Projects, Units & Initiatives

Juvenile Rights Practice Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit

The Juvenile Rights Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit (SLLRU) addresses systemic issues affecting children in the child welfare and juvenile systems through impact litigation in State and federal courts, as well as policy and legislative advocacy. The SLLRU strives to achieve justice for NYC youth on myriad fronts, regularly commenting on proposed policies and regulations and testifying before the City Council and State Legislature. The Unit also engages in coalition-building, serving on several coalitions and committees with City and State agents and other advocates and stakeholders.

Our Impact

Over the years, SLLRU has made a significant impact in the lives of young New Yorkers.

With the assistance of pro bono partner Cravath, Swaine & Moore, SLLRU has succeeded in forcing the NYPD to destroy an unlawful database of tens of thousands of juveniles’ fingerprints. SLLRU has also partnered with specialized units within The Legal Aid Society’s Civil Practice in cases involving runaway and homeless youth (C.W. v. City of New York) and youth seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) (R.F.M. v. Nielsen).

Following the filing of C.W., SLLRU, Civil Law Reform, and pro bono partner Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, succeeded in obtaining relief for NYC homeless youth, with the City increasing the number of available youth-specific shelter beds from 253 in 2013 to 753 beds at present. 

In R.F.M., SLLRU, along with Latham & Watkins LLP and Civil Practice units, defeated federal efforts to unduly restrict the availability of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a pathway to citizenship, to young people ages 18-21. Thousands of young people in New York State stand to benefit as a result.

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