The Legal Aid Society Celebrates 130 Years of Legal Service to Brooklyn
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz proclaimed January 17 Legal Aid Day in Brooklyn, celebrating 130 years of service. With the Borough President (from left) are Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society; Richard J. Davis, Chairperson of The Legal Aid Society; and Blaine (Fin) Fogg, President of The Legal Aid Society.

The Legal Aid Society celebrated 130 years of legal services to Brooklyn on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, with a special welcome and proclamation from The Honorable Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, and an address by The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York. The celebration was held in the Cermonial Court of the Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn. Additional proclamations were presented by Comptroller John Liu and Councilmember Tish James. Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, and Councilmembers David Greenfield and Stephen Levin also attended the celebration.

During the last century, The Legal Aid Society has handled more than 5 million cases serving Brooklyn residents. Today, the offices of The Legal Aid Society's three major practices- Civil, Juvenile Rights, and Criminal Defense-handle approximately 96,488 individual cases and client matters every year.

  • More than 5 million cases in 130 years serving Brooklyn residents.
  • A total of 248 lawyers working with a staff of 124 including social workers, investigators, paralegals and support and administrative staff serving Brooklyn.
  • Ten offices in Brooklyn 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 Brooklyn with limited resources.

Participating in the event were:

The Honorable Barry Kamins, Administrative Judge of New York City Criminal Courts; The Honorable Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix, Administrative Judge for Civil Matters, Second Judicial District, Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term; The Honorable Paula Hepner, Supervising Judge, Family Court, Kings and Richmond Counties; The Honorable John Lansden, Supervising Judge, Kings County Housing Court; The Honorable William Miller, Supervising Judge, Criminal Court, Kings County; and The Honorable Lisa Ottley, Supervising Judge, Kings County Civil Court. Proclamations were also presented by New York City Comptroller John C. Liu and City Council Member Letitia James.

A Second Century of Service

The Legal Aid Society's history in Brooklyn is a legacy of excellence, dedication and service. During the last 130 years, The Legal Aid Society has handled more than 5 million cases in Brooklyn.

In the early 1880s, Henry Ward Beecher donated space in the Plymouth Church as a temporary office for volunteer lawyers to provide legal assistance for Brooklyn residents who could not afford the carriage fare to Manhattan. During the next 10 years, the Society referred hundreds of cases to volunteer lawyers in Brooklyn and also continued to represent Brooklyn residents who were able to afford the carriage fare to the Society’s main office at the corner of Park Place and Broadway in Manhattan. By 1906, the need for a Brooklyn Branch was clearly demonstrated by the fact that 1,639 applicants traveled from Brooklyn to the Society’s main office. An early history of the Society pointed out the burden of that trip: “the loss of time and the cost of carfare to many a defrauded workman or deserted wife in Brooklyn make their application for help almost prohibitive.” On January 1, 1907, the Brooklyn Branch, servicing Kings, Queens and parts of Nassau Counties was opened at 186 Remsen. Service to Brooklyn has continued through various locations ever since.

In 1949, a Criminal Court office was opened in Brooklyn to represent Brooklyn residents in Felony Court . By 1959, a Criminal Court office was established to serve people charged with misdemeanors and felonies. In 1962, a Juvenile Rights Offices was established in Brooklyn to represent children. The Legal Aid Society opened the Brooklyn Office for the Aging in 1974, the first of its kind in the nation to serve only senior citizens. Other Civil services continued to be provided from the main Park Place office -- and then directly from offices in Brooklyn.

In 1998, The Legal Aid Society relocated many of its client services programs to 111 Livingston Street, to enable staff to provide more efficient and cost effective service. Since 2004, all of the Society's Civil, Criminal, and Juvenile Rights client services for Brooklyn have been centered at the 111 Livingston Street office.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle