Court Approves Landmark Settlement in Homeless Families Case, Ending 25-Year Litigation
MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2008

Deputy Chief Administrative Justice Jacqueline W. Silbermann, during a fairness hearing in New York County State Supreme Court on Friday, approved the landmark settlement in the McCain litigation between The Legal Aid Society and the City of New York, which includes a permanent, enforceable legal framework to alleviate the problems in the family shelter system that children and families have experienced.

During the hearing , Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, thanked the members of the Society's Homeless Rights Unit, including Jane Bock, Josh Goldfein, Judith Goldiner, Beile Lindner, Anya Maddow-Zimet, Amanda Moretti and Amy Mulzer, and the team from the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP which served as co-counsel on this case. "On this historic day, we must recognize the extraordinary work of The Legal Aid Society staff over the years, including the current staff, and the outstanding contributions of Cravath attorneys and paralegals on behalf of homeless children and their families," Banks told the Court. He also mentioned the pro bono expert consulting assistance provided by NERA and past expert assistance from Dr. Annalou Dehavenon. Banks also referred to supporting affidavits from Yvonne McCain, the original named plaintiff, and the Mary Brosnahan, the head of the Coalition for the Homeless.

In his argument in support of approval of the final judgments, Banks acknowledged Justice Helen Freedman for her concern for children and her oversight of this litigation before her recent elevation to the Appellate Division, First Department. He pointed out that Justice Freedman's core rulings in McCain had never been reversed on appeal. He also thanked Justice Silbermann for her mediation efforts that led to the settlement.

In September, 2008, after 25 years of litigation, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Steven Banks announced the settlement of the Society's homeless families case during a press conference at City Hall. At the time, Banks call it "a historic day for homeless children and their families. We were able to reach a break-through settlement that will benefit all the people of this City by ensuring that homeless families with children will be treated decently and in accordance with legal requirements to which we have all now agreed." The settlement ended the current litigation and current court oversight of the City's family shelter services system, and included an enforceable right to shelter for homeless children and their families that is now permanent.

Key components of the settlement include:

  • a final judgment in which the City has agreed to a permanent injunction requiring the provision of shelter to families with children who lack alternative housing that is enforceable before any Justice of the Supreme Court who can apply all available remedies to achieve compliance by the City with the final judgment;
  • a final judgment in which the City has agreed to a permanent injunction requiring the provision of shelter to families with children that is safe, sanitary, and decent in accordance with State and local law, and requiring the City to provide shelter to families with children in a timely and appropriate manner in accordance with applicable law – and this permanent injunction is also enforceable before any Justice of the Supreme Court who can apply all available remedies to achieve compliance by the City with the final judgment;
  • a final judgment with an enforceable procedure specifying the process for the City to determine shelter eligibility for families with children, requiring the provision of written notice of eligibility or ineligibility, requiring compliance with legal requirements applicable to shelter terminations and shelter re-applications, making it clear that a permanent address is not required for receipt of public benefits, setting forth the process of shelter and intake center access for legal representatives, and providing for the publication of Department of Homeless Services shelter eligibility data – and this City procedure will remain in place until December 31, 2010 but can be extended further by any Justice of the Supreme Court on a showing of systemic non-compliance by the City and the procedure is also enforceable before any Justice of the Supreme Court who can apply all available remedies to achieve compliance by the City with the final judgment;
  • a final judgment to protect families with pregnant women or children under six months of age from unlawful shelter placements that is also enforceable in the event of noncompliance like any final judgment; and
  • a final judgment in which the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has agreed to provide priority administrative hearings for families with children to challenge City shelter ineligibility determinations and to apply the requirements of the new City eligibility procedure in those hearings.