Currently Available Pro Bono Opportunities
Listed below are pro bono opportunities currently available for referral. All pro bono referrals are made on behalf of Legal Aid’s clients, whose cases have been screened by our attorneys for legal merit and financial eligibility. In the overwhelming majority of cases, Legal Aid continues as Attorney of Record, and law firms and their attorneys serve as Of Counsel. A Legal Aid attorney remains on the case as a mentor until final disposition.
NOTE: These opportunities are only available to attorneys affiliated with firms that have an established pro bono relationship with The Legal Aid Society.
Please browse the current opportunities below, listed by category, and contact Andrew Childers, Pro Bono Administrator Pro Bono Practice, at email@example.com or (212) 577-3919 if you are interested in learning more about one of these matters.
Appeal of NYPD FOIL Request Denying Request For Information About Gang Databases
The Legal Aid Society is seeking pro bono assistance on behalf of a Working Group of community and legal organizations to address concerns about tactics, procedures and policies related to “Gang Policing”, generally, and more specifically the creation of gang databases, which rely on profiling and discriminatory policing. In cities throughout the United States, law enforcement has compiled vast databases of alleged gang members that are primarily filled with people of color. Gang databases are a tool of mass incarceration that targets black and brown youth, without any evidence of wrongdoing and contain scores of inaccurate without any due process. The collateral consequences of being entered into the gang database have a long lasting impact such as deportation, excessive bail and severe restrictions of confinement and proceedings. The clear link between gang databases and mass deportations has allowed us to create more links with immigrant advocates, service providers and communities. The New York Immigrant Coalition in conjunction with City University School of Law recently issued this report about the disparate impact of gang databases on immigrant communities.
The Legal Aid Society submitted a FOIL request demanding that the NYPD provide answers about the collection of data and administration of the gang database. The NYPD responded with a denial to the majority of our requests and now we are seeking pro bono assistance in appealing that denial both administratively and/or through litigation. Volunteer attorneys will work directly with the Society’s Criminal Defense Special Litigation and Community Justice Units and have an opportunity to fully participate in drafting and litigating the appeal as well as assist in plans for ongoing work to challenge these tools of mass incarceration.
We also created a website, https://legalaidfoil.backspace.com/ for community members to engage in our Do It Yourself (D.I.Y.) FOIL campaign allowing people to inquire if they are in the NYPD gang database. We have had over 200 requests submitted and have been seeing a lot of interesting information from the responses.
This recently published article from The Intercept sheds light on this pressing issue: https://theintercept.com/2018/06/11/new-york-gang-database-expanded-by-70-percent-under-mayor-bill-de-blasio/.
Civil Court Litigation
Pro Bono Assistance Needed on Behalf of Older Immigrant Who Suffered from Shocking Lack of Medical Care While in Immigration Detention in New Jersey
The Legal Aid Society represents a 65-year-old man who fled Communist Poland in 1981 and has lived in the same community in Brooklyn for thirty-five years. In 1985, our client married and had a daughter with whom he had lost contact. Through investigation, the Society was able to locate his daughter, whom he had not seen since she was an infant—she is now 32 years old. At some point after the untimely death of a dear friend, our client began drinking uncontrollably and he amassed 6 DUI-related arrests, including felony DUI/DWI. Following an arrest in 2015, our client was ordered into a year-long rehabilitation program where he was tested on a daily basis. He successfully completed the program and has been sober since then. In February 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested our client at his home and he was detained at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey. Our client has Type II diabetes and is insulindependent. When he first entered Bergen County Jail, he was given the wrong insulin and passed out in his living quarters. Among other medical complications, he also has a chronic wound under his left heel. When the Society’s immigration attorney first met her client in March 2017, the wound was open and bleeding, and it remained that way on each subsequent occasion the attorney met with him. To clean the wound, our client was given a pumice stone that only aggravated it further. By June 2017, the foot was extremely swollen and his toes were purple; he had developed a bone infection as a result of the poor wound care and had to spend five days in emergency care. The Legal Aid Society made a request for parole based on medical need and that request was denied following a review by ICE, which concluded that this man’s medical needs were being met. Our client is in constant pain and now walks with the aid of a cane since his foot and toes are still swollen. On August 15, 2017, he was successful at his bond hearing and was released after a generous benefactor paid his entire $2,000 bond. Our client will reside in a permanent rehabilitation home where he will receive appropriate medical and supportive care and a proper diet. On September 26, 2017, one of his toes was amputated and he remains in danger of losing others. There has been some press on this case; our client has been featured in a story by NY1 as well as a Polish newspaper. Pro bono assistance is needed to investigate and file litigation seeking appropriate relief, including federal and state law claims against ICE, Bergen County, the treating doctors at the detention facility and possibly the private medical contractor with Bergen County. A Legal Aid immigration attorney and a Prisoners Rights Project supervising attorney will be available for a consulting and collaborative relationship with the pro bono attorney, who needs to be barred in New Jersey and be familiar with that state’s law because any litigation will be filed there and could include state law claims.
Man Seeks Assistance Recovering His Bike from Storage Facility
The Legal Aid Society represents a man in a criminal case who, during the course of his arrest, had his motorized bicycle taken from him by law enforcement. He was recently sent a Notice of Lien and Sale indicating that he had the option to pay several thousand dollars to get his bike back. The Legal Aid attorney found that the police never vouchered the bike into evidence, but rather, sent it to a private garage, which we have learned has a contract with NYPD as part of the “Rotation Tow program.” A notice of the impending lien should have been served on our client within five days of towing and storage, but months passed before it was sent him.
Our client is not able to afford to pay several thousand dollars for the return of his bike. We believe, based on case law, that absent a timely statutory notice, the owner is only liable for towing and not storage. This would bring the cost of retrieving his bike down to approximately two hundred dollars.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to help this client get his bike back.
Robbery Victim Seeks Assistance Applying for U Visa (October 11)
Our client, originally from Honduras, has lived in the United States since the mid-1990s and is currently the superintendent of a residential building where he lives with his wife and three U.S.-born children. After being robbed at knifepoint in 2003, he filed a complaint with NYPD. As a result, one of his assailants was arrested, and our client testified before a grand jury. The man was indicted, pled guilty, and served his sentence in a state prison. The New York County District attorney has issued a U Visa certification for our client dated April 11, 2018. We are seeking assistance applying for a U Visa for him by October 11, 2018.
22 Year Old Legal Permanent Resident Seeks Pro Bono Assistance Applying for U Visa
The Legal Aid Society Represents a 22 year-old legal permanent resident who has been living in the United States since the age of two. He is being charged with removability for convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude. These convictions arise from conduct when he was around 19 years old or younger and during a time that he was dealing with mental health problems and drug addiction. He was recently attacked by several gang members and suffered a facial bone fracture, which required surgery, and the loss of a tooth. He was granted LPR cancellation by the immigration judge but the government has appealed this decision. We are seeking assistance in applying for a U Visa for our client. His U-visa certification expired, but we will re-request certification once we receive a decision from the BIA on his grant of LPR cancellation. His U-Visa application can only go forward once he falls out of status, but it is best to have everything prepared should that happen.
Legal Aid Seeks Assistance Interpreting for a 96 Year Old Native of Poland
The Legal Aid Society represents a 96 year old Polish native living in Brooklyn. Her daughter, her only child and sole caretaker, travels daily from her job in Long Island to stay with her mother overnight to ensure her safety. Approximately one year ago, our client began to wander at night, and increasingly needs more physical assistance. We are currently working with the client to increase her homecare hours so that her daughter can also attend to her own children and home life.
We are seeking pro bono assistance from someone, who does not need to be an attorney, who speaks Polish and would be willing to accompany our paralegal to our client’s home and interpret for her in order to ascertain her capacity to initiate a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney would guarantee that our client’s daughter can continue to assist our client with her affairs if she were to decline further.
If our client is deemed to have capacity, there may need to be a subsequent visit to the client’s home in order for her to execute the Power of Attorney under the supervision of an attorney from The Legal Aid Society, and we would need interpreting assistance for that visit as well. If scheduling allows, we may be able to arrange for the Legal Aid attorney to attend the initial meeting, in case our client is willing and able to initiate a Power of Attorney on that occasion
Social Security Disability Hearings
Pro Bono Assistance Needed at SSI Hearing for Former Window Washer (August 7th)
In 2015, our client suffered from herniated discs which cause him severe lumbar pain, and has not been able to work since. At the time, he was working as a commercial window washer and office cleaner. In addition to the herniated discs, he also suffers from depression. He is a 57 year old United States citizen who is originally from the Dominican Republic who lives alone. He speaks Spanish.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent our client at his hearing on August 7th.
Mother of Four Seeks Representation to Obtain SSI Benefits (August 14th)
The Legal Aid Society represents a 52 year old mother of 4, including 2 minor twins who live with her in a Section 8 apartment. She is an insulin dependent diabetic and experiences severe depression with psychosis, including auditory hallucinations, and therefore, she is incapable of working. She previously worked as a home attendant, and has a limited education having only completed the 9th grade in the Dominican Republic. She speaks Spanish.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent her at a hearing on August 14th.
Pro Bono Assistance Needed for Man Attacked by Prison Guard (August 28th)
While serving a 7 year prison sentence for a drug related crime, our client was attacked by a guard. As a result of this attack, he has a detached retina and globe rupture. He has had one surgery and has two more scheduled. He also suffers from PTSD as a result of this incident and has a herniated disc. Prior to being imprisoned, he worked as a plumber’s assistant. He has six children, and is currently homeless. He is seeking permanent housing, but needs a source of income to secure a place to live.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent her at a hearing on August 28th.
Man Seeks Assistance Obtaining SSI Benefits to Remain in Supportive Housing (September 7th)
The Legal Aid Society represents at 48 year old Spanish speaking man who suffers from a cognitive disorder and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He completed 7th grade in special education classes, but is illiterate. He previously worked as a construction laborer. He is currently living in a congregate care facility so that his mental health issues can be monitored and services can be provided. He needs Social Security benefits in order to remain in supportive housing.
We are seeking pro bono assistance representing him at his hearing, which is scheduled for September 7th.
Man with Epilepsy Seeks Assistance with SSI Hearing
Our client is a 53 year old man who lives with his mother and brother. He completed one year of college and last worked for a very short time in 2014 as a supervisor for a security company. In 2013 he was diagnosed with epilepsy. He has broken his shoulder and hip and has a herniated disc. He requires surgery on his shoulder, but it cannot be performed until the epilepsy can be controlled. He finds sitting and standing painful, and has difficulty taking the subway and buses. He has been depressed for a few years, but just started seeing a psychiatrist for evaluation. He has a daughter whom he rarely sees because she witnessed a seizure and is now afraid to see him
His hearing was scheduled in June and he adjourned it, but has not been given a new date. We are seeking pro bono assistance representing him at his hearing, which we anticipate will be scheduled in the next 75 days.
PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS
Long Time Employee with HIV Illegally Terminated Based on Perceived Disability and Sexual Orientation Discrimination
The Legal Aid Society represents a man in his thirties from Uganda who worked for a permanent mission to the United Nations (the Mission) of a foreign country as a security guard/concierge, initially part-time, then full-time from 2001 until he was terminated on April 30, 2015. His duties included, but were not limited to, conducting routine checks of the premises, ensuring entry and exit procedures for both visitors and staff, reporting irregular activity or violators of policy and procedures, and preparing weekly reports to the supervisors. In or around 2010, our client began experiencing severe symptoms as a result of taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) for his diagnosed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). At that time, he fell ill more frequently, but he had no problems taking days off from work to go to the doctor or otherwise treat his symptoms.
In 2013, a new manager was responsible for supervising all of the security guards. This new manager frequently made harassing and discriminatory comments towards our client and threatened to fire him on several occasions. Beginning on April 10, 2015, the client’s condition worsened, but he continued to work for fear of further harassment from his manager. With permission, the client left work early to see his doctor on April 14, 2015. Again, with notice to and authorization from his managers, the client was only able to work for two days during the period of April 14 and April 30, 2015. However, on April 30, 2015, the client received a termination letter, specifying that the reason for termination was that he failed to report for duty “without reasonable excuse” from April 14-April 30, 2015, despite his having informed his supervisors and received their approval. He also had a balance of 21 days to be taken as leave.
The Mission’s reason for terminating our client was clearly a pretext and the client has a legitimate claim for disability/perceived disability and sexual orientation/perceived sexual orientation in violation of the New York State and New York City Human Rights Law. Pro bono assistance is needed to file an action in New York State Supreme Court on behalf of this client. The volunteer attorney working with a senior Legal Aid employment attorney, will have an opportunity to engage in fact development, draft pleadings and memorandum, participate in discovery and motion practice, conduct negotiations, prepare parties and witnesses for trial, and represent the client in all court proceedings.
Immigrant Restaurant Worker Seeks Pro Bono Assistance with Federal Court Wage Claim Against Former Employer
A Bangladeshi immigrant in his forties worked in a Brooklyn restaurant doing cooking, cleaning, and other restaurant-related duties from approximately January 2015 to January 26, 2018, working 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. Paid only $676 per week in cash, he was fired after demanding he be paid the proper minimum wage. Pro bono counsel is needed to file a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law for both unpaid wages and overtime in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. The volunteer attorney working with a senior Legal Aid employment attorney, will have an opportunity to engage in fact development, draft pleadings and memorandum, participate in discovery and motion practice, conduct negotiations, prepare parties and witnesses for trial, and represent the client in all court proceedings.
Elderly Immigrant At Risk to Lose LPR Status Without Article 81 Guardianship
Legal Aid represents a Haitian woman in her late seventies, whose permanent resident card has expired. She is completely disabled since suffering a stroke approximately seven years ago. Our client is paralyzed and unable to communicate at all. Her adult daughter, who resides with and cares for her mother, previously was her mother’s Power of Attorney but the paperwork was lost in a fire some years ago. Pro bono counsel is needed to file an Article 81 guardianship in Brooklyn Supreme Court so that our client’s daughter can legally manage affairs for her mother including signing an application to renew her mother’s permanent resident card. Although The Legal Aid Society will not be co-counsel on the matter, a Legal Aid immigration attorney will be available for consultation. Interested law firms will sign a letter of engagement directly with the client and serve as independent counsel.