The Legal Aid Society Announces Community Justice Unit
WEDNESDAY, JULY 15, 2015
Staff Attorney Nora Christenson addressing the crowd in the Not In My Hood march.

Since 2012, a group of dedicated attorneys and paralegals have been working in communities through the five boroughs of New York City assisting our community partners stem gun violence through the LAS Anti-Gun Violence Unit. However, that title simply failed to capture the richness of the work the team performed and unfairly limited the unit to a single purpose. The Legal Aid Society is happy to announce that this unit will now be called the Community Justice Unit (CJU), a name that better describes the work that the unit does throughout the City and our mission to connect with people where the problems exist and not simply wait to meet our clients in offices and courthouses.

CJU is The Legal Aid Society’s way to engage the community before the problem has gone too far. Too often we, at The Legal Aid Society, are meeting our clients when they’ve have already been arrested and had their constitutional rights violated, been wrongfully evicted, been terminated from employment, or relied on bad legal advice. In our effort to preempt these bad outcomes, the Community Justice Unit will be starting a toll-free hotline that will initially be made available to our Cure Violence partners but eventually will be available to anyone in NYC to call 24 hours a day. In addition, this unit will be working to improve public policy by garnering information from the ground level and coordinating with each of the special litigation units within LAS to bring lawsuits that work to correct the most pressing problems facing our clients. We believe that working in the community alongside our community partners, tenants’ associations and school and youth organizations gives us a better understanding of the everyday issues that we, as lawyers for New Yorkers, must address and fight to change.

The Community Justice Unit regularly provides Law Day events during which community members can come to speak with lawyers from many different practices areas. CJU is currently doing regular RAP sheet clean-up clinics around the city to help people know what is on their RAP sheets and how to clean up any false information on them. CJU constantly does Know-Your-Rights presentations in schools and at Cure Violence sites to ensure that people are well informed when confronted by police. The unit will be scheduling dozens of focus group meetings with Judge Ariel Belen, the court ordered facilitator for Floyd, Davis, and Ligon lawsuits (the stop and frisk and trespass cases), so that he can speak with people from minority communities and get a true idea of the harms created by overly aggressive and illegal policing.

The Legal Aid Society of New York is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm in the country providing public defense, child representation and civil legal services to close to 300,000 people through our Criminal Defense, Juvenile Rights and Civil Practices.

The CJU looks forward to continuing to work with local communities in the future. For questions or to set up a time to discuss how we may assist you, please contact us at the CommunityJusticeUnit@legal-aid.org or (646) 759-3900.