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.
TIME SENSITIVE MATTERs
Young Man With Mental Health and Physical Disabilities Seeks Representation on Federal Court Appeal of Denial of Social Security Benefits
The Legal Aid Society represents a young man in his twenties who suffers from bipolar disorder, impulse control disorder, learning disability, asthma, and obesity. In February 2015, the client filed an application for SSI benefits and the claim was denied in June 2015. In August 2017, Legal Aid represented this client at a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who also denied this young man’s claim. Legal Aid subsequently filed an appeal with the Appeals Council, which denied review but gave no reason. The client next filed a federal court appeal in the SDNY pro se. Pro bono counsel is needed to represent this client on his appeal.
The client’s brief was originally due on January 12 but the matter is stayed for the length of the government shutdown. Once the government reopens, the new due date will be calculated by adding the number of days that the government was shut down to the January 12 date. However, it is also possible that the judge will grant an extension to pro bono counsel.
There are a number of legal errors in the ALJ’s decision including 1) the ALJ’s failure to develop the record, i.e., despite evidence of a learning disorder there is no psychometric (IQ) testing in the record and the ALJ failed to order such testing. As a result he could not evaluate the severity of the learning disorder and 2) The Social Security Administration (SSA) failed to prove that there are other jobs the claimant could perform. The vocational expert testified that the claimant could do jobs, but those jobs require a higher cognitive ability than the claimant possesses, i.e., a person must be able to carry out detailed instructions and the claimant is limited to carrying out simple instructions. The ALJ also found that the claimant is limited to performing simple routine tasks and yet did not find that the SSA failed to meet its evidentiary burden that there are specific jobs that the claimant can do.
Counsel Needed to Bring Quiet Title Action on Behalf of Victim of Deed Theft Scheme
Legal Aid represents a fifty-year-old disabled woman who lived in her grandmother’s home, beginning in 2001 until her grandmother’s death in 2013. Shortly after her grandmother’s death our client petitioned the Surrogate’s Court for letters of administration so that she could pay bills for the home and continue to live there with her children. The Surrogate Court issued letters of limited administration allowing our client to pay the bills, but the Court did not allow her to collect any monies from the home nor did our client ever received any additional grant of authority.
Around this time, our client began receiving letters from her grandmother’s bank, alerting her to the bank’s plans to foreclose on the home. Shortly thereafter, our client was approached by a man who identified himself by his first name only. This man told our client that he worked for an organization that helped people save their homes from foreclosure, but in truth, he represented a real estate development company. He told our client that if she signed some papers, he could obtain the original deed to the home and help prevent the eviction. Desperate to save her home, our client signed papers and by doing so, unwittingly signed away the deed to her grandmother’s home, even though she lacked the authority to do so. A subsequent fraudulent closing arose out of a short sale which satisfied the mortgage in the name of our client’s grandmother but which provided no monetary benefit to our client.
Within two months of the fraudulent closing, this man had his attorney (who was previously indicted and pled guilty to several charges arising out of his involvement in deed theft schemes) serve our client with paperwork to begin an eviction proceeding against her. On her first date in court, counsel for the real estate development company again took advantage of our client and convinced her to sign a stipulation whereby she waived her right to defend against the eviction proceeding.
The Legal Aid Society successfully vacated that stipulation and defended her in the original eviction proceeding, but the real estate company has now brought another eviction proceeding against our client. Although she filed a pro se quiet title complaint in Queens County Supreme Court, she lacks the resources needed to serve the real estate company and represent herself in that proceeding. The housing court case has been adjourned to January 22 and Legal Aid will be seeking an adjournment on that date so that pro bono counsel will bring a quiet title action on behalf of this client in Supreme Court, which will stay the Housing Court proceeding.
Although The Legal Aid Society will not be co-counsel on this matter, a staff attorney form our Housing 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.
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.
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.
Intellectually Disabled Immigrant Needs Counsel to Contest Deportation in Immigration Court
The Legal Aid Society is seeking assistance representing a nondetained client at a hearing in Immigration Court in April. Our client is a 43 year old, undocumented man from Mexico. His native language is an indigenous language called Mixteco, but he also speaks fluent Spanish. He came to the United States in 2001. Since 2004, he has lived in the same apartment in upper Manhattan with his sister, her partner, and his sister’s children. He has worked as a cook at small restaurants to support himself, contribute to his household, and to send money to his parents and two daughters in Mexico. In 2002, he was charged with assault in the second degree under New York Penal Law 120.05(1). He and his two friends allegedly got into a fight outside of a bar, and assaulted someone. He later pleaded guilty to that charge, and received a one-year jail sentence. While that case was pending, a court-appointed psychologist evaluated him and diagnosed him with (i) Adjustment Disorder and Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood, and (ii) Mild Intellectual Disability. A psychologist concluded that our client likely became involved in the event primarily to fit in with his peers, and as a result of alcohol. He noted that if he abstains from alcohol and avoids the company of a negative peer group, his prognosis is positive.
Since that time, our client has continued to live with his sister and her children, and work to help support himself and his family. He has been arrested for misdemeanor offenses, all of which relate to his poverty (turnstile jumping), lack of immigration status (e.g., using an alias), and alcoholism. In November 2015, ICE came to his family’s apartment early in the morning, arrested him, and put him in removal proceedings. In July 2016, an Immigration Judge held a bond hearing and set a $1,500 bond, under which he was released from custody. He is now applying for relief from removal based on a fear of being harmed in Mexico. His fear is based principally on the facts that (i) a police officer in Tlapa De Comomfort, Mexico, raped his sister in 1998, and (ii) one of his brothers was shot in killed in that same town in Mexico in 2002. His sister believes that the police officer who raped her was responsible for the murder of their brother.
We are seeking pro bono counsel to represent our client at his nondetained merits hearing in Immigration Court scheduled for April 5, 2019, with a March 21st deadline for filing evidence.
Social Security Disability Hearings
Woman With Chronic Back Pain Requires Pro Bono Assistance at SSI Hearing (February 5th)
Our client is a 62 year old Spanish-speaking woman who lives with a friend. She has a tenth grade education, which she received in the Dominican Republic. She worked as an office cleaner and doing maintenance in a factory until 2009, but stopped due to health issues. She suffers from back problems, headaches, arthritis in her knee and foot, and depression. She is limited in her ability to walk, sit, and stand due to her back issues. Her older medical records also show a disc bulge and stenosis.
We are seeking Assistance for our client at her hearing scheduled for February 5th.
Former Home Attendant Needs Assistance Obtaining SSI Benefits (February 26th)
Our Spanish speaking client is a 55 year old woman who was born in the Dominican Republic and came to this country in 2000. She did not attend high school and currently lives with her adult son. She worked from 2003-2016 as a home attendant, but stopped because of a herniated disc she suffered while trying to help a client change positions. She received an injection, which helped for two months, and has had Physical Therapy to address the issue. She uses a cane and has a home attendant for 15 hours per week. She suffers from depression and sees a therapist and a psychiatrist for medication. She is limited in her ability to perform daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping. She takes sleeping pills, but is generally still unable to sleep through the night, often waking up a few times each night.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent our client at a hearing, which is scheduled for February 26th.
Counsel Needed for Woman Suffering from Pain and Severe Headaches Seeking Disability Benefits
The Legal Aid Society represents a 59 year old woman who speaks only Spanish. Until January 2015, our client worked as a home attendant, but had to stop working due to issues with her health. She suffers from pain in her upper back and neck, carpal tunnel syndrome, and knee pain as well as depression, hearing loss, and severe headaches with visual disturbances. This client has limitations on sitting, walking, standing, and lifting, so she is unable to shop or clean.
We are seeking pro bono assistance representing our client at her hearing. A hearing is not yet scheduled, but we anticipate that it will be in the next six months.
Hodgkin’s Survivor Pursuing Decision on the Record to Obtain SSI Benefits
A 52 year old woman is seeking assistance submitting a Decision on the Record to obtain SSI Benefits. She completed less than one year of college, and last worked in 2017 in the accounting department of a real estate company. Prior to this job, she has a similar job at another company for ten years. She also had two similar jobs in Florida before that. All of her jobs involved sitting for extended periods of time. She stopped working when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She has a series of blood clots and is on blood thinners, which makes surgery difficult. She also has stents in her arm and chest. She experiences a great deal of pain and moves through the activities of daily life very slowly. She lives alone, but her adult daughter helps her. She is limited in her ability to sit, stand, and walk. Her doctor says that she would miss more than four days of work per month. In addition, one of her medications makes her drowsy.
Our client requested a hearing in September 2017, but it has not yet been scheduled. We are seeking assistance from a pro bono attorney to submit a Decision on the Record on her behalf with the hope that she will be afforded benefits without having to wait for a hearing to be scheduled. The pro bono attorney will not have to appear at a hearing.
Assistance with Investigation
Seeking Pro Bono Assistance for Legal Aid Society Community Partner and Not-For-Profit Client
Cure Violence (CV) is a public health model for reducing gun, gang and street violence. The model treats violence as a disease and uses wrap-around services including but not limited to: mental health, legal, and employment services to aid in the reduction of violence among high risk individuals age 16-24. Through its Community Justice Unit, the Legal Aid Society partners with CV organizations to provide direct and comprehensive legal services as well as community outreach, legal education/clinics and trainings to the CV network.
In November, 2018, one of our CV partner organizations received a subpoena from the NYC Department of Investigation (DOI) requesting document production from 2013 to date seeking financial, contract and personnel information. Many of the documents are public but the DOI seems particularly interested in what may be considered related party transactions. Upon information and belief, some former employees and vendors were subpoenaed and have been interviewed by DOI. We are looking for pro bono counsel to represent the organization and Board of Directors in the DOI investigation. Although our Harlem Community Law Office and Community Development Project has agreed to assist the organization with updating their by-laws and policies & procedures, we believe the representation of the organization in this investigation should be handled by independent counsel and have agreed to assist the Board in securing pro bono representation. LAS has requested, and the DOI has agreed to accept documentation on a rolling basis.
If you or your colleagues are interested in learning more about this referral we will arrange a call with staff members from our Community Justice and Community Development practices to answer any questions.
Brooklyn Tenants Association Seeks Assistance In Preserving Rent Stabilized Status and Ensuring Repairs Are Made
The Legal Aid Society represents a tenant group consisting of five low-income tenants from the East New York neighborhood in Brooklyn. Since December 2016, the Society has worked with this tenant group to help them secure repairs in their apartment building, and to enforce their rights as rent stabilized tenants. In March 2017, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development vacated the tenants from their building due to the many extremely hazardous conditions there (including a lack of heat, hot water and gas for several months). Although an Order to perform repairs and to pay civil fines and damages to two of the clients was issued in May 2018, the building owner is currently in default.
Legal Aid is looking for pro bono co-counsel to represent this tenant group in seeking repairs on behalf of the remaining tenants in Housing Court as well as with a related action brought in Supreme Court, Kings County, seeking a declaration that this vacated apartment building is subject to rent stabilization. The Supreme Court action was filed in March 2017, and is nearing the end of discovery. Pro bono counsel is needed to work with Legal Aid housing attorneys on all aspects of the litigation going forward including depositions and trial preparation. Depositions of our clients and non-party witnesses will likely happen in January and February. The trial is scheduled to begin on April 11, 2019.
Client Seeks Pro Bono Representation on Action in Queens County Supreme Court To Keep Her Home of Almost Thirty Years (February 11th)
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. Pro bono counsel is needed to represent this client on the Supreme Court case going forward. The next court date is February 11th. 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.
Pro Bono Assistance Needed to Conduct Research for Immigration Client
Our client is a non-citizen survivor of domestic violence and human trafficking. She endured three distinct experiences of human trafficking for the past approximate 17 years. She is post removal-order and was recently released from immigration detention due to a successful habeas petition with the SDNY filed based on her pending immigration applications.
USCIS requested further evidence on her trafficking case with an intent to deny. We are trying to provide proof or context via caselaw and secondary sources that our client’s experiences qualify as trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVAP).
We are seeking pro bono assistance conducting research to support us in this case. If you have someone interested, we would be happy to send a more detailed description of what our attorneys are looking for.