Yolanda Harris Sayre Strives for Fairness and Access for All

Yolanda Harris Sayre Strives for Fairness and Access for All
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Yolanda Harris Sayre Strives for Fairness and Access for All (Chicago, IL) — Yolanda Harris Sayre never had aspirations to become a judge. She just knew she started getting the reputation for treating the self represented litigant fairly and allowing them to be heard. “I basically helped understand the process, while not making the attorneys feel as if they were being disadvantaged either,” said Sayre. “My co workers started  overhearing my hearings, listening in and they started encouraging me to be a judge and I worked with retired judges, and they kept saying, you need to be a judge.”

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Sayre is running for Cook County Judge. “Eventually, I felt like I got many, many signs from above from God  to do it. I mean scary signs that were pretty amazing to me,” she said.

 

Career achievement

Sayre is an attorney, adjudicator and describes herself as a problem solver. Her career began with the Texas Attorney General’s office where she worked for three years during law school and learned the fundamentals of litigation. There she practiced with a student bar card and went after fraudulent bankers and insurers, winning millions of dollars for the people  of Texas. Her career in Chicago began doing temporary clerkships with the law firms of Freeman & Freeman and Mayor,  Brown & Platt. Deciding against pursuing large law firm life, she took a position with a community organization– Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety. She has since spent the majority of her career in public service. She began  with the Chicago Police Department as one of the original trainers of Community Policing and Diversity Management.  There, she taught large groups of community members and police officers in the 7th, 11th, 18th and 25th Districts how to  work together to solve neighborhood problems including crime and disorder. 

“I believe that fairness is important. I believe that helping people navigate a very, very difficult system is essential,” said Sayre. “Our court system is difficult. It’s difficult for attorneys, much less self-represented litigants. The number of people that are having to represent themselves in court is increasing.”

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Acess for all

Another one of her important beliefs continues to be access.

“There’s people with language barriers that also have difficulty accessing justice. I’m African American, but I speak fluent Spanish. I learned when I was little when I was a baby and grew up in the islands. I have stopped hearings because I knew that the interpreter wasn’t getting it right. I could tell that based on the way the person answered the question,” added Sayre. “I speak well enough to understand whether or not someone is getting a fair interpretation. That’s important to me as well because there are many, many people that have language barriers. So between economics, language barriers and issues like that, I think it’s important to help increase access.” 

In her effort to help improve the criminal justice system, she has worked on countless volunteer and pro bono projects such as teaching Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes to criminal lawyers, providing free legal advice to community residents, and serving as an Attorney in the annual Expungement Summit to assist people in obtaining housing and employment by clearing their records of offenses eligible for sealing or expungement.  She also taught and mentored thousands of high school students who were considering public  sector careers through a high school program called the Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy.

Yolanda Harris Sayre Strives for Fairness and Access for All

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