Browse the latest Pro Bono Opportunities at The Legal Aid Society.
NOTE: These opportunities are only available to attorneys affiliated with firms that have an established pro bono relationship with The Legal Aid Society.
If you are interested in working on one of these matters, please contact the Pro Bono Counsel at your law firm to receive authorization and check conflicts.
Our Housing Unit seeks assistance in a Housing Preservation case that our client filed seeking repairs and alleging harassment against her landlord.
In June 2021, our client came back from vacation to find that her apartment door and most of her belongings were missing, along with her apartment having been demolished by the landlord and his agents. She had two children and was pregnant at the time, which made her situation more dire. She was subsequently locked out of the apartment in October and again in December. In order to gain access she required assistance from the NYPD and was forced to pay a locksmith to change the locks both times. Along with these complaints, the client had no running water or heat throughout most of her tenancy.
Since the complaints were filed the landlord has never appeared in any of the court proceedings. The court found that the landlord had engaged in harassment and awarded our client $10,000 in punitive damages and $1,000 in statutory damages.
We are looking for pro bono counsel to help collect on this judgment. Although we do not have any of the landlord’s bank information, we know that he is employed by the NYPD as a police officer and are hoping to secure a lien on the property or garnish his wages.
The property in dispute was owned by our client’s great uncle. When he died, the property went to his wife in a Life Estate and then to his daughter in fee simple absolute. The daughter was not interested in the property and never took possession Our client, her parents, and husband were in exclusive physical possession of the building for decades. None of the other living parties have ever entered the building.
Recently, our client was experiencing deep financial strain when several of her distant family members began to claim an interest in the property. Rather than fight them she decided to sell any stake that she had in the building and move. She got together with one of her family members and another title claimant and sold this property to a property management company. Around this time the other two listed sellers, recorded two mutually inconsistent deeds in their own respective names.
The other two sellers immediately changed their mind and decided that they would not “close.” Instead, they brought an eviction case against our client, which is how the case came to The Legal Aid Society’s housing unit. The property management company then started an action for specific performance on the fully executed contract. They reached out to our client because she still wanted to do the agreement. They asked if she wanted to be listed as a co-plaintiff in that action. She said yes and as a result, she is nominally listed as a plaintiff represented by the company’s attorneys in that action.
Legal Aid filed a motion in the Supreme Court action asking for a stay or preliminary injunction of the eviction proceeding so the title dispute could be resolved first. Soon after the motion was filed, however, we discovered a separate Supreme Court action from 2016. That action was a tax lien foreclosure involving the same property. Our client was never directly named or even allegedly served. The party seeking to foreclose filed a summary judgment motion in 2020 which appears to have been granted in March of 2022.
Pro Bono counsel is needed to assist in resolving both Supreme Court actions. Help is needed to identify defenses to the tax lien foreclosure and to undo the default judgment recently entered in that action. Additionally, in the action for specific performance, evaluate whether our client has a way to reform the contract to match her understanding or, if that is not possible, then get the best result possible under the circumstances.
The client is nearly 60 years old, from the Dominican Republic (DR), and has been a Lawful Permanent Resident for 40 years. All of his family, including his US citizen mother, US citizen children, and long-term partner (also a US Citizen) are in this country and he has no family in the DR. He is experiencing serious health issues, including recently diagnosed diabetes while at Orange County Jail. His glucose levels are extremely high, and the detention facility has been unable or unwilling to manage them. The habeas would likely raise claims related to his lack of individualized bond hearing and his medical care.
Our client only has one serious conviction, for second degree sexual abuse, 130.60(2), which was charged as an aggravated felony and crime against a child. The allegation was that he inappropriately touched an eight-year-old relative on one occasion; the client has no memory of the incident and asserted that he was intoxicated at the time. He received no jail time.
A client represented by Legal Aid’s Criminal Appeals Bureau (CAB) seeks pro bono assistance with a petition for clemency. Mr. A was convicted after a 2012 jury trial of attempted murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree after shooting the boyfriend of his former girlfriend and attempting to flee.
Mr. A was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 20 years’ incarceration, plus 5 years of post-release supervision. His conditional release date is March 9, 2028, and his maximum expiration date is January 21, 2031. The Office of Appellate Advocates represented Mr. A on direct appeal raising insufficiency/weight-of-the-evidence, summation misconduct, and excessive sentence claims. The conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Second Department.
Leave was granted to the Court of Appeals on an issue related to the prosecutor’s use of a PowerPoint presentation during summation. CAB represented Mr. A on that issue, but The Court of Appeals affirmed the Second Department’s decision.
In a conversation with Mr. A in late March, CAB discovered that he has made considerable progress in drafting a pro se clemency petition. His narratives and documents demonstrate that he has been extremely productive in prison. Among other things, he has attended college, been a member of the debate team, and worked on a focus group with elected officials. Although not apparent in his disciplinary record, he has received just two tickets (both sounded minor) since entering DOCCS (Department of Corrections and Community Supervision) in/around 2012.
Our client is the mother of three very young children and seeks pro bono counsel to litigate an asylum application for her and her family. In March of 2022, our client, with the aid of our Immigration Law Unit, filed a pro se I-589 application based on the persecution that she faced in Ghana when she was discovered she was in a romantic relationship with another women. Her application was filed affirmatively with USCIS rather than through the immigration court, meaning so long as USCIS accepts jurisdiction, our client will have her case heard in a non-adversarial immigration court setting. Our client has yet to receive a receipt notice, but when she does, she will need aid from an immigration attorney to prepare for her interview.
Years prior to her forced escape from Ghana, the father of her children had left M and her children, unbeknownst to her at the time, to New York. After he left, our client began a relationship with a woman, which lasted for two years. Once the relationship was discovered, M’s family, neighbors, and others nearby savagely beat her and her son. Eventually the family was able to a nearby hospital, but still facing the threat from her family and community.
Eventually M was able to get her family visas and plane tickets to Mexico, where she joined a group of refuges that helped her get to the U.S., and eventually to New York City. After she arrived in New York, our client ran into the father of her children, who has since helped her and her children financially and emotionally. In 2021, our client gave birth to her third child. The father and our client have maintained a complicated relationship, although our client does not wish to pursue a romantic relationship with the father of her children due to her sexual orientation.
Because she does not have full authorization to work in the United States, our client is a full time, single mother, currently living in a shelter in New York City. Although she receives some help from the father of her children, it is not enough to cover all expenses.
Currently, our client awaits a receipt notice for her asylum application, but Pro Bono Counsel will help our client and her kids prepare for their asylum interview. This will include drafting a legal memorandum in support of the case, drafting an affidavit for in support of her claim, gathering the necessary identity documents (birth certificates for her and the older kids, copies of their passports), and compiling any additional information (especially country conditions information related to the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Ghana and any other supporting documentation). If the asylum officer does not grant the application following the asylum interview, the asylum officer may refer the case to immigration court. If this happens, the Pro Bono attorney’s responsibilities may include attending immigration court hearings with the client and preparing the client to present their case again, this time in an adversarial trial like setting.
Our client, currently incarcerated at Otisville Correctional Facility, is seeking pro bono legal assistance for his clemency application. He is serving a determinate sentence of 18 years for manslaughter in the first degree.
During the past 10 years of his incarceration, our client has participated in numerous mandatory and voluntary rehabilitative programs including as a Facilitator in the Youth Assistance Program. For approximately 5 years he has counseled at-risk youth on the dangers of substance abuse and life in prison. He tells us that in these discussions he would often share his life story, reflecting on the decisions he made which led to his conviction and subsequent incarceration, which he hopes steered the youth toward making better choices. Additionally, he also participated in the Prisoner Aids Counseling and Education program, where he instructed groups about HIV/AIDS awareness; the Quality Impact program, where he designed and developed volunteer programs, and Family Reunion Program a highly coveted visitation program where participants must exhibit a history of good behavior.
Aside from his participation in programs, our client has an excellent institutional record and an extremely limited disciplinary record. He tells us that he has only received one ticket during his incarceration, for smoking a cigarette in a no-smoking area. Indeed, throughout his incarceration, our client has displayed his deep commitment to rehabilitation and growth.
Our client has also obtained his associates degree from State University of New York – Sullivan in Liberal Arts and currently has 47 credits toward a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from St. Thomas Aquinas College.
If released, our client will return to Westchester, New York, where he will live with his wife. He is eager to put to use the social and professional skills that he has learned during his incarceration to support his family and reenter his community.
The Immigration Law Unit (ILU) is looking for a pro bono team to help with vacaturs in criminal courts in New Jersey and Maryland (metropolitan DC area) for a survivor of sex trafficking. This post-conviction relief will help our client avoid removal from the United States and separation from her United States citizen children and grandchildren with whom she resides in New York City.
Our client is a 54-year-old woman from the Dominican Republic who has been living in the United States since 1992. At that time, the client entered the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Soon after separating from her abusive United States citizen spouse approximately eight years later, our client, a single mother, began struggling financially. A friend offered to help her find stable employment, but instead aided in sex trafficking our client.
Our client has been arrested three times for prostitution-related offenses. Her first arrest was in 2002 in Plainfield, NJ, and she was convicted of engaging in prostitution and sentenced to payment of a fine. Her second arrest took place in Virginia in 2008. She was initially charged with the offense of prostitution, but the charges were later dismissed (prosecution declined to prosecute). Her third arrest took place in Prince George’s County, MD in 2009. She was charged with prostitution-related charges and pled guilty to prostitution in 2010; she was sentenced to time served. Our client feels deep shame regarding her past arrests and has been referred to social services to help her process and recover from the trauma of being sexually trafficked.
Because of her two convictions in New Jersey and Maryland, which are deemed crimes involving moral turpitude, our client is facing removal from the United States. She needs at least one of her prostitution-related convictions to be vacated to prevent her deportation. ILU is seeking assistance from a pro bono team with associates in New Jersey and Maryland to assess her vacatur options in both jurisdictions and seek vacaturs on her behalf. ILU consulted with the Freedom Network USA/Survivor Reentry Project, Lawyers for Justice in New Jersey, and Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service for assistance but, because of limited resources, these agencies have not been able to assist our client.
Legal Aid’s Criminal Appeals Bureau represents a man whose wife passed away unexpectedly on March 12. She died intestate, so he will likely inherit whatever property she has, which might include a Bronx co-op apartment. Our client began serving a sentence in 2017 for several late-night commercial burglaries that netted, at most, an IPad or a few hundred dollars. He has a completely non-violent record, driven by a history of substance abuse. Our client is currently incarcerated at a prison upstate and needs assistance to navigate the probate system. Legal Aid will not be co-counsel on the matter; the firm will sign a separate retainer with the client. Our client’s Criminal Appeals attorney will be available to provide background information and an introduction to the client.
The Legal Aid Society represents 38 year old man who has lived in the same apartment for his entire life. His mother owned shares of stock in the corporate cooperative that owns the building he lives in, which under the corporate by-laws gave her the right to sign a proprietary lease agreement and live in this apartment. His mother passed away around a decade ago, but no one challenged his right to “inherit” his mother’s shares and become a party to a proprietary lease until relatively recently.
Around a year ago, the cooperative brought an eviction proceeding against him alleging that he was not the shareholder and that they were electing to terminate his tenancy. He went to Surrogate’s Court to try to obtain an order saying that he was entitled to the shares. Our understanding is that the cooperative board is challenging what he did in Surrogate’s Court on the grounds that the type of proceeding he initiated has a jurisdictional limit of $75,000. They believe the shares to be worth more than that. His eviction case was thrown out on a technical defense but we anticipate that the co-op board will re-file the case soon. If he has the shares, the housing court judge in the first case signaled that our client will likely also be able to keep the apartment.
Our client’s sole source of income is from SSD. He has several severe physical disabilities. He has dialysis treatment twice a week for his kidneys. He also has high blood pressure. He suffers from a heart condition and had what he described as “minor” heart surgery around June or July. He also reports that he had the novel coronavirus over the summer. His brother, who lives with him in this apartment and is also vulnerable to eviction at the moment, has asthma and diabetes.
We are seeking pro bono assistance to represent our client in the Surrogate’s Court proceeding he filed pro se, or to file a separate Surrogate’s Court proceeding if necessary. Interested volunteer attorneys will need to sign an engagement letter directly with the client. Legal Aid will not be co-counsel on the matter, but an attorney from Legal Aid’s Housing Unit will be available to provide guidance and support.
Our Bronx Housing office represents the son of a recently deceased owner of a HDFC Co-Op. The Housing Development Fund (HDFC) Co-Op is a form of affordable co-op housing intended for New Yorkers to live in long-term, as opposed to being used as investment properties. They are often priced much lower than a typical NYC apartment, but require buyers to meet certain income caps while also having significant financial assets on hand.
In 2018, our client’s mother moved from apartment 4B to apartment 2B within the co-op as an accommodation to her disability. Our client has provided us with the minutes from a meeting in which the Co-Op Board agreed to transfer his mother’s shares from her previous apartment to the apartment in which he now lives, however it appears the shares were never transferred before she died. The Co-Op is now effectively taking the position that the mother’s estate owns neither apartment, so that they are able to evict the son from 2B, while treating 4B as property of the Co-Op as well, cheating the estate out of a very valuable asset.
Legal Aid is continuing to represent the client in the Housing Court action, but in order to favorably resolve the matter we are seeking pro bono assistance with filing the proper papers in Surrogates Court in order to ensuring the estate of the mother is protected.
Our client worked at an international furniture chain store for almost ten years as a visual merchandiser (VM), planning and executing floor displays and layouts. Most of the time she worked in the store, she was the only African American woman VM. In her last couple of years when new management arrived, she saw that planning assignments were being taken away from her and reassigned to co-workers who were not African American women. Her performance evaluation, based on whether she was fulfilling her expected tasks, including planning, was inadequate for her to get a raise. She complained to the white male HR manager, but despite promises of help, the situation continued and the HR manager told her she was seen as “intimidating” and warned her she was “being watched.” After complaining to HR, her white manager began to micro-manage her aggressively and became increasingly hostile. A few weeks after she had placed her hands on the manager’s shoulders briefly in a friendly gesture to reassure the manager that she wanted them to work together, our client was fired for allegedly being physically “intimidating” toward her manager. She has been deeply rattled by the discriminatory treatment and the retaliatory firing after giving her all to the store for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, our client still looking for a job, trying to get back on her feet, but surviving for now on unemployment insurance and Medicaid.
On behalf of the client, The Legal Aid Society just filed a charge with the EEOC. We expect this case to go right to mediation. However, if the case does not settle and proceeds to a full investigation, the investigation phase will last at least six months. Once the investigation is complete, we will receive a right-to-sue letter, giving us 90 days to file a Title VII action in federal court. Pro bono counsel will help prepare the complaint and prosecute the claims under Title VII and the NYC Human Rights Law.
A former food runner in a high-end Italian Seafood restaurant, in early March 2022 our client was seriously injured while on his way to his job, which left him unable to work for three months. His restaurant employer, pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), had an obligation to provide him with the minimum amount of paid sick leave required by NYS and NYC law, and to reinstate him with any needed accommodation. However, learning that he would need to be out due to his leg injuries, the employer fired him without pay.
When he sought assistance from The Legal Aid Society to recover his sick leave, our Employment Law Unit discovered that he had never been paid overtime and was owed approximately $100,000. In addition, the client had not been paid cash tips from working at the restaurant, in violation of NY Labor Law.
We are looking for pro bono co-counsel to file a federal court complaint which will likely include taking depositions and drafting briefs for motion practice. The case will be filed in Eastern District of New York Federal court pursuant to the FMLA and the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), NY Labor Law claims and any other potential claims.
The Legal Aid Society represents two former employees of a Manhattan pizzeria who seek pro bono assistance to file a federal court lawsuit against their employer for wage and discrimination violations. Our clients, who are Spanish speaking immigrants, were extremely diligent employees, working 55-60 hours per week, but were not paid the minimum wage or overtime, unlike their non-immigrant co-workers. They also received their wages in cash in violation of the New York Labor Law and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They are each seeking pro bono assistance to recover the monies due them.
One of the workers left in August 2019 and due to the FLSA’s 3 years Statute of Limitations for intentional violations, he must file in federal court by August of 2022. The other worker was asked to return to work after major surgery and not permitted to take off the six weeks or so he needed to recover, in violation of the various discrimination laws.
The volunteer attorney, working with a Legal Aid employment attorney, will have the opportunity to engage in fact development, draft pleadings and memorandum, participate in discovery and motion practice, conduct negotiations, prepare parties and witnesses for trial, and represent the plaintiffs in all court proceedings.
Legal Aid’s clients, five Brazilian immigrants, seek pro bono assistance to file a lawsuit in federal court against their employer, a cell tower installation and repair company, for wages and unfair treatment. The company, through another unofficial entity, employed our clients as members of their “tower crews” with promises of day rates and certain schedules upon hire However, once on the job, these workers were paid much less than promised, with no overtime or, premium pay.
Additionally, while on the job, these workers were called offensive names at the warehouse and in the field by their employer’s supervisors. They were also promised help with gaining legal immigration status that never materialized and instead they were often threatened with deportation when they complained about the long hours and lack of overtime pay.
Legal Aid represents a Russian speaking worker in his late forties who was employed as a security guard at a company from about October 2016 through about June 16, 2020. In about June 2018, he began receiving paychecks from a different entity, although his supervisor, assignments and duties all remained the same. He was never paid 1.5 times his regular rate of pay for his overtime hours, in violation of state and federal labor laws. Additionally, near the end of his employment, he was improperly transitioned from being a W-2 employee to a 1099 independent contractor, and when he raised the issue with his supervisor, he was told that he had to agree to it or be fired.
The Legal Aid Society sent a demand letter to our client’s employer in hopes of resolving the matter and that letter has been ignored. Pro bono counsel is sought to file a lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of New York, alleging that our client’s employer 1) failed to pay him overtime wages, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 207 and New York Labor Law §§ 190 et. Seq., 12 N.Y.C.R.R. 142.2-2 and 2) misclassified him as an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et. seq. and New York Labor Law §§ 190 et. seq. The volunteer attorney, working with an experienced Legal Aid employment law attorney will have the opportunity to draft and file the complaint, engage in discovery, potential motion practice (this may be resolved on a motion for summary judgment), depositions, settlement negotiations and represent the client at trial if the case does not settle.
This client is a 74-year old widow who moved back to New York City after her husband passed away and immediately sought work. She secured a job as a customer service representative via a placement agency, with a company that operates a call center. Our client has a hearing impairment and uses hearing aids in both ears. Upon beginning her training for the customer service job, our client told the trainers and supervisor that she had a disability and explained that due to her hearing impairment, she wore hearing aids in both ears. The trainers and supervisor assured our client that her hearing would not pose a problem and that, if it did, she could be reasonably accommodated.
As part of her orientation, our client observed another customer service representative while she made and took calls on “the floor,” where customer service representatives worked. The floor was crowded and noisy and our client found it difficult to hear the call through her left ear because of the background noise. She approached the trainer to advise her of the challenge the crowded room posed; the trainer informed someone in human resources and the supervisor, each of whom subsequently assured our client that she could be accommodated if her disability so required. Just a few days later, our client observed another representative making service calls and experience the same hearing problem and once again she approached her supervisors for assistance. Although they assured our client once again that could be accommodated, no one at the company took steps to discuss possible options with her. On or about August 21, 2019, our client tried to address the problems she was having hearing through her left ear while on the floor. She informed her supervisor that she had made an appointment with her audiologist and intended to bring her headset with her so her audiologist could see the equipment she was using and adjust the hearing aid accordingly. The supervisor yelled at our client and accused her of failing to notify anyone of her hearing impairment. Our client challenged her supervisor’s assertion, noting that she had informed the company and the supervisor in particular, of her hearing issues both verbally and by disclosing her disability in the paperwork she filled out at the outset of her employment.
The following day, after Ms. Peters again had difficulty hearing while on the floor, the supervisor approached our client and told her that she wanted to assign her to a different job that would require less time on the phone and on the floor. Our client expressed interest in the job but despite promising to follow up, the supervisor never did. Instead, our client was sent out onto the floor the next day and again had difficulty hearing. Once again, she advised her supervisors of the challenges she was facing. Hours later, she was called into the human resources office and put on the phone with the supervisor who told her, in sum and substance, “if you cannot hear then you can’t do the job that you were hired for and cannot work here.” The supervisor then indicated that she was terminating our client’s employment with the company, effective immediately. Our client protested and asked for a reasonable accommodation, but the supervisor rebuffed her request. Instead, the supervisor stated that our client could not be accommodated, argued that the company was not legally required to do so, and reiterated, falsely, that she had never been made aware that our client had a hearing impairment. Our client was distraught and asked the supervisor to reconsider, indicating that she needed the job. The supervisor refused and instructed her assistant to escort our client out of the building.
Pro bono counsel is needed to draft and file a complaint in the Eastern District of New York alleging that this client was terminated because of her disability and that the employer failed to reasonably accommodate her, as required by law. The volunteer, working with an experienced Legal Aid Employment Law attorney, will engage in client interviewing, complaint drafting, settlement negotiations, court appearances and discovery, including drafting demands and taking and defending depositions.
Legal Aid is seeking pro bono counsel to assist a thirty-five year old former restaurant employee recover unpaid wages from his former employer. Our client started working in a restaurant in the Bronx on November 2015, with a work schedule of 60 hours per week and a salary of $600 per week. By January 2016, our client’s work schedule fluctuated between 72 and 84 hours per week. He was always paid in cash at the end of each week but he never received the payment of overtime premiums or spread of hours pay, nor did he receive the mandated wage notices. Our client left his employment in March 2021 due to his employer’s refusal to pay for overtime hours, the minimum wage of $15.00 per hour and the employer’s refusal to hire an assistant chef who would assist our client in the performance of his duties.
On behalf of this client, Legal Aid sent a demand letter and notice of legal claims to the employer in July 2021 and received a response from the restaurant’s counsel, who denied having any records of our client ever working for the restaurant. To this date, no settlement negotiations have taken place. Our client does have in his possession one W-2 for the year 2020, which was given to him by one of the owners of the restaurant.
Legal Aid’s client is due a substantial amount of underpayment of wages, including overtime, spread of hours, interest, liquidated damages and statutory penalties. Pro bono counsel, working with an experienced Legal Aid employment law attorney will have the opportunity to participate in doing client interviews, drafting and filing a summons and complaint in the SDNY, engaging in pre-trial discovery and court mandated settlement conferences.
Last Updated: 22 June 2022
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