Seymour James Announces Retirement After A Career Spanning Four Decades Advocating For The Rights of Vulnerable New Yorkers
Seymour W. James

Seymour W. James, a respected leader in the justice system and an internationally recognized expert in indigent defense, announced today that he will retire in June as the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society.

Mr. James has devoted his entire legal career, which spanned four decades, to defending and advocating for the rights of marginalized and vulnerable New Yorkers and fighting passionately to ensure they receive equal justice which is their Constitutional right. A leader of the organized Bar and a Past President of the New York State Bar Association, Mr. James’s dedication to public service extends beyond his role at The Legal Aid Society and his numerous bar association activities. He has been selected to serve on important commissions on a City and a State level. He has been honored by several organizations and law student groups for his leadership and commitment to equal justice.

He began his career at The Legal Aid Society in 1974 as a staff attorney in the Brooklyn Office and has served in various supervisory capacities including Supervising Attorney in the Bronx County Office, Deputy Attorney-in-Charge of the Kings County and Queens County Offices and Attorney-in-Charge of the Queens County Office. He was the first attorney of color appointed as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice, the largest public defe3nder organization in the country. In the 10 years he served as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice, the Practice earned a national reputation for excellence.

In July, 2014, he was appointed Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society. During his tenure as Attorney-in-Chief, The Legal Aid Society took a lead role in the representation of unaccompanied immigrant children who fled abuse and violence in their homeland; increased outreach to communities through the Community Justice Unit; fought for the rights of mentally disabled New Yorkers facing eviction; successfully defended the rights of mentally ill parolees who are unable to assist in their own defense; fought for greater transparency and accountability in the NYPD; obtained the exoneration of clients wrongly convicted decades ago; won criminal cases with DNA and Digital Forensics Units using cutting-edge research and analysis; won a landmark victory removing barriers on necessary healthcare for transgender youth and adults; advocated for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project to defend New Yorkers from unjust detention and deportation; in response to Executive Orders on immigration, created a 24-hour hotline, assisted immigrant clients at Know Your Rights sessions city-wide, advocated to protect clients from wrongful deportation; continued its advocacy to assist inmates and to close Rikers; and fought again landlord harassment of tenants.

In a joint statement, Richard J. Davis, Chairman, and Blaine (Fin) Fogg, President, said:

“Seymour James is a great lawyer and fighter for equal justice for all. Much has been accomplished at The Legal Aid Society during his tenure, and he will leave LAS in a very strong position.

"In addition to the many legal accomplishments for our clients, Seymour has also enhanced our diversity efforts by providing training for all staff-- both legal and non legal-- and encouraged greater diversification of our legal staff. He also successfully encouraged strengthening relationships with community and social justice organizations. When he became the Attorney-in-Chief, Seymour urged the Board to consider the creation of a strategic plan which has been accomplished and will provide a blue print for the future."