Celebrating 100 Years of Service to the Bronx
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., presents a proclamation to Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, honoring The Legal Aid Society for 100 years of service to residents of the Bronx, during a ceremony at which Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman presented the keynote address. With them are Richard J. Davis, Chairman-elect of The Legal Aid Society and a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Blaine (Fin) Fogg, President of the Society and of counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

The Legal Aid Society celebrated 100 years of legal services to the Bronx on Monday, November 22, 2010, with a special proclamation from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and a keynote address by The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York. The celebration, which included more than 300 guests, was held in the Rotunda of the Bronx Borough Hall. Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, served as master of ceremonies.

Also presenting remarks were: The Honorable Efrain Alvarado, Administrative Judge, Bronx County Supreme Court; The Honorable Monica Drinane, Supervising Judge, Bronx County Family Court; The Honorable Jaya Madhavan, Supervising Judge, Bronx County Housing Court; The Honorable Barry Salman, Administrative Judge, Bronx County Supreme Court; The Honorable Robert Johnson, Bronx County District Attorney; Richard J. Davis, Chairman-elect of the Society and a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP; and Blaine (Fin) Fogg, President of the Society and of counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Recognized at the event were the three Attorneys-in-Charge of Bronx offices: David Clarke (Criminal); Marshall Green (Civil); and Amanda White (Juvenile Rights). The 100 Years of Service to the Bronx Committee consisted of: Pat Bath, Bonnie Bonica, Edward Braunstein, Bernette Carway-Spruiell, Ray Calderon, David Clarke, James Chubinsky, Gail Geltman, Eva Gonzalez, Marshall Green, Luis Hernandez, Aida Ramos-Herrera, Andrew Kudysch, Claudia Montoya, Jose Negron, Rashmi Panchal, Marie Richardson, Al Rivera, Jacqueline Rodriguez, Jason Smallwood, Barbara Stock, John Volpe, Frank Witty, and John Wroblewski. Summer interns, Ali Immergut, Julia Timerman, and Kwame Phipps, were also recognized. A string quartet from Celia Cruz High School of Music provided entertainment.

During the last century, The Legal Aid Society has handled more than 2 million cases serving Bronx residents. Today, the offices of the Society's three major Practices-Civil, Criminal and Juvenile Rights-handle approximately 63,000 individual cases and client matters each year. More than 2 million cases in 100 years serving Bronx residents.

  • A total of 162 lawyers working with a staff of 114 including social workers, investigators, paralegals and support and administrative staff serving the Bronx.
  • Six offices in the Bronx and three programs operating out of Rikers Island offering legal assistance in three major practices-Civil, Criminal and Juvenile Rights.
  • Partnership with government agencies and scores of community organizations to expand service to the Bronx with limited resources.
  • An energetic, highly skilled staff sharing their expertise with smaller legal services agencies to better serve Bronx residents.

A Century of Service

The Legal Aid Society's history in the Bronx is a long and fascinating one, beginning in 1905 when the Society opened an office at Lexington Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem to serve the ever-growing populations of upper Manhattan and the Bronx. That same year, President Theodore Roosevelt became an honorary vice president of The Legal Aid Society and legal aid societies were opened in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, following the original Legal Aid Society in New York City.

An anonymous gift of $5,000 allowed the Society to open the office which, at the time, served residents living within the City limits north of 125th Street on the west side and north of 86th Street. The dominant groups of clients were Russian, British, German, Austro-Hungarian, native Americans and a substantial number of Italian laborers. The attorneys serving the office spoke Czech, French, German, Moravian, Magyar, Slavonian, Yiddish and Italian. From the beginning, the source of most of the applicants was the Bronx. Unfortunately, the necessary funds were not available to open a separate office in the Bronx until many years later. However, the generosity of Mrs. Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, the philanthropist whose anonymous gift established the Harlem office, continued to support that office until 1921. After her death, the Milbank Foundation continued its support.

While the Society represented a limited number of people charged with crime in the Bronx, the majority of the cases were civil. There was a failed attempt in the 1930s to open a criminal office in the Bronx. The Bronx was covered by the New York County staff who covered the misdemeanor and felony court. In 1949, the Society opened an office to serve the federal court with funding from John D. Rockefeller. The lawyers were known as Rockefeller lawyers. In 1952, the Society opened a Bronx Felony Court Branch. At the opening ceremony representatives of the Bronx district, as well as judges, were present. That same year, a felony court was also opened in the Bronx. Seven years later, the Society opened the Bronx Criminal Court office. In 1962 when the Juvenile Rights Division (now the Juvenile Rights Practice) was established concurrently with the Family Court in New York City, offices were opened in each of the boroughs. Finally, in 1967, the Bronx Neighborhood Office was established in Hunts Point with funding from the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Today, offices of the three major Practices-Civil, Criminal and Juvenile Rights, handle approximately 63,000 cases and matters each year, offering a comprehensive range of services to residents of the Bronx from civil problems including foreclosure, housing, denial of benefits, immigration, consumer, health, and unemployment, to problems facing residents involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

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