Legal Aid Society

Projects, Units & Initiatives

Civil Practice Law Reform Unit

The Law Reform Unit builds upon the needs of individual clients to effect systemic changes through litigation and advocacy that benefit large numbers of clients with similar legal problems. Through class actions and other affirmative litigation, we seek to enforce the rights of many similarly situated persons or to establish new legal rights. The unit’s active affirmative law reform litigation docket includes 27 cases that benefit virtually the entire population of low-income New Yorkers.

This Unit conducts impact litigation and advocates for legislative and regulatory reform on behalf of New Yorkers in need on a host of civil legal issues, including benefits, immigration, health law, homelessness, and employment.

Our Impact

Defending the Right to Shelter – The Adams Administration has sought to use the recent influx of migrants as an excuse to undermine the right to shelter that has existed since Legal Aid’s landmark 1981 victory in Callahan v. Carey. We are staunchly defending this essential part of NYC’s social safety net against the City’s latest court maneuvers.

Fighting Discrimination against Section 8 recipients – We are enforcing the City’s laws against source of income discrimination against dozens of landlords and real estate brokers in both state and federal court. A federal judge recently upheld our right to pursue the claim that the defendants’ conduct also constituted racial discrimination against persons of color with housing subsidies.

Defending Rent Regulation – Since 2020, we have represented tenant groups intervening in five different cases challenging the constitutionality of New York’s longstanding rent stabilization system. If successful, these cases would eliminate affordable housing for over a million families. Fortunately, all five cases were dismissed at the trial court level, and three at the appeals court level. We are now opposing the landlords’ request for a hearing before the US Supreme Court.

Securing timely benefits for vulnerable families – In 2023, we filed two class action cases to end the City’s outrageous delays in providing cash, food stamps and rental assistance to New York’s most desperate and vulnerable families. The City has already agreed to eliminate the backlog in processing food stamp applications and renewals, and we continue to seek systemic reform of City procedures.

Defending NYCHA Residents – In the past two years, NYCHA residents have lived through some of the most brutal winters on record, at times without any heat or hot water. Decades of mismanagement and poor funding has left buildings across the city almost unlivable. We are taking a stand for these tenants. In the past year, we have pushed for rent abatements for NYCHA tenants who were left in the cold. We have created informational materials to help people get help. With nearly 600,000 NYCHA residents across the city, we are making sure that all New Yorkers have a safe place to stay.

Learn more about our casework on The Legal Aid Society litigation docket.