The Illinois Judicial Council Foundation (IJCF) is the sister organization to the Illinois Judicial Council (IJC). Shortly after its inception in 1983, the IJC committed its resources to establishment of scholarships awarded to minority and other needy law students on an annual basis. After a period of time, the need to formalize a non-profit charitable entity for this purpose became apparent and in January 1999 the IJCF was formally incorporated as a Section 501(C)(3) organization.
The IJCF’S membership is comprised of retired state and federal jurists as well as administrative law judges and other adjudicative officers.
Since 1999, the IJCF has funded over 70 scholarships, totaling over $200, 000 for minority and other deserving law students in Illinois and beyond. These scholarships, awarded annually by the IJC, are based on applicant interviews and the following criteria: academic achievement, financial need, community involvement and the demonstrated ability in overcoming obstacles.
The mission of the IJCF is to provide the necessary financial resources to the IJC in furtherance of its philanthropic, educational, and community-based activities for law students, particularly those interested in social justice and equity issues.
The IJCF enjoys close collaboration with the IJC in sponsoring fundraising activities as well as programs of community interest. The IJCF had established relationships with local law schools and has enlisted their commitment to provide matching funds to IJC scholarship recipients. These law schools include:
Loyola University of Chicago
The John Marshall Law School/
University of Illinois
Chicago Kent College of Law
DePaul University College of Law
Northwestern University College of Law
Southern Illinois University College of Law
IJCF Board of Directors
Hon. Theodore Sherrod (ret)
Chairman / asst treasurer
Hon. Camille E. Willis (ret)
Hon. Robbin Perkins
Hon. Sidney A. Jones, iii (ret)
Hon. Drella C. Savage (ret)
Ex Officio & Chairman Emerita
Hon. Rodney Hughes Brooks (ret)
Hon. Raymond Funderburk (Ret)
Hon. Shelvin Louise Marie Hall (Ret)
Hon. Orville E. Hambright, Jr. (Ret).
Hon. La Quietta Hardy Campbell (ret)
Hon. Mary Maxwell Thomas (ret)
Hon. Carl McCormick (ret)
get involved where it counts
Since 1999, the Illinois Judicial Council Foundation has dramatically impacted the lives of law students who may not have otherwise had the resources to complete their education. Average law school debt is $135,000, making it difficult for students from under-represented communities to complete law school. Your gift can make all the difference in the lives of these students. Together, we can support these individuals in finishing their education and paying it forward to the communities which they represent.
(You can direct how your donation will be used)
Brandy is a 3L at UIC John Marshall Law School where she has been on the Dean’s List in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Brandy describes herself as a “non-traditional” law student, having obtained her bachelor’s degree while in her 30’s and going on to receive her MBA from the University of Arizona before pursuing law. Brandy has a strong interest in civil rights and appellate defense work and she has obtained clinical experience at both the Cook County State’s Attorney Office and at the Shelby County (TN) Public Defender’s Office. She has also served as the student representative on the Faculty Academic Affairs Committee at the law school.
reaching back, providing a hand up, preparing A more just future
The IJCF is committed to promoting diversity in the legal profession. Data shows that as of 2017, only 5% of attorneys in the U.S. respectively identified as African American or Latino. By investing in law students from underrepresented communities, we are passing on an important torch and increasing their representation in the ranks of practicing attorneys, public officials, and community leaders.
(You can direct how your donation will be used)
2023 scholarship recipients
The 41st Annual Installation & Scholarship Awards Ceremony was held on September 21, 2023. The Illinois Judicial Council Foundation, Inc. awarded scholarships to six well-deserving, unique and talented law students.
Ms. Bethany Ekwonwa
My name is Bethany Ekwonwa. I am a rising 2L at the University of Illinois College of Law and for my entire life, I have been positioned at the intersection of diversity and advocacy. This is because my ancestors manifested my success before I was ever born. Many centuries ago in Nigeria, my ancestors were attacked because having a small number of family members was seen as a weakness. Following this tragedy, my ancestors ruminated on finding the perfect name to represent their family and the generations to come: Ekwonwa. Pronounced “Aye-koah-wah.” Meaning “because of my children.” My ancestors strategically chose our last name because it is not a complete sentence. This makes the possibilities of what my family would do for its children endless and explains how I got to where I am today because of what my paternal grandfather unknowingly did for me. My grandfather always dreamed of being a lawyer. Unfortunately, growing up as a young boy in Nigeria, there was a lack of opportunities for him to pursue his dream. As a result, his dream remained a dream, but he never gave up hope that someday, someone with his last name would answer “yes” when asked if they were a lawyer.
When I told my father, at age twelve, that I wanted to be a lawyer, he shared that story with me. It was in that moment that I knew I had to do whatever it took to get me to live out my dream while simultaneously living out my grandfather’s dream for him.
Ms. Jennifer Dickey
Besides being an ethnically diverse candidate, I believe I bring diversity in my background, unique experiences, and resilience, which drives my passion to help others. A few years ago I suffered from a debilitating neurological disease caused by a coronavirus, much like the one we are experiencing now. I fought hard to regain the ability to walk and three years later I am completely cured. My recovery allowed me time for reflection. This experience of fighting for justice for my health did not instill bitterness, but it re-instilled a dedication to fairness and justice and reactivated my passion for law. It was a reminder that the pursuit of justice does not start and end in the courtroom and that the law itself reflects justice and fairness in our society.
This experience showed me that it is important to me to strive to uphold diversity in the legal field and lend a hand to those who come after me. Over the past few years, I have dedicated my time to give back to pre-law students in the hopes that they receive quality LSAT tutoring services, for free, to help end the disparities in law school education. To date, I have raised over $10,000 to go towards tutoring services. My hope is to develop my organization into a scholarship fund that will also support students after they are accepted into the law school of their dreams. My belief is that with the appropriate prelaw support and guidance we can bridge the gap in LSAT numbers and acceptances for minorities and underserved populations.
This year I have pledged to train to be a mentor for the Law School Mentor community, to help navigate prelaw and law students in their pursuit of a legal education. As a mentor I hope to be a crucial driver in law students overcoming challenges and succeeding in their goal to be a well-rounded attorney.
Mr. Kamryn Sutton
I am a 24 year-old rising 3L at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where I’m studying to become a criminal defense attorney. I came to Loyola directly after graduating cum laude from DePaul University in 2021, making me one of the youngest people in my class.
With respect to my reasons for going to law school, the answer isn’t so simple. As a junior in high-school deciding which university to attend, I was forced to sit down and consider what I wanted to do with my life. After some careful self-reflection, I narrowed my choices down to psychiatry or law. My ultimate decision came unexpectedly, after viewing a particularly disturbing video.
I was browsing social media when I came across some footage of a young Black man who was being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. After refusing to exit his vehicle, the police officer in the video forcibly yanked the young man out of his car. I’d seen similar videos before, but this one had a deeper effect on me. Pinned to the ground by a police officer who was appeared to be twice his size, the young man was screaming for his mother to come help him. Moments later, the officer drew his weapon and let off several rounds, killing the young man. The screams echoed in my head and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I felt so angry, but it wasn’t just anger—it was pain, too. It felt personal, like I had known this young man. It wasn’t fair—no one should shot to death because of a simple traffic violation.
Despite how my blood boiled after watching that young man’s execution, I knew there was no point in holding onto the anger. Anger is fleeting and volatile—it’s dangerous and unproductive. Instead, I decided to channel the anger I felt into a more productive energy. At that point, my mind was made up: I was going to law school, and I was going to become an attorney.
Ms. Leah Hall
On January 26th, 2021, I stood before the Court on behalf of my aunt, pleading for the judge to consider a ruling other than incarceration. One day before my mother’s birthday, my aunt was arrested and charged with being complicit in one of the most heinous crimes an individual can commit. I have always aspired to become an attorney, but ever since my aunt has been imprisoned, there is not a day that goes by when I don’t wish I could have provided her with the best legal aid possible.
Before law school, I was employed as a Probation Officer at the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. My work included client-based entrepreneurial practices, anticipating their need, and delivering the most equitable advice and resources. Working with high-level alleged offenders in the county jail taught me how to think on my feet and take preventative measures through evidence-based practices. I came to law school intending to pay it forward and bloom wherever I am planted. This summer, I am working as a judicial extern to the Honorable Dan Polster in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Through this experience, I plan to strengthen my legal writing and research and better understand courtroom procedures and etiquette. Additionally, I look forward to developing professional relationships with the judicial staff.
Giving back by enhancing my knowledge, zealously advocating for clients, providing equitable resources, and eliminating the numerous barriers that keep underrepresented communities out of the legal profession aligns with my core values and interest in becoming an attorney. My development into the woman I am today was rooted in adversity. I have become comfortable with being uncomfortable, embracing new journeys with humility and grit to reach my goals.
Mr. Stanley Ihejirika
As a child of Nigerian immigrants who emigrated during the Biafran War, I have experienced the challenges that being different from other people can bring. Growing up, my culture was often misunderstood and sometimes ridiculed for being too difficult to understand. This experience led me to the legal field, which is also frequently misunderstood and ridiculed for its complexity. I was drawn to law school by my desire to advocate for the Nigerian community and overcome the barriers that many people face within the legal system.
My motivation stems from a life-changing experience in which a family member of mine was taken advantage of by the police due to our ignorance of the system, resulting in their wrongful imprisonment. This incident compelled me to take on roles that seek justice for minorities and immigrants in my community. My family struggled to comprehend the police procedures and often had to ask the lawyer to explain things in simpler terms. When I was eventually asked to translate and help them understand the case, I discovered several inconsistencies. After changing legal counsel, my family member was released, and the real culprit, who had stolen the items from the burglary, was apprehended two months later. This experience transformed our lives because it revealed that the legal system cannot be blindly trusted and highlighted the varying quality of lawyers.
However, despite the initial fear I experienced for my family member’s well-being, I developed a deep love for the legal field. The underlying excitement of being partially responsible for saving his life was profound. In law school, this excitement has only intensified as I realize the impact my voice can have on future clients. I am honored to bear the responsibility of being heard in critical settings where it can make all the difference for immigrants and minorities.
I aspire to be an example for students with diverse backgrounds, showing them that they can find their voices in the legal field and work towards simplifying the law and bridging it with our culture.
Mr. Tomale Williams
One of my most significant reasons for pursuing law and wanting to become a trial attorney and then a Judge is the racial harassment I experienced as a young adult and watching some of my closest family members, like my father, be wrongly impacted by the criminal justice system. When I was seventeen, running home late from a student government, Chicago police officers ordered me to stop and began to frisk me aggressively. The officers warned me not to move and asked if I had any weapons. I replied that I only had my library books. According to them, I “fit the description” of the Black male suspect they sought. As I was lying across the hood of a police car in handcuffs, I felt like I could not say anything to save myself. I was shaken, confused, and angry at what had happened. I then recognized that the books in my hands were perhaps the most potent weapons I could wield against this system of racial profiling and harassment. I knew in my heart that I could make a change for the better, not just for myself but for young Black men and women who may have experienced disproportionate levels of racism. While at Tennessee State University and competing on our national-winning speech and debate team, I knew that I could make a difference; I knew the law was meant for me. Going to law school was never a motive to impress my parents or my family and friends; it was about safety and being able to be in certain rooms and places to make a difference for my community. After graduating college in 2019, I waited nearly three years to go to law school; I worked in healthcare policy and advocacy to help bring awareness to health disparities in Black men and women in the Chicagoland area. Then in January 2022, I applied to law school, and now I am a rising 2L and Dean’s List Scholar at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
2023 Scholarship Committee
Hon. Sharon O. Johnson — Chairperson
Hon. Patrice Ball-Reed
Hon. Tiana Blakely
Hon. Shelvin Louise Marie Hall (Ret.)
Hon. Lionel Jean-Baptiste
Hon. Berta Requena
Hon. Theodore R. Sherrod, Jr.
Hon. Arthur Willis
ways to give
Giving is as easy as:
- PayPal on the website.
- Sending your contribution to IJCF at P.O. Box 15143, 1510 E. 55th St., Chicago, IL 60615.
- Designating IJCF to receive matching funds from your employer.
- Directing contributions, grants, and awards to the IJCF from philanthropic, fraternal, and other charitable organizations with which you are affiliated.
(You can direct how your donation will be used)
(You can direct how your donation will be used)
become an ijcf sponsor
Consider supporting IJCF as a scholarship sponsor. The following sponsorship levels are available:
Scales of Justice Partner–$5,000+
Pass the Torch Partner–$2500+
Social Justice Partner–$1000+
Level the Field Partner–$500+
Matching Law School Awards
- Loyola University Chicago School of Law
- The John Marshall Law School
- Chicago Kent College of Law
- DePaul College of Law
- Northwestern University School of Law
- University of Illinois (Chicago/Southern)
- Law firms
The IJCF welcomes your questions and feedback. Please use our web form and we will strive to email you a response as expeditiously as possible.
We truly appreciate your interest and support.