EIU attorney assists with legal issues

Rosy Rivera, Contributing Writer

From traffic tickets to criminal felonies, Eastern’s legal service attorney is available to assist students with their legal issues.

Kirsten Bays, an Eastern alumna, received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Eastern, earned her juris doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis and returned to Eastern to obtain her master’s in family and consumer sciences.

Bays also wrote a series of family law classes for Eastern and taught at the university for over 20 years prior to accepting her position as the legal services attorney in mid-September of 2015.

She said she hopes to teach family and consumer sciences again within the next one or two years. 

Bays said her job varies day to day.

“I see students with a wide range of legal problems, but the typical things include traffic, roommate issues, landlord-tenant issues, small claims, DUIs and criminal misdemeanors,” Bays said.

Eastern’s Open Legal Clinic has been assisting students since 1980, and all Eastern undergraduate and graduate students automatically qualify for free legal services.

Eastern tuition includes about $5 for the legal services fee, which assists in funding the Open Legal Clinic and covers any additional legal services fees for students. 

Because the legal service is only an advice and referral program, Bays said she cannot represent a student in court or students involved in student conduct issues at Eastern. However, students can receive information to help prepare themselves before attending their court hearings if they have chosen to represent themselves.

If students want to be represented by attorneys, the clinic can provide them with a list of local attorneys for their reference.

Bays said the number of students she normally sees is constantly changing, but according to her report, she saw an average of about 120 Eastern students this past year.

“Sometimes it’s a onetime meeting and we are able to solve the problem,” Bays said. “Sometimes I work with students for months to solve an issue or problem.” 

She said she normally sees an increase in students with expungement-related questions in the spring when graduation is around the corner as people are thinking about applying for jobs. 

Since Illinois became the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, new laws have also been enacted regarding those who may have previously been convicted of possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana.

Those individuals may now be eligible for a pardon by the Prisoner Review Board and Gov. J. B. Pritzker in which, if pardoned, the Illinois Attorney General would move to have those records expunged.

Since the law has come into effect, Bays said she has not seen a rise in students coming to her specifically regarding the matter or for assistance with petitions for expungement. 

Bays said the clientele would have to be the No. 1 thing she enjoys about her profession. 

“My favorite thing about working at student legal services is the students,” Bays said. “I really enjoy working with students.”

Aside from being a part-time attorney at Eastern, Bays also has her own private practice where she specializes in adoption and reproductive technology.

She is the second attorney to work for the legal clinic, replacing Steve Davis who retired in 2015 after 35 years of service.

Bays has been employed as the student legal services attorney for five years and has an office located in the walkway of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union in Room 2420 inside of the campus scheduling office.

Bays’ standard office hours are spread between Monday and Tuesday, totaling 10 hours a week, but she is available at other times per students’ request.

To set up an appointment, students can fill out an online appointment request on the student legal services webpage or by calling the office.

Rosy Rivera can be reached at 581-2812 at [email protected].