Seymour W. James, Jr., Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, announced the appointment of Justine M. Luongo as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice. Justine, known as Tina to all, graduated from Brooklyn Law School where she co-chaired LEGALS and was a member of the Moot Court Trial Team.
She began her Legal Aid career in September 2002 as a staff attorney in the New York County trial office of the Criminal Defense Practice and was promoted to Supervising Attorney in the same office in 2007 where she continued to directly represent clients, as well as train and manage her team of attorneys, paralegals and investigators. During that time, she served as a member of an interdisciplinary task force of Legal Aid staff that worked closely with Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP to develop the analysis that ultimately lead to the groundbreaking 2009 case cap legislation.
In May 2011, Tina was appointed as the Deputy Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice, where she was responsible, along with the Practice’s Attorney-in-Charge, for the daily operation of the practice’s over 1100 dedicated staff representing over 230,000 indigent New Yorkers annually. In addition, she was responsible for the practice’s many specialty teams such as the DNA Unit, the Trafficking Victim’s Advocacy Project, and the Adolescent Intervention and Diversion Unit and worked with staff to create the innovative Digital Forensic Unit. Under her leadership, working with the Director of Social Work, the Society significantly expanded the use of social workers in arraignments. While much of her time was spent working on ways to create best practices within the Society, she also was actively networking the Criminal Practice with local and national associations. In July 2014, Tina assumed the role of Acting Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice and has ensured that the practice continued to provide the high quality, comprehensive representation.
Prior to joining The Legal Aid Society, Tina served in a variety of positions, the most recent being Vice President of Operations for a national gang intervention and prevention nonprofit organization known as the Council for Unity. At the Council for Unity she was directly responsible for the development, fiscal and human resource functions of the organization. Throughout her careers at both organizations, Tina has focused on improving the lives of those who have found themselves on the brink of, or within, the criminal justice system. She is dedicated to increasing the diversity of the public defense workforce and is integrally involved in The Legal Aid Society's diversity initiative which partners management and staff to improve staff diversity and provide cultural competency training both internally at the Society and to external stakeholders in the criminal justice system. She has been an active voice in the movement to foster best practices in public defense and is recognized nationally for her expertise. She continues to be involved in the dialogue about how public defenders can create systemic change, as well as be zealous advocates for their clients.
Tina served as the Chair of the American Bar Association Task Force on Comprehensive Criminal Representation which analyzed best practices to address the complex, life altering consequences that clients face when they are charged with or convicted of crimes. She is a member of the ABA Criminal Justice Council, a member of the Board of Directors of the newly formed Chief Defender Association of New York, and a Steering Committee member and Chair of the Impact Committee of the National Association for Public Defense. She has also served as an Adjunct Professor in New York Law School's Criminal Defense Clinic.
"Tina’s vast experience as a trial attorney, manager and advocate for reform will enable her to expertly lead the Criminal Practice and continue to improve the quality of our practice," Mr. James said. "Please join me in congratulating Tina and welcoming her to her new position as Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice."