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 achilders@legal-aid.org or (212) 577-3919 if you are interested in learning more about one of these matters.  

APPEALS

Pro Bono Assistance Need with Housing Appeal

Our client, who we are representing in Queens Housing Court, is a disabled adult residing in a rent stabilized apartment. He was sued in October 2017 as a licensee following the death of his mother, the tenant of record for the apartment. Prior to Legal Aid being retained, the client was appointed a Guardian ad Litem. That Guardian then consented to discovery, depositions, and payment of use and occupancy. Legal Aid’s position is that the stipulation entered into waived meritorious defenses and ignored the part of the statute that limits U&O to 30% of income when the party is a recipient of SSD or PA.  Our attorney moved to vacate the stipulation and, upon so doing, dismiss the proceeding. That Guardian was later discharged by the Court and a new Guardian was appointed while the parties conducted motion practice.  After argument, the Judge denied our motion to vacate the stipulation, instead modifying the amount of U&O to be paid.  The Judge also denied the points upon which we sought dismissal – improper use of a fictitious name and lack of authority to commence the proceeding.  The Judge however did allow our client to interpose an Answer, which included jurisdictional defenses.

Our attorney then moved to reargue the motion on the grounds that the court’s Order was contradictory – by acknowledging that Respondent had a valid traverse defense that may result in a lack of the court’s jurisdiction and simultaneously ordering depositions and payment of U&O despite the clear language of the statute.  The Judge reaffirmed her prior decision. Our client went to a single deposition that had to be cut short because he had a panic attack.  The proceeding itself has been adjourned numerous times for the completion of the depositions.  Recently, our office filed a notice of appeal for the underlying decision.  We have also reached out to a licensed psychiatrist to conduct an examination of our client and compile a report in anticipation of a motion to renew seeking a reasonable accommodation for interrogatories rather than depositions.

We are seeking pro bono assistance with this appeal in the Appellate Term Second Department.

PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS

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.

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.

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.

judgment enforcement

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 enforce the money judgment against the estate. The pro bono attorney would engage in post judgment discovery including but not limited to drafting and serving information subpoenas and preparing for and taking depositions of the defendant’s daughter and potential successor meter reading company to identify assets that may have been transferred prior to the individual defendant’s death.  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 Assistance

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 filing an affirmative action in Supreme Court staying the summary proceedings in Housing Court to determine or declare that our client was a co-shareholder of the unit and should, therefore, be reimbursed for the shares he owns jointly with the Estate, and seeking injunctive relief to stop the cooperative board from re-issuing the stock certificate solely to the deceased partner.  However, an action for a declaratory judgment is generally governed by a six-year limitations period, which has run. The pro bono attorney’s responsibilities include but are not limited to conducting research on how to circumvent the statute of limitations issue and the filing of this action in Supreme Court seeking both of the reliefs above.

community development project assistance

Help Prepare an Employment Law Manual for Small Low-Income Businesses & Not-For-Profits

The majority of Legal Aid’s Community Development Project (CDP) clients are small, low-income businesses and not-for-profit organizations who employ between five and ten staff.  In order to ensure these community based businesses meet the requirements and obligations of hiring, compensating and managing their staff, CDP is seeking assistance with drafting an employment manual outlining important issues for employers.                                                            

Identifying Important Issues For Low-Income Entrepreneurs Starting An Online Business

Most Community Development Project clients form online businesses to avoid the high cost of renting commercial space. Many of these entrepreneurs simply create a website and immediately start doing business online. Pro Bono assistance is needed to create a manual for our client entrepreneurs who want to form and operate online businesses.  The manual should focus on a variety of legal issues, including but not limited to important things to know when selling to people outside New York State and limiting personal liability.

NEW YORK STATE PARDON INITIATIVE FOR IMMIGRANT CLIENTS FACING REMOVAL

Bronx Woman with 20 Year Old Conviction Seeks Assistance with Pardon

Our client, a 69 year old woman who lives in the Bronx, is facing removal as a result of a conviction from almost 20 years ago for sale of a controlled substance. She has been a legal resident of the United States since 1987, and now has significant physical and mental health issues, including end stage renal disease requiring dialysis; congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and depression. The aforementioned conviction renders her ineligible for cancellation of removal. It is her only conviction. She had another arrest for a similar offense in the same time period, but the charges were dismissed. She is basically homebound other than when she is transported for health care purposes. She also receives home care. She has significant family ties in the US including children and grandchildren, all of whom are citizens or legal residents.

A governor’s pardon would bump her sale offense (an aggravated felony) down to a simple possession offense; she would then be eligible for cancellation of removal. We are seeking pro bono assistance applying for a pardon on behalf of our client.

Legal Permanent Resident Seeks Assistance Vacating Conviction

In 1973 at the age of 11 our client came to the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident. He is a recovering addict who has family ties and a work history in the US. He is in removal proceedings as a result of an attempted sale conviction from 1996, as well as a 2005 theft of services offense and a 2006 criminal possession of a controlled substance. His last arrest was in 2006. We are seeking assistance from a pro bono attorney vacating the conviction and having the client replead to simple possession to give him a chance at cancellation of removal relief.