Legal Aid Attorney Saves A Queens Family's Home; Shrinking Resources Will Affect Numbers of Clients
FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2009

Because of the advocacy of Sumani Lanka, a staff attorney in the Queens Neighborhood Office of the Civil Practice, the home of a Queens family was saved. However, during this economic downturn, Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, predicts that The Legal Aid Society's Civil Practice will be able to serve fewer clients because of shrinking resources. "We are turning away eight persons for every one person we are able to serve," Banks told New York 1.  Read the report of Lily Jamali on New York 1.

JULY 21ST, 2009 8:00-9:00 PM

Lewis Dodley, Anchor: A non-profit that provides legal services to poor New Yorkers says because of the recession, they’ll have to handle more clients with less funding. NY1’s Lily Jamali explains.

Lily Jamali, Reporter: For someone whose home is currently in foreclosure, Jacqueline Tamaklo seems remarkably optimistic.

Jacqueline Tamaklo, Legal Aid Client: All of this is done over, come on in…

Lily Jamali: Tamaklo bought this house in 2006, expecting to pay roughly 25-hundred-dollars a month on her mortgage. But, she says she was misled. She admits she didn’t read the mortgage documents and found herself owing 1,000-dollars more every month. The year after the purchase, she fell behind on payments. Worried she would lose her home, she went looking for help.

Jacqueline Tamaklo: I went looking for lawyers; charging me money, and nobody did anything. And, I was on my last you know leg – last hope, when I ran into her and she said I’ll take on your case.

Lily Jamali: She is Sumani Lanka, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s foreclosure unit in Queens. She says she has her hands full right now with the recession hitting homeowners as hard as it has.

Sumani Lanka, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Society: The case load is pretty tremendous. We can’t even begin to take most of the cases that come to us.

Lily Jamali: And things aren’t expected to get any better any time soon. A major chunk of Legal Aid’s funding for civil cases comes from something called the Interest On Lawyer Account Fund, an account that attorneys across the state put money into during certain business transactions. The interest paid on the account helps fund Legal Aid and groups like it. But with interest rates dropping and fewer transactions taking place, the fund is generating far less cash; down from more than two-and-a-half-million-dollars last July, to around 500-thousand today.

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, Legal Aid Society: We’re clearly going to be able to serve fewer clients, and as it is we’re turning away eight out of every nine clients who seek our help; and that doesn’t even include those that don’t have the wherewithal to come to our offices.

Lily Jamali: Since the recession kicked in last year, there’s been a 16% increase in clients seeking domestic violence help, a 40% increase in health related cases, a 30% increase in employment related cases, and a 20% increase in housing cases. Cases involving people like Jacqueline Tamaklo, who says without Legal Aid by now, her foreclosure would have been a certainty, not just a possibility. Lily Jamali, NY1.