Legal Aid Praised by ABA President For Its Work With Human Trafficking Victims

In a letter to The New York Times, Laurel Bellows, President of the American Bar Association, praised the work of The Legal Aid Society -- both its legal and social services -- in helping victims of human trafficking. Along with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in Illinois, the ABA President cited the Society's work as one of two "bright spots" in the United States that are addressing this national problem.

The Society is helping human trafficking victims by providing comprehensive client services in all five boroughs of New York City through all three of the Society's Practice areas -- Criminal, Civil, and Juvenile Rights. The Society's Criminal Practice operates a Trafficking Victims Legal Defense and Advocacy Project in the Manhattan Criminal Office to provide legal assistance to victims of human trafficking, including groundbreaking litigation to help young women get a new start by vacating their criminal records for prostitution. Kate Mogulescu, a Staff Attorney in the Society's Criminal Defense office in Manhattan, is leading this effort and she has lectured throughout the country and at ABA meetings about the work of Criminal Practice staff and on how States can develop and implement laws to permit trafficking survivors to vacate such convictions.

The Society's Juvenile Rights Practice has a long-standing record of assisting young victims of human trafficking. For example, Cait Mullen, a Staff Attorney in the Society's Juvenile Rights office in Brooklyn, has championed the cause of young trafficking victims for many years and has been credited with being a major force in the enactment of New York's Safe Harbor legislation to provide help for these victims.

As part of its extensive client services in each of the five boroughs, the Society's Civil Practice has successfully represented human trafficking victims in federal and State court litigation, primarily through its citywide Immigration Law Unit, its citywide Employment Law Unit, and its citywide Family Law and Domestic Violence Practice.

The New York Times
October 10, 2012
Victims of Human Trafficking

To the Editor:

“To Combat ‘Modern Slavery’ ” (editorial, Oct. 2) rightly stresses the need for government policies that rigorously break the demand for forced labor and help human trafficking victims. The legal community also has a key role to play, by changing the way it looks at victims, some as young as 10.

The American Bar Association is working to ensure that law enforcement officials are trained to better identify victims so they can help instead of punish.

Two bright spots in this effort are the Illinois Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the New York Legal Aid Society, where legal and social service entities team up in their efforts. Human traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of their victims and count on police officers, prosecutors, judges and public defenders’ lack of experience in identifying and confronting modern-day slavery. It is time to turn the tables on the perpetrators and show the victims that they deserve justice, and a second chance.

President, American Bar Association