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.
The Immigration Law Unit is seeking assistance with hearings already scheduled on behalf of clients in the latter part of 2023. In each of these hearings, the volunteer attorney, working with an experienced Legal Aid Immigration attorney, would work closely with the client to:
Detailed summaries and hearing dates are below. These matters are excellent opportunities for litigation experience.
A client of our Immigration Law Unit (ILU) seeks pro bono aid for his pending I-589 application for asylum. Mr. S, a 25-year-old man originally from Jamaica, seeks asylum from persecution due to his sexual orientation. Mr. S has a strong case for asylum as there is well-documented evidence of persecution of members of the LGBTQ community in Jamaica.
The pro bono attorney would work closely with the client to draft a detailed declaration in support of his application, compile evidence of country conditions as well as any other evidence to corroborate his claim. The pro bono attorney would research and write a pre-hearing brief to the judge summarizing the legal theory of the case, which is due thirty days before his trial. Finally, the attorney would prepare the client and any witnesses for the hearing and then conduct the individual hearing, scheduled September 6, 2023, before the immigration judge.
Legal Aid’s 24-year-old client from El Salvador seeks a pro bono attorney to aid with his I-589 application for asylum. Our client’s asylum application is based on religion, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group as his father was a member of the military in El Salvador. Gangs in El Salvador target ex-military members and their families due to their affiliation with the government. At the age of 20, gang members attacked our client and held him at gunpoint, causing him to flee to the U.S. Our client currently lives in Queens with his girlfriend and their infant son. He has been working as a union carpenter for four years.
The pro bono attorney would work closely with our client to draft a detailed declaration in support of his application, compile country conditions evidence as well as any evidence that might be available to corroborate his claim. The pro bono attorney would research and write a pre-hearing brief to the judge summarizing the legal theory of the case, which is due 30 days before his trial. Finally, the attorney would prepare the client and any witnesses for the hearing, scheduled November 23, 2023, and then conduct the individual hearing before the immigration judge.
Our client, a green card holder from the Dominican Republic who entered the U.S. at the age of 15 in 1995, needs pro bono assistance to complete his I-601 waiver of inadmissibility application. The government placed our client in removal proceedings because of a 2002 conviction for forgery in the second degree. Our client seeks a 212(h) waiver, which requires him to establish extreme hardship to his mother and daughter. Our client’s mother is an elderly, widowed U.S. citizen who lives in the Bronx and relies greatly on her son’s emotional and financial support. Our client also co-parents his 16-year-old daughter who is diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety and is also a U.S. citizen. Our client has worked for over ten years as the super of his building and has a good tax-paying history. He also has no recent criminal cases.
The pro bono attorney would work closely with our client and his family to compile evidence in support of his waiver application. The pro bono attorney would research and write a pre-hearing brief to the judge summarizing the legal theory of the case, which is due 30 days before the hearing. Finally, the attorney would prepare the client and any witnesses for the hearing and then conduct the individual hearing before the immigration judge on December 4, 2023.
A former client of our Housing Unit, TT, was out of possession of her rent stabilized Bronx apartment from April 2019 to March 2021 due to a Vacate Order after a fire in her building created dangerous conditions for her family, as well as in several other apartments in the building. The landlord initially refused any temporary relocation, saying they would only relocate our client if she would accept the relocation apartment as her new permanent apartment, attempting to force her to give up her rights to her original rent stabilized unit. TT and her two children were forced to live in a Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) shelter while they waited to return to their apartment. This relocation had a significant negative impact on the family because of the shelter’s terrible conditions.
Legal Aid brought an action seeking completion of repairs to allow TT’s family to return to their rent stabilized home. While in shelter, TT begged to be transferred to another location due to the horrible conditions, including filing an order to show cause to place the family elsewhere. In response, the landlord filed a motion to dismiss saying they did not have a place for T and that tenant placement was not a cause of action in Housing Court. but the matter was settled because the landlord agreed to a shortened period to finish repairs and restore possession. TT and her kids were able to move back into her apartment in March of 2021.
New York City has now sued the landlord on a Mechanics Lien seeking reimbursement for the cost of providing shelter to TT and her family. In response, the landlord filed a Third-Party Summons/Complaint seeking to implead TT for indemnification for any costs he must pay to the city, alleging that she refused to accept a relocation apartment. A judgement against our client could cost over $20,000.
Pro Bono Counsel is needed to defend TT and her family in the Bronx Supreme Court against the third-party claim seeking indemnification for past shelter costs. This would include filing an answer, conducting discovery, filing a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment, negotiating a possible settlement, and attorney’s fees.
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 of it. 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 sold any stake in the building and moved. 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 inconsistent deeds in their own 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 make 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.
Our Civil Law Reform Unit seeks research and drafting assistance for an enforcement motion against The City and State of New York on a landmark class action matter. The original case was brought in 1998 when New York City was failing to follow federal and State laws governing the administration of emergency food stamps, emergency cash assistance, and Medicaid. In 2005, the judge ordered that the City comply with the relevant statutes and also ordered that the City engage in regular monitoring. For almost three years, the City has been out of compliance with its monitoring obligations. In addition, it is regularly failing to provide emergency food stamps and cash assistance, creating untenable situations for some of New York’s most vulnerable residents.
The Legal Aid Society along with two other non-profits as co-counsel plan to file a motion for contempt/to enforce as soon as possible and seek help with the research and drafting of said motion. There is a possibility this case may require enforcement litigation in the future, which the volunteering firm would have the opportunity to co-counsel if they have interest and capacity to do so.
Our Family/Domestic Violence Unit seeks research and possible litigation assistance for a client who wishes to bring a contempt motion against her ex-husband’s retirement provider to obtain court-ordered relief.
The court ordered our client’s ex-husband to pay post-divorce alimony as well as 50% of his annuity and pension. Both the annuity and pension were served with the Domestic Relations Order. Initially, the husband complied with his obligation to pay post-divorce maintenance, but eventually he stopped paying altogether. Our Legal Aid team filed an Income Withholding Order against the ex-husband’s employer, which the court granted. The court also authorized Legal Aid to obtain arrears from the husband’s share of the annuity and pension as the plan had not complied with the court’s previous order.
The responsibilities of pro bono counsel would be to research the question of whether our client can bring an enforcement action (contempt) against the pension plan in Supreme Court as a third party in the divorce, and, if not, whether a different action must be brought and, if so, in what forum. Pro bono counsel would also serve as co-counsel in the post-judgment case, with the opportunity to argue before the court. This relief is essential for Legal Aid’s client who is the primary caretaker of an adult child with significant disabilities and needs this judgement in order to maintain her household.
Our client is seeking pro bono representation after an unprovoked attack at Great Meadow Correctional Facility left him with extensive nerve damage. The initial request is to bring an Article 78 proceeding challenging the denial of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for surveillance video of an assault in state prison. The action must be filed in either Washington or Albany County on or before October 17, 2022.
In January 2022, our client was stabbed in the neck by another incarcerated person and was cut on the forehead. He underwent emergency surgery and spent five days at the hospital before returning to Great Meadow. He reports having extensive nerve damage as a result of his neck injury for which he takes two medications. The attack happened during the transfer for lunch when officers responsible for the unit’s movement failed to follow protocol and leaving the unit unsupervised and unrestrained for several minutes during which the attack occurred. Moreover, the two officers did not promptly escort our client to the infirmary, resulting in extensive bleeding prior to obtaining medical assistance.
Our Prisoners’ Rights Project (PRP) placed a preservation demand for the audio and video footage ten days after the attack, which included the date of the video, a time range, and a precise location where the incident occurred. PRP served a FOIL request in March 2022, which was swiftly acknowledged by the Great Meadow FOIL officer. After a lengthy delay which constructively denied the request, PRP appealed to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). In June, the DOCCS FOIL Appeals officer denied the appeal, alleging that PRP did not “reasonably describe” the footage requested, and as such, DOCCS was unable to locate the video. Additionally, they determined the request constitutes an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, presumably for our client’s attacker. PRP staff have both factual and legal rebuttals to those arguments for the purposes of the Article 78 action.
Once the video is obtained, pro bono counsel would have the first opportunity to consider whether to represent our client in a civil rights action against those responsible for failing to protect him from attack.
Legal Aid’s client is a 54-year-old working woman whose wages, combined with her husband’s income, and help from her daughter cover their mortgage in Queens. Our client and her husband plan to leave the family home to their adult daughters. However, the value of this asset would prevent the parents from qualifying for Medicaid and they do not wish to choose between healthcare and providing a long-term home for their daughters. The family wishes to create a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT), which would prevent the home from being considered an asset for eligibility purposes and would protect the home from Medicaid liens after the passing of our client and her husband.
The Legal Aid Society does not have the expertise to prepare a trust, so we are looking for pro bono counsel with trust and estate experience to help this family create the MAPT.
Our client is 62 years old, is permanently disabled and a recipient of SSI & Medicaid. She has a number of ailments, including diabetes and is currently on dialysis. She resides in a rent stabilized apartment. She is expected to receive a share of her husband’s retirement pension and annuity as part of the divorce. The pension will be paid in a monthly amount and the annuity will likely be paid in a lump sum. Her husband, who is currently eligible to retire under the rules of his retirement plans, intends to retire once the divorce is finalized. My client has no resources of her own, other than what she is expected to receive in the divorce. The monies in the divorce will help the client cover her rent and other basic necessities. Presently, her adult children are contributing towards her support, including her monthly rent. Since Medicaid has a resource & income limit, the client will likely lose both her SSI & Medicaid benefits once the settlement monies are paid out. This would be devastating given her poor health and costly medical treatment. The client will qualify for Medicare when she reaches the age of 65. Medicare has no income or resource limits. A special needs trust (a/k/a supplemental needs trust) where the divorce proceeds can be deposited would enable her to keep Medicaid and bridge the gap until she is eligible for Medicare.
The Legal Aid Society is representing the client in the ongoing matrimonial matter, but we do not have the experience to draft a Supplemental Needs trust. We are seeking pro bono assistance from an attorney who has experience drafting and filing a Supplemental Needs (aka Special Needs) trust.
Our client, M and her husband were married in June 1986. They had been married for approximately 32 years in 2018, The husband chose to relocate to California to live near a daughter from a previous marriage and advised M that he did not wish for her to relocate with him. M remained in the parties’ co-op apartment in the Bronx (purchased jointly in 1988) and our client’s husband continued to pay the mortgage and maintenance until about October 2019. When M’s husband stopped making the payments, he knew M had no way of making the payments on her own as her only source of income consisted of social security benefits of $1,000 per month. He, who enjoyed pension and social security income totaling about $90,0000.00 per year, was prepared to let the apartment be lost to foreclosure.
When our client’s husband stopped making payments, M filed for divorce. While she did not truly want to file, she did so on the advice of an attorney who told her that it would be the only way to secure any support and her marital share of her husband’s pension.
The divorce, commenced in October 2019, was litigated from approximately 2019 through early 2022. M’s husband was in poor health for much of 2021 and until his death in April 2022. The parties were near to settlement, which would allow M exclusive occupancy of the marital apartment and the financial means to maintain it, when her husband had a stroke in February 2022, and then later passed away in April 2022. The divorce is (to be) abated, but M will now have to contend with estate issues.
In 1988, M and her husband respectively executed wills in which each left his/her ownership interest in the co-op apartment to the other in the event of death. It seems, however, that our client’s spouse executed another will in California in 2021, in which he bequeathed his interest in the apartment to his daughter. Unfortunately, M and her husband held the apartment shares as tenants in common (instead of by the entirety or joint tenants with rights of survivorship) because when they purchased the apartment in 1988, co-op apartments were considered personal property instead of real property under NY law. Although the law later changed in this regard, they never took the necessary steps to revise the title/certificate of shares.
Consequently, M is in need of advice from pro bono counsel on the law and process of probate in California and seeks advice on her rights and how she might navigate any such proceedings, particularly if she wants to hasten things along and find some resolution sooner rather than later, especially since her home of 34 years is at issue.
Right now, M is largely being held hostage by her stepdaughter with whom she shares an incredibly acrimonious relationship. Since our initial outreach, M received a copy of her husband’s death certificate and the divorce action has been abated. It turns out that the death certificate was instead made out to reflect (falsely) that Mr. Lang’s daughter did not know if her father was married and/or to whom.
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.
Last Updated: 17 January 2023
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