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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 577-3919 if you are interested in learning more about one of these matters.
PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS
Pro Bono Counsel Needed to Assist Former Superintendent and Victim of Disability Discrimination Facing Eviction
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. He has an active housing court case, in which we are awaiting a decision, so Pro bono counsel would also needed to file an Order to Show Cause seeking a stay of the client’s eviction proceedings in Supreme Court.
Washington Heights Building Superintendent Seeks Pro Bono Assistance With Retaliatory Firing and Unpaid Wages Claims
From October 2013 until July 2017 our client worked as a superintendent for two buildings in Washington Heights containing 61 residential units between them. Our client worked 7 days a week, sometimes over 12 hours per day doing work that fit into his duties as a superintendent, as well as non-super work, such as electrical work, replacing sinks, tiling floors, painting, demolition work, plumbing, and more.
Initially, his employer agreed to pay him roughly $1,500 every two weeks for his work in both buildings. However, he was paid less than $850 every two weeks for the entirety of his employment. Upon receiving his first paycheck, he noticed the discrepancy in his pay, and after approximately six months gathered the courage to raise the issue with his supervisor. His supervisor advised him to talk to the owner, who in turn advised him to speak to his supervisor. At one point when he asked his supervisor about part of his pay, he was told that he was not going to receive the payment because there was no work to do at one of the buildings, despite the fact that he was often required to complete tasks at that building.
In July 2017 he again raised the issue with his supervisor, asking when he would finally be paid correctly. His supervisor told him “never” and fired him immediately. At that time, he told his supervisor he was owed for the work he had done, and his supervisor responded that our client was owed nothing, and that he would never pay him.
We believe our client was fired in retaliation for asking to be paid properly for his work. He is currently in housing court with a stay pending the outcome of the New York State Department of Labor claim. He also has a pending claim with the New York State Department of Labor Anti-Retaliation Division and the New York State Department of Labor Labor Standards Division.
While this matter is currently pending with the New York State Department of Labor, we wish to bring a case in State or Federal court in order to litigate and resolve all of our client’s legal claims. We believe our client has claims for unpaid wages and retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law. We are seeking pro bono assistance filing and litigating this case.
Pro Bono Assistance Needed Filing Federal Court Case on Behalf of Former Superintendent
Pro bono assistance is needed to bring a wage and hour case on behalf of our client who was a superintendent in an upper Manhattan building for about three years. He was paid a fixed amount per week with the understanding that he would work 35 hours per week. However, he regularly worked about 40 additional hours per week doing major repairs on apartments. Sometimes he was paid a flat fee of a few hundred dollars for this work, regardless of the amount of time spent on it. In late 2017 he went to take care of his ailing mother and left his brother in charge. His boss attempted to reach him, but the call did not go through and our client was fired. Legal Aid filed a retaliation complaint with the State Department of Labor against the employers for unlawful termination, which is ongoing and being handled by Legal Aid.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to bring a case in federal court against our client’s former employer to collect the overtime pay that he is owed.
Former Superintendent Seeks Pro Bono Assistance to Remedy Systemic Underpayments
From 2004 until 2018 our client worked as a superintendent of two adjacent buildings. In 2014, he was assigned an additional four buildings. He would work a full day as the superintendent of these buildings, but also be required to do extra work, such as painting and major repairs. He was paid a set amount weekly for the two sets of buildings, and was sometimes paid extra for the additional work. However, the employer did not keep track of his long hours and never paid him overtime. Additionally, our client would sometimes need to bring in a friend to complete all of this work. This friend would also fill in when our client went on vacation. The employer would pay the friend directly when he was covering for vacations, but our client paid him out of pocket for the other times he helped. Our client was summarily fired last fall. We are seeking pro bono assistance for our client, who is seeking back wages to remedy the systematic underpayments. Our hope is that we are able to file this case in June.
Pro Bono Counsel Sought To Represent Pro Se African Immigrant Fleeing Religious Persecution on His Petition for Review of Asylum Denial in Second Circuit
Opening Briefs Due July 16, 2019
Legal Aid’s client is a thirty year old man from Côte d’Ivoire, who, on August 14, 2016, presented himself for asylum at the San Ysidro, California Port of Entry (“PoE”). He expressed a fear of return to Côte d’Ivoire because of past persecution he suffered at the hands of his father after he converted to Islam. United States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) detained this client for removal proceedings. He demonstrated to the satisfaction of an asylum officer that he had a credible fear of persecution and his asylum case was referred to an immigration judge for a full assessment of his claim. This man has been detained by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) for nearly three years and is currently detained at Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearney, New Jersey. He has a habeas petition pending before the Southern District of New York and Legal Aid will be seeking a new bond hearing very soon.
On May 1, 2017, the immigration judge denied our client’s application for asylum, withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). On October 20, 2017, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) sustained the appeal in part and remanded the record finding that the client “was a credible witness and sustained past persecution on account of his religion” reversing the immigration judge’s adverse credibility finding. On January 25, 2018, the immigration judge denied his asylum application for a second time, finding that the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that our client could avoid future persecution by relocating to another part of Côte d’Ivoire and that it would be reasonable to expect him to do so. On June 5, 2018, the BIA dismissed his appeal, finding no legal error or clear factual error with the immigration judge’s determination that he did not merit asylum because he could internally relocate. On April 16, 2019, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted our client’s in forma pauperis and stay of removal motions.
The Second Circuit has instructed the parties to brief, among any other issues: (1) whether remand is required for the agency to determine whether the government of Côte d’Ivoire is willing or able to protect Petitioner from persecution; (2) whether the agency improperly placed the burden of proof regarding internal relocation on Petitioner rather than on DHS; and (3) applying the established two-step test, whether DHS met its burden to rebut the presumption that Petitioner’s internal relocation would be unreasonable. See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1)(ii), (3)(ii); Matter of M-Z-M-R-, 26 I. & N. Dec. 28 (B.I.A. 2012).
Pro bono counsel, working with an experienced Legal Aid Immigration Law Unit attorney is urgently needed to represent this client in his case before the Second Circuit. This client is French speaking.
Civil court litigation
Client Seeks Pro Bono Representation on Action in Queens County Supreme Court To Keep Her Home of Almost Thirty Years
Legal Aid’s client’s former partner bought a coop apartment in 1990. The client moved in with him at the time of the sale but was never on the proprietary lease nor stock certificate. The partner left a few years later but the client has continued to reside there. The partner is currently in California and has given a power of attorney to an agent who is suing for possession of the apartment in Queens County Housing Court. Legal Aid continues to represent the client in her Housing Court case.
Our client then brought a lawsuit in Queens County Supreme Court which was initially filed in or around August 2017 by an attorney who has since passed away. The complaint alleges our client is an owner based on a theory of equitable trust which arises from her longstanding possession, occupancy, maintenance, financing, and improvements to the apartment over the last three decades. The defendant filed an answer, and the client pro se moved for a stay of the issuance and execution of the warrant in the related housing court case. There is currently an Order to Show Cause pending in Supreme Court asking for a stay of the housing court case. The next court date is May 30th in Housing Court, pending the decision on the Order to Show Cause in Supreme Court. Pro bono counsel is needed to represent this client on the Supreme Court case going forward. Although The Legal Aid Society will not be co-counsel on the Supreme Court matter, a housing attorney from our Queens Neighborhood Law Office, will be available for consultation related to the matter. Interested law firms will sign a letter of engagement directly with the client and serve as independent counsel.
trusts & estates
Sexual Harassment Victim Seeks Collection Assistance For Award From Defendant’s Estate in New Jersey
Legal Aid’s client was recently awarded substantial damages for the sexual harassment she endured by her former employer, the owner of a small meter reading company. The individual harasser passed away pending the decision and his daughter was substituted into the litigation as the personal representative of her father’s estate. Pro bono assistance is needed to file a claim against the estate, which we have been informed is located in Bergen County, NJ, navigate the probate process in Bergen County and help her enforce the money judgment against the estate. Although The Legal Aid Society will not be co-counsel on the Supreme Court matter, an attorney from the Society’s Employment Law Unit will be available for consultation related to the matter. Interested law firms will sign a letter of engagement directly with the client and serve as independent counsel.
Research Needed on Behalf of Client at Risk of Eviction from Coop He and His Partner Purchased in 1995
In June 1995 our client and his now deceased partner purchased shares in an HDFC cooperative unit. A few months later, the couple moved to a different unit within the same building. The transactional nature of this move is unknown to our client since his partner handled all aspects of the move at the time. His partner died intestate in January 2015. Now, the estate of the deceased partner is suing to evict our client from the unit he lives in, claiming that the partner’s descendant is the sole proprietary tenant of the unit. Our client and the cooperative board have lost all relevant documents pertaining to the past and present ownership of both the original unit that was purchased and the unit where our client currently resides, including the proprietary leases and stock certificate. The Estate and the cooperative board are now working together to re-issue the stock certificate solely in the deceased partner’s name so as to deprive our client of his half-interest in the shares and to evict him from the lifelong home he shared with his partner.
We are considering seeking a judgment from Supreme Court declaring that our client was a co-shareholder of the original unit that was purchased in 1995 and should therefore be reimbursed for the shares he owns jointly with the Estate. We are also considering injunctive relief to stop the cooperative board from re-issuing the stock certificate solely to the deceased partner. However, an action for a declaratory judgement is generally governed by a six-year limitations period, which has run. We are seeking pro bono assistance conducting research on how to circumvent the statute of limitations issue, and the merit of filing this action in Supreme Court seeking both of the reliefs mentioned above.