“The people who make up The Legal Aid Society proved again this year their stalwart commitment to the clients we serve.”
The people who make up The Legal Aid Society proved again this year their stalwart commitment to the clients we serve. Our attorneys, paralegals, investigators, social workers, support, and administrative staff rose to meet the challenges of the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are an organization driven by the simple but powerful belief that no person should be denied the right to equal justice.
Our direct representation of thousands of people informs our litigation efforts and policy advocacy. This year, we saw that advocacy in action and made significant steps towards removing the systemic barriers that have long stifled opportunity for the communities we serve.
The pandemic proved, in many areas, to be a catalyst for meaningful change for those we serve. With our guidance, New York State enacted historic parole reforms through the Less is More Act and legalized marijuana with careful consideration for sealing past criminal convictions. We fought to decarcerate Rikers Island, where a humanitarian crisis has claimed the lives of at least sixteen New Yorkers this year. We secured new, stronger eviction protections that will allow families to stay in their homes. Our advocacy and litigation helped turn the tide on harmful immigration policies from the previous administration. And the settlement of our class-action suit against the City of New York brought working WiFi to thousands of students living in homeless shelters. Because of our work New York City is a more humane place for our children, with new laws that center the humanity of our youngest clients as they navigate the foster and juvenile rights systems.
As we look to the future, The Legal Aid Society is excited to welcome Zachary W. Carter as our new Chair of the Board of Directors. Zachary brings years of public service to this position, most recently serving as Corporation Counsel for the City of New York. His vast legal knowledge and leadership experience will serve us well at this pivotal moment. I also want to acknowledge the significant contributions of Richard J. Davis, our outgoing Chair. Rich Davis has devoted extraordinary time and passion to Legal Aid for the past twelve years, always concerned about our staff and focused on our mission. He has been an unrelenting champion for Legal Aid.
After returning to Legal Aid three years ago, I will step down in the spring of 2022. I am incredibly proud of what our staff achieves every day in pursuit of justice for our clients and the communities we serve. It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve as Attorney-in-Chief of this organization that means so much to me and to all New Yorkers.
Despite its challenges and hardships, this year illustrated that by centering our clients and their core issues, transformative change is possible. Through our legal work, our fiercely passionate staff showed every day what can be achieved through leadership, compassion and a deep commitment to justice. Yet again they proved how vital Legal Aid is to the fight for equity and justice in New York City.
As the new Chair of the Board of Directors, I am very much looking forward to this new challenge, using my experience in public service to ensure that Legal Aid clients have the best possible representation on legal matters citywide.”
The Legal Aid Society is a New York City institution, serving our most vulnerable neighbors on a myriad of issues each and every day. As the new Chair of the Board of Directors, I am very much looking forward to this new challenge, using my experience in public service to ensure that Legal Aid clients have the best possible representation on legal matters citywide. I began my career as an intern with Legal Aid’s Juvenile Rights Practice and it is an honor to return in this leadership role.
I have served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, as a judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York and most recently as Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. I have observed first hand the fierce advocacy of Legal Aid lawyers, both in the representation of individual clients and in affirmative litigation that has revealed government operations in need of reform. I believe my years in government will provide valuable perspective on how Legal Aid can constructively engage with the City to produce the best possible results on the many issues which deeply affect the lives of our clients.
The Legal Aid Society’s Board of Directors will be an active participant in helping steer the organization towards a sustainable future. We will demand pay parity with employees of government agencies with whom we engage as partners or adversaries. We will expand the scope and reach of our fundraising efforts to ensure our critical work extends beyond our constitutionally mandated representation — work that continues to grow.
I would like to thank my predecessor Richard J. Davis for his years of leadership at Legal Aid, and tireless commitment to our staff and the communities we serve.
I would also like to acknowledge the leadership of our outgoing Attorney-in-Chief and Chief Executive Officer Janet Sabel, who guided Legal Aid through the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Janet’s accomplishments include expanding the organization’s client services, securing staff pay parity with City prosecutorial offices, modernizing the organization’s operations, and building an affirming workplace that draws on and celebrates Legal Aid’s diversity, equity and inclusion values.
The Board’s first priority is to find a worthy successor to Janet. The process has already begun, and we look forward to bringing forward the best qualified individual to fill this important role.
While COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the communities we serve, I am proud of the way our staff and leadership have worked tirelessly on behalf of our clients and of the many successes that are the result of their efforts. They have ensured that this crisis has also been a catalyst for positive change. I look forward to working across The Legal Aid Society’s practices to further our mission of ensuring all New Yorkers have access to equal justice.
We are now and will always remain grateful for Rich’s years of service to New York City and the individuals and families we serve, and his commitment to the cause of equitable access to justice for all.
Richard J. Davis has led The Legal Aid Society for the last twelve years as the Chair of the Board, never wavering in his commitment to our mission and clients. His passion for the work of The Legal Aid Society and his deep respect for the staff of Legal Aid informed his day-to-day work. Rich served on the Board of Directors for two terms, first in the early eighties and then again in early 2000. In 2004, when Legal Aid was staring down a financial crisis that threatened to interfere with our ability to carry out our mission, Rich galvanized his firm, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, to assist with our financial recovery and ensure we could serve the next generation of New Yorkers in need.
In January 2011, Rich was elected Chair of Legal Aid’s Board. He continued to place clients and staff first in this role, continually advancing our mission and the communities we serve. We will always be grateful for his efforts to promote diversity among our leadership team and the Board, and his dedication to seeing equity and inclusion become cornerstones of our work.
In addition to his service to our organization, Rich served as Chair of the Commission to Combat Police Corruption, Chair of Citizens’ Union, the Randall’s Island Park Alliance, and the New York City Bar Criminal Justice Council. Before joining the private bar, Rich was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District, Assistant Watergate Special Prosecutor, and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.
We are now and will always remain grateful for Rich’s years of service to New York City and the individuals and families we serve, and his commitment to the cause of equitable access to justice for all. His tireless dedication has left a lasting mark on our organization, and he will be missed.
Comprised of some of the brightest minds from law firms, law schools, corporations, and communities, our officers and board members provide crucial guidance that strengthens our work.
Leaders of The Legal Aid Society are some of the most respected in their fields, offering decades of experience and perspective gained from dedicating their careers to ensuring equal justice.