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Reforming Law & Policy

To bring justice, fairness and equity to our clients and their communities, we must not only represent our individual clients, but we must also change the laws and policies that are causing the harm. We create this change through affirmative litigation, law reform and policy advocacy and we have a record of success that is decades long.

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Every day, in courthouses and communities across the city, we advocate for the rights of all New Yorkers. Learn more about the services we provide.

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Learn More About Our Reform Work

The law reform units in each of our practice areas work together and with the staff of our neighborhood trial offices to ensure that we take on the issues most pressing to our clients and that our advocacy aligns with the needs of those most impacted and closest to the issues.

Our Policy Successes

Progressive Rent Regulation Reform in NYC

On June 14, Governor Cuomo signed into law the most progressive rent regulation reforms in New York State. The package of bills expands rent regulations statewide, closes loopholes that have allowed landlords to force tenants out of their homes, and strengthens protections for renters across our city.

“After decades of placing landlord profits over tenant rights, New York State has taken a historic step towards a fairer housing system by reforming the rent loopholes that allowed landlords and property owners to harass and displace tenants across the State,” said Janet Sabel,  Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society. “By passing this legislation, we are finally delivering equity and justice to our clients and all low-income New Yorkers.”

Our Impact

LAS Secures Destruction of Illegal NYPD Juvenile Fingerprint Database

The Legal Aid Society condemned the New York Police Department (NYPD) for maintaining an illegal database of juvenile fingerprints for years – affecting tens of thousands of young New Yorkers, many of whom were never found guilty of a crime – which was finally confirmed destroyed by the NYPD this past week, according to The Intercept.

In response, Legal Aid also called on the New York City Council to hold an immediate oversight hearing on NYPD surveillance technologies and databanks, including the City’s gang, facial recognition, and DNA databanks, and to pass the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act — legislation that would provide New York City lawmakers and the public with a meaningful opportunity to understand and oversee decisions about the NYPD’s acquisition and use of new surveillance technologies.

“The NYPD is saying, ‘Trust us, these are law enforcement tools that we know how to use, and we are going to comply with the law, and we don’t really need anybody looking over our shoulder. This exemplifies that they’re not particularly trustworthy when it comes to arrest records,” said Christine Bella, Staff Attorney with the Juvenile Rights Practice.

“It is so difficult to know what information is being kept about you,” added Lisa Freeman Director of Special Litigation for the Juvenile Rights Practice. “They could deny and obfuscate, and we had no way of establishing definitively that they were or weren’t violating the law. That’s part of what’s so problematic about these databases.”

Lisa Freeman and Christine Bella

By the Numbers

Our work goes beyond individual cases to address corrosive inequities and fundamental problems within the legal system, driving landmark rulings that positively impact the lives of millions, in New York City and beyond.

52 cases

Our active law reform docket includes 52 cases.

44%

From March of 2017 to June 2018 our Decarceration Project won the release of 44% of our clients who were held on Rikers Island because they could not afford to pay bail.

75%

75% of our juvenile and adolescent clients who are prosecuted in adult court are released back their families and communities because of the advocacy of our Adolescent Intervention Diversion Unit.

A contribution to The Legal Aid Society is about more than money.

Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.

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