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Hilda Bahena

Hilda Bahena is an Associate Judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Prior to that appointment, Bahena served as the first Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes (CDHC). In that role, she was responsible for managing the CDHC by developing and implementing operations and programs to reduce the incidence of bias and hate crime and improve outcomes. Bahena furthered CDHC initiatives and planning to enhance collaboration with state agencies as well as foster relationships to inform policies and procedures to stop bias and hate violence. 

Hilda has dedicated her career to providing public interests legal services in California and Illinois. Previously, Hilda served as Department Director of Catholic Charities Legal Assistance Department (CCLA), ensuring justice for all through the provision of litigation services and support to self-represented litigants. CCLA’s daily operations, programmatic development, and overall department management fell under Hilda’s purview. Her twenty-years litigation experience spans a wide range, including family law, landlord/tenant issues, consumer, and immigration law. She has developed a specific expertise in serving survivors of violence, immigrant communities, and litigants facing economic insecurity. In addition, Hilda is credited with developing an original model for providing empowerment based legal services, which was published in the Clearinghouse Review. Throughout her career, Hilda has developed innovative trainings both for attorneys and for the public, forged collaboration among service providers, conducted extensive community outreach, and developed creative programs to expand legal services to those in need.  

Hilda, who is bilingual in Spanish, received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois College of Law.