September 24, 2015
MAKING THE CASE FOR HUMANITY
The Legal Aid Society, the nation's oldest and largest not-for-profit legal services organization, is more than a law firm for low-income clients. It is an indispensable component of the legal, social, and economic fabric of New York City - passionately advocating for low-income individuals and families across a variety of civil, criminal and juvenile rights matters, while also fighting for legal reform. Through a network of borough, neighborhood, and courthouse offices in 26 locations in New York City, the Society provides comprehensive legal services in all five boroughs of New York City for clients who cannot afford to pay for private counsel.Annually, the Society handles some 300,000 cases and legal matters for clients and its law reform work benefits some two million low-income families and individuals in New York City and the landmark rulings in many of these cases have a State-wide and national impact. The Legal Aid Society takes on more cases for more clients than any other legal services organization in the United States. And it brings a depth and breadth of perspective that is unmatched in the legal profession. The Legal Aid Society's unique value is an ability to go beyond any one case to create more equitable outcomes for individuals and broader, more powerful systemic change for society as a whole.
Legal Aid in the News
Peter Sloane and David Januszewski Honored for Pro Bono Work on Behalf of Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project
Peter G. Sloane and David G. Januszewski, partners at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP were honored by The Legal Aid Society for their pro bono work on behalf of clients of the Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project. Januszewski is also a member of the Legal Aid Board of Directors. Seymour W. James, Attorney-in-Chief, presented the awards at the EAP Fall Benefit at New York Law School. .Ann McDonald of Robinson McDonald & Canna LLP and Susan Butler Plum, Founding Director of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, served as honorary chairs.
Eight Bills Lead the Way to Rikers Island Reforms; Legal Aid Worked Closely With New York City Council
The New York City Council passed eight bills, which are expected to be signed into law by Mayor de Blasio, which lead the way to reforms for inmates at Rikers Island. The bills are an effort to mandate greater transparency into and oversight of the Department of Correction and to reduce violence within the city's jails. One of the bills (Intro 784-A) creates an inmate Bill of Rights and Code of Conduct and mandates rules for ensuring that it is presented to prisoners to inform all incoming inmates of their rights and responsibilities under the DOC rules of conduct. Other bills are specifically intended to increase Department of Correction transparency by mandating that the city makes far more information publically available, including: demographic breakdowns of inmates; the rules regarding the use of force by staff on inmates; the number of inmates on a waiting list for a segregated housing unit; the bail amounts set for inmates; how long inmates are incarcerated pretrial; the number of visits inmates in city jails receive; and the number of grievances filed by inmates, the status of grievances, and the resolution or dismissal of grievances.
Legal Aid Participates in New Program Called Poverty Justice Solutions to Help Low-Income Tenants in Housing Court
The Center for Court Innovation launched a new program called Poverty Justice Solutions, which involves recent law school graduates who represent low-income clients in Housing Court. The 20 fellows in the program will spend two years representing tenants facing eviction or those who are seeking housing repairs. The Legal Aid Society is one of 12 legal services organizations to whom the fellows have been assigned.
Legal Aid and Mayer Brown File Suit Against Brooklyn Landlord for Refusing to Rent to Low-Income People Using City Subsidy
A Brooklyn landlord's refusal to rent to tenants who plan to pay rent through the City's Living in Communities (LINC) Rental Assistance Program prompted a lawsuit by The Legal Aid Society and Mayer Brown LLP. The suit was filed in New York County Supreme Court on behalf of a homeless woman, a couple with two children, and the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC). "It's totally illegal for this landlord to say that they are not going to accept tenants because of how they are going to pay their rent," Robert Desir, a Staff Attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit, told DNAinfo. The lawsuit charges Starrett City, Inc., and Grenadier Realty with source of income discrimination.
Seymour James Serves As Keynote at NYCLA Awards Ceremony; Maria Navarro and Cynthia Pong Are Recognized
Seymour James, Attorney-in-Chief, was the keynote speaker at the New York County Lawyers' Association 2015 Public Service Awards and spoke about the work of the Prisoners' Rights Project and PRP efforts to reduce violence against inmates by the DOC staff.
Legal Aid Client Has Force Complaint Against Officer Who Arrested Tennis Star
Leroy Cline, a Queens resident was a college student in 2012 when he was pulled over by Officer James Frascatore because of a broken taillight and punched three times in the mouth.
Legal Aid's Community Justice Unit Featured in NLADA's Update
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association featured The Legal Aid Society's Community Justice Unit in its NLADA Update. The unit, which was begun in 2012, was originally known as the LAS Anti-Gun Violence Unit until the Society recently changed the name to better describe the work it does throughout the City and its mission to connect with people where the problems exist and not simply wait to meet our clients in offices and courthouses. The unit's dedicated attorneys and paralegals work in communities through the five boroughs of New York City assisting our community partners.
Honors In The Family
Legal Aid and Weil Secure Victory for Alabama Death Row Inmate
Legal Aid Staff and the firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges won a tremendous victory when the State of Alabama declared that it would no longer seek to impose his death sentence on our client, an Alabama death row inmate. In 2014, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned our client's death sentence, holding that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel conducted virtually no investigation at the sentencing phase and failed to present powerful mitigating evidence to the jury. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the death sentence and remanded for the State to conduct a new sentencing proceeding. The State sought to appeal the Eleventh Circuit's decision twice: first to the full Eleventh Circuit, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the State's certiorari petition. Thereafter, the State was ordered to show cause why our client's sentence should not be commuted to a life sentence. On August 27.the State declared that it would not continue to pursue the death penalty. Our client's sentence will be commuted to a life sentence. The legal fight for this client's life spanned nearly two decades.
The Legal Aid Society Newsletter is written and edited by Pat Bath, Director of Communications,
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