Illinois Judges Association

Pro Bono Spotlight - November 2023


This month’s spotlight is Judge Barbara Crowder, retired, Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit who has an extensive resume that includes on-going support for pro bono services. Upon graduation from law school, Judge Crowder was an Assistant State’s Attorney in Madison County for three years, then worked in the private practice of law for thirteen years until being appointed associate judge and later elected circuit judge. She was a judge for twenty years, retiring in 2018. 

Judge Crowder stated: “The need for pro bono services was brought home to me early in my career. It was hard to see how we were failing many of our litigants who just didn’t feel as if anyone was hearing them.” Judge Crowder did not simply note a problem. Along with others she acted to address it. 

In 2011, Judge Crowder was instrumental in forming the Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee (the first one,) There are now eleven Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees created by the local circuit court and chief circuit judge which are under the auspices of the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI). Each committee consists of local judges, retired judges, lawyers, law firms, corporations, bar associations, and public interest law organizations having a general mission of promoting pro bono services. Judge Crowder was chair of the Third Judicial District committee from its formation until she retired. Also, she was past president of the Illinois Judges Foundation in 2009.  

After retirement, Judge Crowder became President of the Illinois Judges Association in 2021. During that year the IJA Pro Bono Committee was created and she has continued her involvement in that committee. Judge Crowder serves on the Lawyers Trust Fund which supports civil legal aid. She also participates in pro bono services such as Illinois Free Legal Answers, an on-line consultation program through the Public Interest Law Initiative, one of the many ways active and retired lawyers and retired judges can make a difference.  

Judge Crowder participates in many state and local philanthropic projects including her long-time membership in the Illinois Bar Association where she is Vice-chair of the Senior Lawyers Section Council. a member of its Standing Committee on Legislation, and the Bench and Bar Council.  

Judge Crowder has received numerous awards plus having a pro bono award named after her; namely, the 2023 inaugural Judge Barbara Crowder Pro Bono Champion award, given to a local person who promotes/assists pro bono services such as a courthouse employee, judge, or community pro bono volunteer, by the Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee. Just some of the other awards are: 2017 Pro Bono Leadership Award from that Committee and the 2012 Joseph Bartylak Pro Bono Award from the Land of Lincoln Assistance Foundation.  

Judge Crowder noted: “ Justice requires equal access to the court. Sitting judges can support pro bono by being active in training lawyers, in accommodating scheduling for pro bono attorneys, and in supporting legal aid organizations. Retired judges-even fully retired judges-can do as much or as little pro bono as they wish,” …like Illinois Free Legal Answers, Help Desks, and limited scope representation. They can do it without an active law license or professional liability insurance if they participate through an approved legal aid organization.  

Thank you, Judge Crowder, from the Illinois Judges Association and its Pro Bono Committee, for your lifetime work and support of pro bono services.