The Legal Aid Society Applauds City Council and City Administration For Addressing Income Inequality and Access to Justice

Seymour James, Attorney-in-Chief, and Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice, testified before the New York City Council Committee on Courts and Legal Services in support of Intro 736 which will establish an office of Civil Justice headed by a coordinator to advise and assist the Mayor with respect to the delivery and implementation of civil legal services to those New Yorkers most in need.

"We applaud the City Council and New York City Administration’s emphasis on addressing income inequality and access to justice through the establishment and expansion of legal initiatives. The visionary leadership of the City Council has greatly expanded a range of civil legal services targeted specifically to the most vulnerable New Yorkers – those facing eviction, and homelessness; immigrant children fleeing oppression; detained immigrants facing deportation; survivors of domestic violence, and members of our communities dealing with gun violence. This same leadership established during this fiscal year the nation’s first program guaranteeing legal representation for immigrants facing deportation. At the same time the Speaker and the City Council established this Committee on Courts and Legal Services – a committee charged with promoting access to legal representation to ensure equal justice under the law, and working with community partners and city agencies to identify ways to meet that fundamental goal. This body realized that for years criminal justice issues were supported by a separate office – the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice with a Criminal Justice Coordinator; while the critical issues of civil legal services were not focused on by any particular city office. In fact Chair Lancman asserted that the issue of legal services would benefit from an independent committee focused on legal representation issues across a range of subject matters. . . The creation of this office is consistent with the City Council’s establishment the nation’s first program guaranteeing legal representation for immigrants facing deportation. In order to ensure that an office of civil legal services is not adversely impacted by changes in City leadership or policymakers or funding priorities, legislation like Intro 214 is needed to make these programs a sustainable reality."