December 27, 2011


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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 25 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. 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. In addition to the annual caseload of 300,000 individual cases and legal matters, the Society's law reform work benefits some 2 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.

Legal Aid in the News

More Than 500 Children Enjoy Legal Aid's Holiday Party

The sounds of children's laughter filled Synod Hall on the grounds of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine December 15 when more than 500 children enjoyed a special holiday party just for them. The children who participated in The Legal Aid Society's Holiday Party for Homeless and Other Vulnerable Children came from families who are homeless, others who are struggling to provide food and shelter and still others whose senior citizen grandparents are trying to make ends meet on a fixed income. For many of the children, this party is the only source of holiday gifts.

Special thanks to the following for donating mountains of toys and games, contributions and tremendous volunteers: Members of the Board of Directors; staff of the Society and the following seven law firms: Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP; Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer P.C.; LLP; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Javier Chuck, a paralegal in The Legal Aid Society's Civil Practice, was a great Santa Claus. Many thanks to the New Amsterdam Singers, Legal Aid's Human Resources Director Allan Fox and Paul Stein for providing musical treats for the children and their parents and grandparents. A photograph of the festivities appeared in the New York Law Journal on December 21, 2011.

Legal Aid's Brooklyn Criminal Staff Volunteers For Project Safe Surrender

Hundreds of New Yorkers received a second chance by getting summonses and warrants dismissed last Saturday and Sunday as part of Project Safe Surrender, a community program involving the Kings County District Attorney's Office, The Legal Aid Society, the New York State Office of Court Administration and a number of churches in Bedford Stuyvesant. Lawyers, paralegals, investigators, administrative and support staff and technical support staff from the Brooklyn Criminal Office worked at Mount Sion Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant over the weekend where a courtroom was set up.

The New York Times

Yvonne McCain, the Courageous Homeless Mother Who Fought For Homeless Families, Dies at 63

Yvonne McCain, the named plaintiff in The Legal Aid Society's litigation on behalf of homeless families which led to groundbreaking rights for homeless families, passed away on October 29. The McCain litigation, led by Steven Banks, the Society's Attorney-in-Chief, resulted in landmark right to shelter rulings during four City Administrations and finally settled after 25 years in 2008 with a final judgment establishing a permanent right to shelter for homeless families. At the time of the settlement, Ms. McCain told Banks: "This is what we went to court for so many years ago. I am glad I lived to see this." For her obituary, Banks told The New York Times, "The import of the settlement, and in a sense Ms. McCain's life, is that no matter who the mayor is now or in the future, tens of thousands of homeless children and their families are entitled to a roof over their heads."

Yvonne McCain, the lead plaintiff in The Legal Aid Society's homeless families litigation, was featured in a special section of The New York Times Magazine entitled "Lives People Lived" on Sunday, December 25. The article pointed that Ms McCain "never received a cash award, but on any given night, 10,000 families, including 17,000 children, receive emergency shelter from the City of New York as a result of the lawsuit." The New York Times ran an edited affidavit submitted by Ms McCain, adding that "occasionally an official court document captures someone's feelings and life story."

The New York Times, November 2, 2011
The New York Times, December 25, 2011

The Legal Aid Society Goes To Court On Behalf Of Vulnerable Homeless Women And Men; City Puts Off Implementation Of Its New Shelter Denial Plan

On November 10, the City agreed to postpone the November 14 implementation of its new procedure that would for the first time provide for the denial of shelter from the elements to women and men seeking help from the City. The agreement was reached after The Legal Aid Society commenced litigation in State Supreme Court, New York County to enforce the 1981 consent decree requiring the provision of shelter to women and men who are in need of shelter "by reason of physical, mental or social dysfunction" or who meet the need standard for public assistance. The City agreed to delay implementation of its new plan -- which represents a sea change in City policy -- so that Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische will have time to review the matter. The next court date is scheduled for December 9. Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, told the Wall Street Journal that "it's regrettable that it required going to court." Banks told The New York Times that the policy would would "upend the basic standard that has been in place for 30 years; it's unfortunate that it required a court proceeding to stop the implementation next week of this misguided policy." The law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP is co-counsel with Society. The Society has represented homeless New Yorkers for some 30 years and Mr. Banks has been lead counsel in the litigation. According to a report from the Coalition for the Homeless released earlier this week, the City's homeless population is 41,204, up from 31,000 a decade ago. The Society is counsel to the Coalition and the litigation last week was filed on behalf of the Coalition as well as all homeless women and homeless men.

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 11
The New York Times
Wall Street Journal, Nov. 5

Legal Aid Society's Intern Investigator Program Featured in Duke Publication

The Legal Aid Society's Intern Investigator Program, headed by Alanda Edwards, is featured in an article in a Duke Sanford School of Public Policy publication. Chris Donati, a student at Duke, served as an intern investigator in the program. Alanda summed up her philosophy on the important role she plays at The Legal Aid Society: "We have the awesome privilege to serve the underprivileged," Edwards explains.

Duke Publication

Legal Aid's Prisoners' Rights Project Celebrates 40 Years of Outstanding Advocacy

The Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special reception yesterday hosted by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. William E. Hellerstein, founder of PRP and professor of law emeritus at Brooklyn Law School, was honored at the ceremony. Will headed the Society's Criminal Appeals Bureau for many years and during that time, there were many significant legal victories for prisoners. Also honored at the ceremony were Maeve O'Connor, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and Jonathan Abady, partner at Emery Celi Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, for their outstanding pro bono service to the Prisoners' Rights Project.

For these past 40 years, the Legal Aid Prisoners' Rights Project has carried out groundbreaking work to protect the legal rights of prisoners through law reform, class action litigation, and advice and representation in individual non-criminal matters. The Project's landmark victories to prevent unconstitutional conditions of confinement for clients have had a national impact, and the Project continues to be a national leader in prison reform advocacy. The Project's current priorities include preventing guard brutality, sexual abuse and other unsafe conditions; addressing the lack of mental health and medical care; and remedying the lack of educational programs for young prisoners. Virtually all persons incarcerated in New York City jails (13,000 individuals) and New York State prisons (57,000 individuals) - as well as prison staff - benefit from the class action cases which our Prisoners' Rights Project has litigated. While City funding supported the Project for most of its existence, the Society now must rely on private funds to support this critical work. The New York Law Journal published a photograph of the event on November 16.

Legal Aid Website

The Legal Aid Society Honors 43 Law Firms and 328 Lawyers For Outstanding Pro Bono Service

The Legal Aid Society's 2011 Pro Bono Publico Awards epitomize the enduring strength of this partnership, delivering life-changing legal assistance to our City's most vulnerable residents - for example, survivors of domestic violence, homeless and imminently homeless children and adults, immigrants, senior citizens, unemployed and low-wage workers, children and adults with disabilities and chronically ill children and adults, neglected or abused children, persons living with HIV/AIDS, New Yorkers wrongfully accused of crimes, and inmates in the jails on Rikers Island and prisoners in correctional facilities throughout the State of New York.

The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York presented awards to 43 law firms and 328 individual lawyers during the 2011 pro Bono Awards Ceremony at Espace on November 9. The 2011 Pro Bono Publico and Public Service Law Firm Award was presented to Shearman & Sterling LLP. The firm was honored for its exceptional pro bono commitment to The Legal Aid Society and its clients.

Legal Aid Website

Members of the Staff Honored and 23 Directors Elected at The Legal Aid Society's 135th Annual Meeting

Five members of the Legal Aid staff were honored at The Legal Aid Society's 135th Annual Meeting on November 29 at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP with the 2011 Orison S. Marden Awards. They are Lorraine McEvilley, a Supervising Attorney in the Parole Revocation Defense Unit; Susan Bahn, a staff attorney in the Civil Practice's Brooklyn Neighborhood Office; Eva Gonzalez, Borough Administrator in the Bronx Criminal Office; Roseanne Tzitzouris, a social worker in the Brooklyn Office for the Aging; and Elizabeth Weiner, a social worker in the delinquency practice in the Bronx Juvenile Rights Office. The Marden Awards recognize the excellence and dedication of the staff. They also honor the memory of Orison S. Marden, a leader of the Bar and a partner at White & Case LLP, who devoted more than 40 years of service to the Society as a director and as Chairman of the Board.

At the Annual Meeting, 51 members of the staff were recognized for their years of service. Celebrating their 40th anniversary are Stephen M. Bennett, Karen A. Faraguna, Eric W. Hildebrand, Wendy Remy, and Howard Turman. Alan S. Axelrod, John Boston, Dolores Britt, Edmund J. Byrnes, Richard M. Charney, Andrew H. Eibel, Gladys Flores, Eva Gonzalez, Michelle Florence Green, Jo-Ann Hassan, Dori A. Lewis, Irma A. Mason, Stanley H. Melnick, Lorin B. Nathan, Jesse Uhrman, and Mark Whalen are celebrating their 35th anniversary. Celebrating their 30th anniversary are George W. Albro, Steven Banks, Mattie L. Heath, Zoraida Lopez, John C. Needham, Michael Pineiro, Dawn C. Ryan, Jennifer M. Valentin, Jerry Washington, and Steven B. Wasserman. Sonia Antonetti, Valerie P. Bell-Bey, Evelyn J. Bovell, Katherine L. Bradley, Mitchell J. Briskey, Jeffrey I. Dellheim, Amy I. Donner, Martin R. Feinman, Elizabeth Sack Felber, Edna Fonfrias, Lester Helfman, Peggy O. Hickman, Lois J. Jackson, Stephanie Kaplan, Sharon D. Lowe, James M. McQueeney, Scott H. O'Gara, Ellen S. Sacks, Gloria Sanders, and Evelyn Santiago-Valdez are celebrating their 25th anniversary.

Twenty-three Directors were elected/re-elected to the Board of Directors and eleven persons were elected/re-elected to the Board of Advisers. Directors elected or re-elected to the Board of Directors include: Eugene F. Assaf, a Director of the Society and a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Francis P. Barron, a Director of the Society and the Chief Legal Officer, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley; Stuart J. Baskin a partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP; Nicholas M. Cannella,a senior partner at Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto; Thomas M. Cerabino is co-chairman of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher LLP; Eric J. Friedman, the executive partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Willis J. Goldsmith, a Director and partner-in-charge of the New York office of Jones Day; Morton E. Grosz, a Director and a partner at Chadbourne & Parke LLP; Noah J. Hanft, a former Director of the Society and general counsel and corporate secretary at MasterCard International; John J. Kirby, Jr., a Director and a retired partner of Latham & Watkins LLP; William McGuinness, a Director and a partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Neil Merkl, a Director and a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP; and Pamela Miller, a Director and a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP; Sara E. Moss, a former Director of the Society who is the executive vice president and general counsel at The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc; Richard A. Rothman, a former Director and a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP; Bradley I. Ruskin, a Director and a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP; Jonathan D. Schwartz, a Director and the managing director and general counsel of JPMorgan Investment Bank; Jane Sherburne, a Director and the senior executive vice president and general counsel at BNY Mellon; Paul F. Washington, a Director and a senior vice president, deputy general counsel and secretary of Time Warner Inc.; Douglas F. Curtis, a Vice Chairman and a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; Daniel Kolb, a Vice Chairman and a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; and Randy Mastro, a Vice Chairman and the co-partner-in-charge of the New York office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

Directors who were elected/re-elected to the Board of Advisers include: Paul S. Bird, a former Director of the Society and a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Richard W. Clary, a former Vice Chair of the Board of Directors and a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Bruce E. Fader, a former Director of the Society and a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP; Vincent R. FitzPatrick, Jr., a former Director of the Society and a partner at White & Case LLP; Michael B. Gerrard, a former Director of the Society and Senior Counsel at Arnold & Porter LLP; Herve Gouraige, a former Director of the Society and a partner at Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.; Patricia M. Hynes, a former Chairman of the Society and Senior Counsel at Allen & Overy LLP; Jerome C. Katz, a former Director of the Society and a partner at Ropes & Gray LLP; D. Stuart Meiklejohn, a former Legal Aid President and a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Gary P. Naftalis, a former Director and a partner at Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel LLP; and Linda E. Rappaport, a former Director of the Society and a partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP.

The Legal Aid Society Newsletter is written and edited by Pat Bath, Director of Communications, with technical assistance from Jason Smallwood, Web Developer.

© 2011 The Legal Aid Society • 199 Water Street, New York, NY 10038 •