up to $50,000 per fellowship to individual legal aid or public interest law attorneys who demonstrate a commitment to public interest

work, academic achievement in law school, and outstanding character and integrity. The CBF Sun-Times Fellowship addresses a crisis facing lawyers in our community who are increasingly finding that a career in legal aid and public interest law is simply untenable from an economic standpoint.

Lawyers graduating today typically have an average of more than $100,000 in law school debt, while starting salaries in the legal aid and public interest law field average only $49,000.  Through a generous $2 million cy pres award from a case involving the Chicago Sun-Times, the CBF was able to create these fellowships to provide significant loan repayment assistance to those who most need it.

“One of the top priorities for the CBF is to make it possible for dedicated attorneys to pursue careers in legal aid and public interest law given the often overwhelming financial challenges facing this sector,” said Bob Glaves, executive director of The Chicago Bar Foundation.  “Through the CBF Sun-Times Fellowship, we are able to make it more manageable for these attorneys to serve the people in our community who are in most critical need of the protections of our justice system.”

Each of the five fellowship recipients provides vital legal assistance to the most vulnerable members of our community.  Amany Ezeldin helps immigrant victims of domestic violence gain safety from their abusers and obtain lawful immigration status; Mari Monteiro advocates on behalf of disabled individuals, particularly those with traumatic brain injuries; Melissa Staas advocates for justice on behalf of families involved in the Illinois child welfare system; and Monica Torres-Linares and Katherine Zalewski work to ensure due process for low-income individuals and their families.

Upon receiving her Fellowship, Mari Monteiro, the Traumatic Brain Injury Project Manager for Equip for Equality, said “While managing a considerable student loan debt is a difficult balancing act for legal aid attorneys, this award will significantly reduce this struggle for me.”

More information on each of the 2010 Fellows follows this release.  Photos of the Fellows are available.

About The Chicago Bar Foundation

The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) mobilizes Chicago’s legal community to use their time, money and influence so that low-income and disadvantaged people in the Chicago area can access the legal help they need. Through grants, advocacy, pro bono and partnerships, the CBF takes a system-wide approach to improving access to justice.

The CBF’s work is made possible by the generous contributions of thousands of dedicated individuals, more than 200 law firms and corporations and many other committed partners.  The CBF is the charitable arm of The Chicago Bar Association.

For more information about the CBF, please call Bob Glaves at 312-554-1205 or email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit

CBF Sun-Times Fellows

Brief Biographies of the 2010 CBF Sun-Times Fellows


Amany Ezeldin, Life Span

Amany, a 2005 graduate of DePaul University College of Law, joined Life Span’s staff in 2006.  She is currently a staff attorney and heads up Life Span’s Immigration Project.  At Life Span, she represents battered women in their family law cases and also assists them in obtaining lawful immigration status.  As a tri-lingual attorney (English, Arabic and Spanish) with an extensive knowledge of immigration law, Amany is indispensable at Life Span.  She is a leader in her field, demonstrated in part by her work with the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network for which she co-chairs the Immigrant Battered Women’s Collaborative.  In addition, Amany is an adjunct professor at Columbia College, where she currently teaches a course on human rights.

Mariangela Monteiro, Equip for Equality

Mari, a 2004 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law, joined Equip for Equality as a staff attorney shortly after graduation.  Today she serves as the Traumatic Brain Injury Project Manager at Equip for Equality, a statewide nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to and advocacy on behalf of disabled people.  Under Mari’s leadership, the Traumatic Brain Injury Project has reached many people who were unaware of the services available at Equip for Equality, including veterans.  In a federal review, the Project was recognized as a model project within the U.S. Protection & Advocacy System and is being replicated in other parts of the country.  Chicago-Kent also recognized Mari’s valuable contributions to Chicago’s public interest law community by awarding her with the law school’s 2010 Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Award.

Melissa Staas, Family Defense Center

Melissa graduated magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2007.  Her interest in the state’s child welfare system goes back to her time at law school, where she participated in Loyola’s Child Law Program and served as editor of the Children’s Legal Rights Journal.  In 2007, Melissa joined Family Defense Center as a staff attorney.  At Family Defense Center, Melissa advocates for justice on behalf of families involved in Illinois’ child welfare system, particularly in the administrative hearings setting when a parent has been found to have abused or neglected his or her children.  In addition to providing direct representation to clients, Melissa is engaged in systemic advocacy and also trains and supports pro bono attorneys in their work on behalf of Family Defense Center’s clients.  The stakes for these clients are high, including the eventual loss of the custody of their children and in some cases, their employment.  Without Melissa’s help, these vulnerable clients would have nowhere else to turn.

Monica Torres-Linares, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago

Monica, a 2002 graduate of The John Marshall Law School, already has distinguished herself in Chicago’s legal community.  As a dedicated public interest law attorney, Monica has made many contributions to various facets of Chicago’s legal system, including serving as a staff attorney in the Child Protection Division in the Circuit Court of Cook County, an Assistant Cook County Public Defender and a staff attorney with the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund.  In 2008, she joined the South Holland office of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago as a staff attorney.  In her current position, Monica represents low-income people and their families and helps them resolve a variety of civil legal problems, including housing, family law, domestic violence and public benefits.  Monica’s talents and commitment to ensuring access to justice for all have been recognized in the community.  In 2008-2009, Monica served as President of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois.  In addition, she has also received other honors, including the 35 under 35 Community Leader Award and the Latino Law Student Association Alumni Award from The John Marshall Law School.

Katherine Zalewksi, Uptown People's Law Center

Katherine is a 2007 DePaul University College of Law graduate.  Immediately following graduation, she moved to New Orleans to help rebuild the city and ensure that low-income people had a voice in the rebuilding.  In 2008, she joined Uptown People’s Law Center as a staff attorney.  Her work today primarily focuses on representing disabled people in their public benefits cases, mainly Social Security disability and Medicaid.  She also handles some eviction and prisoner civil rights cases.  Katherine has spent much energy striving to expand the community of public interest lawyers, primarily through her long affiliation with the National Lawyers Guild.  During law school, she led DePaul’s chapter which grew significantly under her leadership, and also held leadership positions in the Chicago and Midwest chapters.  Following graduation, Katherine worked with others to create the “Next Generation Committee,” designed to establish mentoring and support systems for newer public interest lawyers.


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Notice (12/4/2014): The Family Defense Center is hiring a Deputy Executive Director. The Deputy Executive Director will direct, administer, and coordinate the internal operations of the organization in accordance with policies, goals, and objectives established by the Executive Director and the Board of Directors. Please click here to read more about the position and learn about the application process.


Notice to all persons located in the state of Illinois who were:

A. Investigated or indicated for neglect under Allegation 60 from July 13, 2012 through December 31, 2013; 


B. Were indicated for neglect under Allegation 60 from May 31, 2014 through June 11, 2014. 

A class action lawsuit, entitled Ashley M., et al. v. Ill. Dep’t of Children & Family Servs., et al., No. 2013 CH 20278, is now pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division, Cook County, Illinois.

Please click here to read the full notice of this proposed settlement and fairness hearing.


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