Mary Frances Charlton has joined the staff of the Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic. We asked Mary Frances to introduce herself.
I am thrilled to join CCH’s Law Project as the Youth Health Attorney! In this role, I’ll be providing civil legal representation to Chicago-area youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability and advocating for policies that reduce systemic barriers to health care and public benefits for homeless youth and adults.
Prior to coming to CCH, I worked for a consumer rights law firm, Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin, representing consumers in fighting unlawful debt collection and banking practices in both federal and Illinois state courts.
Before that, I spent five years as an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) in Virginia, where I led the public benefits and health programs. My work at LAJC focused on the Affordable Care Act and ensuring access to public benefits and health care for immigrant families. In addition, I taught law students in the Health Law Clinic and the Employment Law Clinic with the University of Virginia School of Law and supervised those students in representing LAJC clients.
While at LAJC, I served as lead counsel in Manning v. Caldwell, a federal challenge to a Virginia statute which was used to incarcerate homeless individuals experiencing alcohol use disorder. Fortunately, this unjust law was recently held to be unconstitutional as a result of the lawsuit. Litigating that case allowed me to spend a lot of time meeting with clients experiencing homelessness, hearing their stories, and learning from them. It also allowed me to see the countless ways the legal and health care systems are failing our communities.
I believe that dismantling the systems which perpetuate racism and poverty requires a multi-faceted approach, of which litigation is only a small part. This is one of the many great things about CCH: using the power of organizing, direct representation, policy advocacy, and most importantly, lifting up the voices of people most impacted by these unjust systems to bring us closer to justice. It matters what we do and whose voices we elevate. That’s why I’m joining CCH and I’m so incredibly lucky to be doing so.
For a little personal background, I grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, went to college at a Jesuit school called Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and got my law degree at American University’s Washington College of Law. Now that I am in Chicago, when not focusing on surviving the winter, I can be found cycling on the lakefront or trying all the delicious food that I can around town with my wife, Bridget.