Legal Aid Society

Projects, Units & Initiatives

Juvenile Rights Practice Appeals Unit

The Juvenile Rights Practice Appeals Unit handles all appeals concerning our JRP clients. Most appeals arise from child protective and delinquency cases, but we handle other kinds of cases as well, including visitation and guardianship matters. Once a notice of appeal is filed, either by the JRP attorney for the child or by another party, the case is transferred to the Appeals Unit.

Our Appeals Unit offers JRP trial attorneys the opportunity to do a two-year rotation with us. Through a pilot project entitled “Brief Encounter,” the Unit offers all interested trial attorneys training on the appellate process and the opportunity to write briefs and work with appellate attorneys as mentors. Law school students are provided internship opportunities with our Unit, during which they draft briefs under the supervision of our staff and engage in research projects. Pro bono attorneys from partnered law firms also have handled appeals on behalf of JRP clients.

The Unit includes a Stays and Writs Project, which offers legal advice and back-up support on stays and writs.  Our attorneys also are available for phone consultations on legal issues that arise in the trial courts with the twin goals of developing the most effective trial strategy and ensuring the best and most complete record for appeal. One outstanding example is a challenge we made regarding the breadth of discovery permitted in juvenile delinquency matters.  The trial attorney, with consultation from appeals, developed a thorough record that raised an array of statutory and constitutional issues that the appellate attorney then was able to raise on appeal, resulting in a noteworthy victory on a case of first impression.  In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Appeals Unit has been actively assisting in developing advocacy at both the trial and appellate levels for protecting our clients’ due process rights.

Our Unit, along with JRP’s Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit (SLLRU) and Educational Advocacy Project (EAP), work together to identify issues of particular importance to our clients and develop strategies both at the trial and appellate levels to address these matters. For example, an attorney from our Unit and an attorney from the Bronx trial office partnered with EAP to develop a protocol for handling school suspension hearings in particular kinds of cases.  The Appeals Unit worked with SLLRU in seeking habeas corpus relief for clients being held in juvenile detention centers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also has been involved with SLLRU and the Criminal Defense Practice’s DNA Law Unit in challenging the collection and storage of our clients’ DNA, and we have joined with the Immigration Law Unit on appeals involving children seeking Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SIJS).

Partnerships

The Appeals Unit collaborates with outside agencies and attorneys representing other parties on matters of particular significance with which we are aligned, as a means of crafting the most persuasive and comprehensive arguments that will educate the appellate courts on the breadth and multifaceted nature of an issue. As an example, the Unit has worked closely with NYU’s Family Defense Clinic and Brooklyn Defender Services to challenge, on constitutional and other grounds, the application of the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) to non-respondent parents who reside out of state. The Unit lso worked collaboratively with a private law firm to ensure that new legislation regarding subsidies for guardians through the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP) applied retroactively to ensure that all children benefited from the change in the law.