October 14, 2014

MAKING THE CASE FOR HUMANITY

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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 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


Legal Aid's Immigration Law Unit Represents Unaccompanied Children In Immigration Court Who Are Fleeing Desperate And Dangerous Situations

Members of The Legal Aid Society's Immigration Law Unit have been representing children in Immigration Court who have fled their homelands and are now faced with a difficult situation caused by scarce resources and overwhelming caseloads in an accelerated environment, know as "rocket dockets." "Forcing them into proceedings within 21 days is clogging the immigration system," said Jojo Annobil, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigration Law Unit. "Everything is grinding to a halt. It's true, they're getting postponed, which is great. But we are at a breaking point with very scarce resources."

Meanwhile, Seymour W. James, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, praised the New York City Council, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the New York Community Trust for combining forces to provide legal representation for the estimated 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation. He told The New York Times that he hoped the initiative would be "a model for other jurisdictions."




"It Was The First Time In Months That Someone Believed In Us," Legal Aid Client Tells Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman

In a moving testimony that brought many in the audience to tears, Yvette Walker told the horrible story of eviction and homelessness until Kathryn Kliff, a Legal Aid attorney , stepped in and helped. "It was the first time we felt human again," Ms. Walker said of her first meeting with Kathryn Kliff. "It mattered what we had to say. It was the first time in months that someone believed in us."

Ms. Walker testified before Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on the process the City is making in expanding civil legal services. Ms. Walker and her teenage daughter, Jasmine, were evicted from a homeless shelter while she was in the hospital for leg surgery. They spent several months in and out of temporary shelters - all of which were inaccessible for the walker she uses - before The Legal Aid Society stepped in and found them medically appropriate shelter.




Legal Aid Society Urges The Removal Of 16 And 17 Year Old Men And Women From Rikers And Utilization Of Alternatives To Incarceration

In testimony before the New York City Council, The Legal Aid Society strongly proposed the removal of 16 and 17 year old young men and women from Rikers Island and other City adult jails. Alternatives to detention, alternatives to incarceration and pre-trial community supervision for our youth should be utilized in all but the rarest of circumstances. New York State is one of two remaining states in America to prosecute all 16 and 17 year olds as adults for all crimes. Almost all of the 16 and 17 year olds, like those younger and older in New York City, who are prosecuted for the commission of crimes are African-American or Latino, poor, and living in underserved neighborhoods. When a Court orders that a 16 and 17 year old adolescent is to be incarcerated in a local jail, that teenager is placed on a bus to Rikers Island, ripped away from their community, services, and family.




Chief Judge Lippman Presents 2014 Pro Bono Awards; Cleary Honored With Pro Bono Publico and Public Service Law Firm Award

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman presented Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP with the Pro Bono Publico and Public Service Law Firm Award at the 2014 Pro Bono Publico Awards Ceremony.

With Chief Judge Lippman are (from left) Louis Sartori, Director of the Pro Bono Program at Legal Aid; Richard J. Davis, Chairman of the LAS Board; Victor Hou, a partner at Cleary and a Director of the Society; Cleary's Pro Bono Practice Director Jennifer Kroman; New York Pro Bono Committee Chair Roger Cooper; Pro Bono Coordinator Akilah Browne; Chief Judge Lippman; Legal Aid President Fin Fogg; and Seymour W. James, Jr., Attorney-in-Chief.




Advocacy of Legal Aid Lawyers Results In NYTimes Investigative Report

The Legal Aid Society has charged that Port Authority Police are overzealously enforcing laws against lewdness and exposure and, as a result, are arresting innocent men - who are victims of aggressive and intrusive police tactic.




State Has Failed Hundreds Of Mentally Disabled New Yorkers Who Face Eviction

Hundreds of mentally disabled New Yorkers are in danger of eviction because Pathways, a nonprofit that was supposed to arrange their housing , was not paying the rent. Some 1,300 eviction notices have gone out in the last four years. The Legal Aid Society and the law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP brought a class action lawsuit in State Supreme Court, New York County on behalf of residents and the Coalition for the Homeless.

"There are hundreds of cases," said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit of The Legal Aid Society. "The state has known about this for at least two years. It is a scandal. It's appalling."

With the number of cases now well past 1,000, the state has asked the courts to stay evictions until a financially stable group can take over housing Pathways' clients. Legal Aid attorneys handling the case include Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit; Staff Attorney Lucy C. Newman; and Staff Attorney Robert Desir. Lawyers fro Patterson Belknap included Lisa E. Cleary, Vivian Storm, Matthew Webb, and Adam E. Pinto.




The Legal Aid Society And Legal Services NYC Are Assisting Pinnacle Tenants with Settlement Claims

More than 30,000 tenants across 550 Pinnacle-owned buildings in New York City may be eligible for monetary damages under the court-approved settlement of a class action lawsuit that challenged Pinnacle's treatment of tenants with rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments.

The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC have set up a Pinnacle Legal Assistance Helpline to provide free legal help to current and former Pinnacle tenants, regardless of income, in understanding the terms of the settlement agreement and filing claims. The settlement is the result of a 2007 lawsuit filed by tenants against Pinnacle to force Pinnacle to reform its conduct with respect to its rent-regulated tenants. Pinnacle had been trying to drive its rent regulated tenants out of their homes to collect higher rents or convert from rental to condo/coop ownership.

"Tenants should know that the inappropriate behavior of Pinnacle or any other landlord will not be tolerated," said Magda Rosa-Rios, Supervising Attorney in the Harlem Community Law Office of The Legal Aid Society. Tenants who believe they may be eligible for compensation should call the Pinnacle Helpline at 888-736-8115.




Over-Policing And Abusive Police Tactics Used by NYPD In Communities Of Color Top The List Of Concerns For Clients, Legal Aid Tells The City Council

In testimony before the Committee on Public Safety of the New York City Council, The Legal Aid Society revealed that the top item on our clients' list of concerns is the over-policing and abusive police tactics used by the NYPD in communities of color.

"Oversight: The Police Department's Plan to Enhance Officer Trainings" was the title of the session in the wake of the death of Eric Garner.

William Gibney, Director of the Special Litigation Unit of the Criminal Practice, stated: "There is strong evidence that Department supervision and discipline and the entire structure of accountability for police officers is in need of a thorough overhaul. New Yorkers went out of their way in 1,022 cases to file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Control Board about the improper use of chokeholds by the NYPD between 2009 and 2013. In only nine of these cases were CCRB investigators able to find enough evidence to sustain the complaint. Only one of the nine sustained cases resulted in a modest punishment, a command discipline that resulted in the loss of vacation days." Christine Bella, a Staff Attorney in the Juvenile Rights Practice's Law Reform Unit, also testified with Mr. Gibney.




Community Outreach

Members of The Legal Aid Staff support community outreach projects throughout the five boroughs-- whether it be a Know Your Rights session sponsored by a New York City Council Member, a Field Day, a Resource Fair or an Anti Violence rally. The Society's Mobile Justice Unit is a familiar site at these events. The Legal Aid Society reaches out to our client communities in all five boroughs every day - seven days a week.







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