Illinois Judges Association

Pro Bono Spotlight - June 2022

Over the next year, through its Pro Bono Committee, the Illinois Judges Association will be drawing greater attention to the need for and importance of Pro Bono Legal Services. This Committee is being led by Justice Thomas Kilbride (Ret.) and Judge Julie Katz, and will focus on how sitting judges can support Pro Bono and how retired judges can provide Pro bono legal services to those in need across Illinois. As part of that effort, the IJA will spotlight an IJA member each month who is supporting Pro Bono or providing Pro Bono legal assistance.

Our June spotlight is on Judge Carol Pentuic.  After receiving her Associate’s Degree of Arts from the College of DuPage, she attended  Northwestern University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.  She went on to the University of Iowa, College of Law to obtain her Juris Doctorate where she graduated with Distinction. Following Law school, Judge Pentuic  worked for Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. During  her service there she became the Managing attorney for the Rock Island Office. When she left Prairie State, Judge Pentuic became a Partner at the Brooks law firm. There she practiced in the areas of Family law, Landlord/Tenant and Insurance defense. 

Judge Pentuic’s career as a  jurist  began in the 14th Judicial Circuit as an Associate Judge in 2003. During her tenure as an Associate, Judge Pentuic handled General jurisdiction, Family law and Felony Criminal cases. She is currently the Rock Island County Arbitration Supervising Judge. In this assignment, she also covers high volume traffic /misdemeanors, small claims and evictions. On March 9, 2021, she was appointed as an At-Large Circuit County Judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit which ends when she retires in December of this year. The 14th Judicial Circuit includes Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Whiteside counties.

Judge Pentuic has been a member of the 14th Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee for many years. She has advocated for several years that an Expungement Clinic be held locally. It finally started in 2021 and is being held again this year. Her service doesn’t stop there.  She is also a designated Mentor Judge for the 14th Judicial Circuit. Her commitment to Social Justice and Public Service is ongoing as is evidenced by her leadership in the Eviction diversion program.

The Eviction Diversion Program is similar to the EPT program in Cook County. Persons who participate in the program need the resources. They are profoundly effected by the current economic environment and the Covid pandemic. During the two year period of developing the Eviction Diversion program, several entities supported and helped to develop the process with the Judiciary.

Those entities are the Rock Island County Bar Association who was represented by Attorney Jennifer Kincaid. She worked with Michelle Fitzsimmons of Prairie State Legal Services to develop an Eviction toolkit. Ms. Fitzsimmons is now an Associate Judge. Another entity Project Now provided representation through its Executive director, Dwight Ford, their Community Services Director, Ron Lund and their Executive Administrative Assistant, Mary McNeil. Project Now is a local community action agency. On their website it reflects that they provide a broad range of services to help meet basic needs and achieve self-sufficiency. Through their programs they strive to eliminate the causes of poverty though strategic initiatives and alleviate the negative conditions where poor people live through strategic partnerships. Their mission is to strengthen communities by helping people help themselves and one another.

Another entity that supports the Eviction Diversion program is PILI (Public Interest Law Initiative) PILI  through its dynamic leadership of Michael Bergman,is celebrating its 45th Anniversary. As indicated on its website, PILI is advancing equal access to justice by connecting members of the legal community with those in need of legal assistance.  Its mission is to engage, inspire and empower those advancing equal access to justice. Their vision is stated as follows:” We envision making equal access to justice a reality through a legal community with a deeply rooted culture of service, where pro bono and public interest law engagement is optimized to best serve people, families and communities in need.”

Additional support is provided by the way of rental assistance through the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is an International movement. Today, it is active in virtually every corner of the world and serves in 131 countries offering a message of hope to all those in need.

The 14th Judicial Circuit has been well served by Judge Carol Pentuic’s hard work and commitment to social justice and Pro Bono service.  She will be missed when she retires to travel and probably providing volunteer legal services. We wish her well.