Thousands of low-income New Yorkers are in danger each year of losing their New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) apartments, the most important and largest source of affordable housing for poor people in New York City. If the tenants, many of whom have small children, are evicted there is a strong likelihood that the family will become homeless. Only a small number of NYCHA tenants are represented by counsel, increasing the chance that they will lose irreplaceable housing. The Legal Aid Society is seeking to increase access to justice for this vulnerable population through expanding our limited resources with law pro bono lawyers who will have the opportunity to hone their lawyering skills and preserve homes. Volunteers, working with an experienced Legal Aid lawyer, conduct fact development and discovery, draft legal papers, engage in negotiations and advocacy, prepare witness, and represent tenants at administrative hearings.
Foreclosure Prevention and Preservation of Equity
Through community outreach, education, and legal assistance, the Foreclosure Prevention Unit works to save the homes of victims of predatory lending practices. Volunteer lawyers, working with senior Legal Aid Society attorneys, provide advice and full representation in State and federal court to low-income homeowners facing foreclosure, many times as victims of deed theft and fraud, and to tenants residing in foreclosed properties. Participating lawyers may be involved with fact development, research, discovery, motion practice, negotiations, witness preparation, oral argument, and trial advocacy.
Housing Eviction Prevention
This project provides critical legal services to low-income tenants at risk of losing their homes. Volunteer attorneys, working with senior housing lawyers, engage in every aspect of litigation: fact-gathering, document review, motion practice, negotiation, witness preparation, and representation at trial. Participating attorneys play a vital role in preserving affordable housing, correcting unsafe and hazardous conditions, securing housing subsidies, and preventing homelessness and displacement.
The Homeless Rights Project protects and enforces the legal rights of homeless families and individuals in New York City by initiating law reform litigation on behalf of groups of homeless families with children and by providing direct representation for families who contact the Project through a toll-free hotline and ongoing outreach in emergency housing facilities. Through law reform litigation and provision of direct representation, the Project ensures that families and individuals are not denied lawful shelter and services or illegally forced out of the shelter system. The Project also is working to make sure that formerly homeless families receive payment of fines that were part of the McCain settlement, groundbreaking litigation that recognized a permanent, enforceable right to shelter for homeless children and their families. Working with an expert legal team, pro bono attorneys will have the opportunity to review case records, interview homeless families and individuals, develop evidence of physical and/or mental impairments, draft memoranda, and represent clients at State administrative hearings.
The Community Development Project (CDP) provides legal assistance, education, advocacy, and other support for grassroots community and economic development, primarily in Manhattan and the Bronx. Through the promotion of low income entrepreneurship, representation of nonprofits that provide essential community services, and supporting the development and preservation of affordable housing, the CDP strengthens low-income communities and deters displacement of its residents. Volunteer lawyers engage in a wide range of corporate work, tax, real estate, commercial leasing, intellectual property, and employment law representation, and participate in all aspects of creating and representing tax-exempt organizations, low income micro-entrepreneurs, and low-income tenants/shareholders.
Tax Law - Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic
This specialized practice provides legal representation and advice to low-income taxpayers, many with limited English proficiency, in disputes with the IRS and/or the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The Clinic operates a hotline and conducts community outreach and neighborhood workshops in English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic pro bono counsel will assist in all aspects of the practice.
The Consumer Law Project represents low-income New Yorkers with legal problems involving debt collection, identity theft, wage garnishment, and bank account freezing. Participating attorneys work on affirmative State and federal litigation involving consumer protection laws, consumer related policy advocacy, and affirmative litigation against private equity companies that engage in unlawful consumer practices. They engage in fact development, research, discovery, motion practice, negotiations, witness preparation, oral argument, trial advocacy, settlement discussions, and monitoring compliance with consent decrees.
The Employment Law Unit represents low-wage and immigrant workers who have been unfairly denied unemployment insurance, have had back wages illegally withheld, have been denied employer insurance or pension benefits, or have been unfairly denied Family and Medical Leave Act benefits. Volunteer attorneys, working with an experienced employment law legal team, will have the opportunity to handle individual cases before the Unemployment Insurance Board and represent clients in State and federal actions. Depending upon the case, participating attorneys may be involved with fact development, research, discovery, motion practice, negotiations, witness preparation, oral argument, and administrative or trial advocacy.
Disability Advocacy Project
The Disability Advocacy Project provides legal services for physically and/or mentally disabled adults and children who have been wrongfully denied Social Security Disability benefits. Pro bono lawyers, working with experienced disability attorneys, have a proven record of accomplishment in these proceedings. Volunteer attorneys have the opportunity to investigate facts, gather corroborating medical evidence, prepare clients for the hearings, submit memoranda, and represent clients at administrative hearings.
The Health Law Unit assists individuals in need of health insurance and health care services. The practice covers a broad range of issues, including Medicaid, managed care, denials of benefits/services, access for uninsured New Yorkers and immigrants, reproductive health care, disability rights, and discrimination. Working throughout New York City with more than 30 community based organizations, the Unit provides training, technical assistance and advice on health access issues. Participating attorneys, working with experienced Legal Aid Society lawyers, provide advice and representation in all aspects of the practice.
HIV/AIDS Representation Project (H/ARP)
H/ARP, a citywide unit that works in collaboration with HIV medical and social service agencies, provides civil legal services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Pro bono attorneys have the opportunity to work in all facets of the practice and ensure that this vulnerable population receives appropriate benefits, has adequate shelter, can address family law issues, resolve debt, and formalize advance planning. Volunteer lawyers may offer limited or full representation and participate in legal workshops and training for HIV service providers and consumers.
Project FAIR/Public Benefits Project
Project FAIR provides access to information for pro se public benefits recipients about their legal rights in the New York State administrative “fair hearing” process. It also dispenses information about community services and acts as a resource for organizations working with low-income and homeless individuals and families. Pro bono lawyers have the opportunity to engage in advocacy work in conjunction with this unique initiative that reaches individuals facing loss of subsistence economic support and who are not otherwise able to access legal services.