Cy Pres Awards

Promoting access to justice through cy pres

Attorneys and judges handling class action cases can help promote justice for all residents of Illinois by recommending the Illinois Bar Foundation as a recipient for a cy pres award. Because of the Illinois Bar Foundation’s work in providing access to justice to vulnerable populations, cy pres distributions to the Illinois Bar Foundation have long been accepted as the next best use of such unclaimed funds.

What is cy pres?

In class action lawsuits, if damages are awarded to class members, a fund is created. After class members’ claims are paid, a residual amount often remains. Under the doctrine of cy pres, judges and counsel can then recommend that these residual funds be distributed to the “next best” use.

The cy pres doctrine has evolved into a flexible tool that allows a court to use its authority to make funds available to public interest, charitable, educational and other public service organizations.

While it is ultimately up to the courts to determine whether a cy pres award is appropriate, attorneys for the plaintiff and defense can each play an important role in directing cy pres awards to the Illinois Bar Foundation.

Why the Illinois Bar Foundation?

  • Mission: A key focus of the mission of the Illinois Bar Foundation is improving access to the civil justice system. The IBF seeks new and innovative ways to make the court system more accessible to those in need.
  • Alliances: The IBF works closely with the court system, the organized bar, and the legal aid community to foster programs to improve the legal system in Illinois.
  • Flexibility: The IBF has the flexibility of using a cy pres award to expand our established grant making program or to target the funds towards specific access to justice projects or organizations.
  • Free of Potential Conflicts: The IBF does not file lawsuits or represent parties in any court, and thus is free of any potential conflict that otherwise might arise for the court or the defendant(s) in a case. The IBF is a nonpartisan organization with no political agenda to influence funding decisions.
  • Expertise & Stewardship: The IBF annually funds organizations throughout the State involved in improving the legal system, using a rigorously vetted grant making process. The IBF’s Board and staff can direct limited resources to fund programs making the biggest impact for those seeking legal aid in Illinois. Thousands of lawyers each year entrust the IBF’s Board of Directors with the stewardship of their charitable dollars. With almost 70 years of experience distributing funds to improve the legal system, you can be confident that cy pres funds will be strategically and objectively allocated within the community.
  • Local & Statewide Focus: The IBF brings a statewide perspective to its work, funding projects in every appellate district throughout the State. The IBF strives to distribute funds with geographic diversity in mind, from rural areas, where the need for legal services is particularly great, to Chicago, its suburbs, and beyond. With a statewide view of the legal aid system, the IBF can direct cy pres funds to projects with the greatest impact and in areas of greatest need.

For more information, please contact Stacey Meehan.

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