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.
Social Security Disability Hearings
Former Landscaper With Mental and Physical Health Impairments Seeks Assistance at SSI Hearing (December 14)
Our client is a 63 year old man with an 11th grade education who is currently living in a shelter. For over 20 years, he worked in landscaping, and most recently worked assembling furniture. Five and a half year ago, the business he worked for closed, putting him out of work. For six months, he received Unemployment Insurance, but began to suffering from depression during this time. He also suffers from PTSD; one of his children was killed and his mother abandoned him when he was a child. In 1991 he attempted suicide. Our client has been diagnosed with severe recurrent major depressive disorder, without psychotic features. Because of his depression, he has marked impairment in short term memory and has difficulty interacting with others. Additionally, he has difficulty standing, sitting, and walking due to back pain.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent our client at his hearing on December 14th.
29 Year Old Victim of Domestic Violence Seeks Assistance at SSI Hearing (January 8)
Our client is a 29 year old survivor of domestic violence who completed high school as a special education student. At the age of 16, she worked as a cashier, but was fired for not being able to accomplish tasks fast enough. After that, she sold maps in Central Park for four years but on one occasion a man touched her face, she reacted negatively and subsequently quit that job. Our client also worked as a medical assistant from 2014-2015, but the demands of the job caused her to have anxiety attacks and she left that position, after which she received unemployment benefits. Additionally, she was abused by her ex-boyfriend, against whom she now has a restraining order and suffers from PTSD and depression. She also has trouble sleeping and sees both a therapist and a psychiatrist. In 2015, she attempted suicide and spent a week in the hospital.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent our client at an SSI hearing which is scheduled for January 8th.
Former Babysitter and Home Attendant Seeks Assistance at SSI Hearing (January 14)
The Legal Aid Society represents a 49 year old Spanish-speaking, U.S. citizen woman originally from Honduras with a high school diploma. She primarily worked as a baby sitter, but also spent some time as a home attendant. She last worked in 2012, when a car accident that affected her spine, knees, shoulders, and hip prevented her from continuing to work. Additionally, in 2015, she fell and hurt her knees. Our client recently had surgery on one knee and plans to have surgery on her other knee in the future. Her neurologist has written a strong report on her behalf about our client’s chronic pain and her severe limitations that prevent her from working.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent our client at her hearing on January 14th.
Woman Suffering with Fibromyalgia Seeks Assistance Obtaining SSI Benefits (January 15)
A Spanish-speaking U.S. Citizen from Ecuador is seeking assistance obtaining SSI benefits. She worked as a home attendant for twenty years until January 2017, but stopped because she developed fibromyalgia. Her medication makes her sleepy and affects her stomach. Our client currently lives with her sister, who is receives disability benefits. Together, they are able to cook clean, and shop, but our client is unable to carry things. Additionally, she needs her sister to accompany her in order to take a bus or the subway.
We are seeking pro bono assistance representing this client at her SSI Hearing on January 15th.
PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS
Pro Bono Counsel Needed to Assist Former Superintendent and Victim of Disability Discrimination Facing Eviction (December 21)
The Legal Aid Society represents a former superintendent of an apartment building in the Bronx. He worked as a superintendent for a year and a half, and as part of his compensation, lived in a basement apartment in the building with his wife and three young children. In February 2018, he was seriously injured on the job, and filed a claim with the Worker’s Compensation Board. As a result of his injury, he needed to have surgery which he underwent in May 2018 but continued working for several months prior to the operation. Initially his employer agreed to temporarily hire another superintendent while our client recovered from surgery, as a reasonable accommodation, but the employer fired our client instead.
Our client has a claim for disability discrimination in violation of New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws. We are seeking pro bono counsel to file and litigate an action in Supreme Court alleging disability discrimination. However, due to his loss of employment, our client and his family are also facing eviction. His housing case is on for trial on December 21, 2018. Because of this, the discrimination action needs to be filed in State Court prior to this date. Pro bono counsel is also needed to file an Order to Show Cause seeking a stay of the client’s eviction proceedings in Supreme Court.
Dance Instructor Seeks Pro Bono Assistance with Alleged Breach of Contract Case Brought by Former Employer
The Legal Aid Society represents a 26 year old man being sued by a former employer. Our client worked for two years as a dance instructor and in order to secure that position, he signed an employment agreement with the dance studio that contained non-compete, non-solicitation and non-disparagement provisions, among other things. The owners of the studio created a toxic work environment for our client, including passing him over for promotions. In June 2018, our client quit his job. Less than two months later, the dance studio sued him in New York Supreme Court for breach of contract, alleging that he violated the non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disparagement clauses of the contract. Additionally, the studio brought a claim of tortious interference of contract claims against our client, alleging that he client induced several students to leave the dance studio at the same time he left his position. He denies these claims. Moreover, we believe the non-compete and non-solicitation clauses of the contract may be unenforceable as a matter of law.
The Legal Aid Society is filing an answer on behalf of the client denying the claims and asserting a counterclaim requesting declaratory judgment on the matter of the unenforceability of the provisions of the contract mentioned above. We are seeking pro bono assistance to co-counsel with Legal Aid on this State Supreme Court litigation.
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.
Real Estate Attorney Needed To Prepare Executor’s Deed For Disabled Client
The Legal Aid Society represents a man who resides in a condominium apartment in the Parkchester section of the Bronx that is currently in foreclosure proceedings. Our client inherited this home and is the sole heir, however, he is on a fixed income, is disabled and receives SSI so he needs financial assistance to pay the arrears due on the apartment. His plan is to apply to the Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP) for this financial assistance but MAP requires that our client have title to the apartment before he can apply for a loan. Pro bono counsel is needed to draft an executor’s deed in our client’s name so that title to the apartment can be transferred to him. Although The Legal Aid Society will not be co-counsel on this matter, a staff attorney from our Foreclosure Law Unit will be available for consultation related to this matter. Interested law firms will sign a letter of engagement directly with the client and serve as independent counsel.
Pro Bono Counsel Needed to Represent SIJS Recipient Denied Lawful Permanent Resident Status
Legal Aid represents a young man in his twenties from the Dominican Republic who is the father of two U.S. citizen children. He came to the U.S. approximately sixteen years ago when he was about 11 years old to reunite with his grandmother, a U.S. citizen, who had convinced her grandson’s mother not to terminate her pregnancy. Our client’s father came to the United States before our client was born but did not maintain contact with him. At the time our client came to the US, his father was incarcerated and was deported shortly thereafter. This young man has spent a big part of his life as the caretaker of seriously ill family members: his aunt during her battle with breast cancer and subsequent high-risk pregnancy; his diabetic grandfather who depends on dialysis treatment; and his grandmother who also receives dialysis multiple times a week.
Our client was granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status based on abandonment by both of his parents and applied to become a lawful permanent resident as a defense to his deportation case. The Immigration Judge denied his case finding that his criminal record - which consists of a single misdemeanor conviction- outweighs the equities in his case, such as his longtime residence in the United States, his close relationship to his U.S. citizen children and family, and the hardship he will suffer upon deportation. Pro bono counsel is needed to represent our client on his appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, arguing that the Immigration Court abused its discretion in weighing the evidence on the record and that the judge failed to admit into evidence and consider documents showing rehabilitation, including his recently obtained high school equivalency diploma.
Opportunities for Transactional Attorneys
Non-Profit Founded by Two Hip-Hop Artists Seeks General Non-Profit Assistance
A not-for-profit entertainment organization started by two talented hip-hop artists and motivational speakers in wheelchairs is seeking help with general non-profit guidance. The organization was started in response to gun violence. The mission of the organization is to use hip-hop music and culture to create opportunities for the disabled, and inspire people not to give up in life. The artists perform original music, do motivational speaking at hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, fundraisers and events, promote disability rights, and advocate for equity in access and employment for the disabled.
The founders have performed at the United Nations, the White House, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, appeared at the VH-1 Hip Hop Music Awards, been designated one of 50 Unsung Heroes by the New York Daily News, and have been featured on CNN and ABC World News Tonight.
The following assistance is requested for the organization:
Drafting of by-laws, conflict of interest policy, and other organizational documents,
Application for federal, state and local tax exemption,
Registration with NYS Attorney General’s Office,
IP review of copyright and licensing issues arising out of the artists’/founders’ relationship to the not-for-profit entity.
Drafting of a licensing agreement, which grants the not-for-profit limited rights to use copyrighted material of the artists.