Legal Aid Society, BP Katz and Queens Community Celebrate 50 Plus Years of Legal Services in the Borough
As The Legal Aid Society celebrated 50 years of service to Queens, proclamations declaring November 9, 2017 as The Legal Aid Society Day were presented from the Governor, the Mayor, the Public Advocate and Queens Borough President Melina Katz. (from left) Seymour W. James, Attorney-in-Chief; Carolyn Silvers, Attorney-in-Charge of Queens JRP; Richard J. Davis, Chairman of the Board; Timothy Rountree, Attorney-in-Charge of the Queens CDP office; Borough President Katz; Blaine (Fin) Fogg, President; Sateesh Nori, Attorney-in-Charge of the Queens Neighborhood Office; Hersh Parekh, Governor Cuomo's Queens Regional Representative; and Stacey Eliuk, Outreach Coordinator for public Advocate Letitia James. Missing from the photograph is Nick Gulotta, Queens Borough Director of the Community Affairs Unit of the Office of the Mayor.

The Legal Aid Society and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, alongside local elected officials, city and state jurists, community members, and Legal Aid staff gathered last night in The Helen Marshall Cultural Center at the Queens Borough Hall to celebrate The Legal Aid Society’s 50 plus years serving the borough of Queens.

Queens BP Katz co-sponsored the event and presented a Proclamation to the Society. Nick Gulotta, Queens Borough Director of Community Affairs for Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Hersh Parekh, the Governor’s Queens Regional Representative, presented proclamations.

The audience heard remarks from the Society’s Board Chair Richard Davis; Board President Finn Fogg; Attorney-In-Chief Seymour W. James Jr., who spoke of his previous work running the Queens office of the Criminal Defense Practice, New York State Court of Appeals Justice Jenny Rivera; Queens County Supreme Court Administrative Judge Joseph Zayas; and Supervising Judge of the Queens County Criminal Court Michelle Johnson.

The Legal Aid Society established offices in Queens serving local residents in the 1960s when the Juvenile Rights Practice opened in 1962, concurrent with the Family Court. After the landmark Gideon decision, the City of New York helped The Legal Aid Society expand its criminal defense representation to Queens in 1964. The civil operation began in 1966 under the auspices and with support from the United States Office of Economic Opportunity. Over the years, The Legal Aid Society has had an enduring impact on the lives of thousands of Queens residents.

Nearly 50,000 cases are handled each year by the Civil, Criminal Defense and Juvenile Rights Practices, benefitting poor children and adults in Queens living in poverty or just below that brutal edge of need. A total of 183 lawyers work with a staff of 118 including paralegals, social workers, investigators, and administrative and support personnel. Partnership with scores of community organizations expand services to the people of Queens.

“Whether it’s a criminal defense, juvenile rights or civil matter, residents of Queens, who cannot afford counsel, should know that the Legal Aid Society stands ready to help them with their legal issues,” said Seymour W. James Jr., Attorney-In-Chief of The Legal Aid Society. “We look forward to building on the justice we have secured for our clients over the past 50 years well into the future. The Legal Aid Society thanks Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for co-sponsoring this event and the many other elected officials, jurists, friends and community members who joined.”

“Every single person deserves quality representation, equal protection and due process in the pursuit of justice, for which Legal Aid Society has been an instrumental force for five decades here in Queens,” said Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President and former intern in the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Practice Program. “Through and through, the Legal Aid Society -- armed with hundreds of truly devoted lawyers and staff, whose commitments are second to none -- has made a critical difference in the lives of the most vulnerable families of Queens. It is an honor to host the Legal Aid Society here in ‘The Peoples’ House’ for this tremendous milestone.”

"The Legal Aid Society in Queens tirelessly advocates for the rights of the Queens residents in need, providing excellent legal services to the poor and disadvantaged with integrity and compassion. I congratulate the Legal Aid Society in Queens on fifty years of outstanding service and leadership in New York,” said New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

“I commend Legal Aid for its proud, six-decade history fighting for fundamental fairness before the law,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “On Behalf of 8.5 million New Yorkers, especially those whose lives have been changed by all the excellent work that it does, I want to thank everyone at Legal Aid and wish them all the best on the next 50 years.”