The City Bar Justice Center’s Immigrant Women & Children Project (IWC) has released a report examining how legal services have helped clients change their lives. For the report, the IWC interviewed a sample of 50 current and former IWC clients, all of whom are survivors of trafficking.

The report affirms that receiving legal services is key to help­ing survivors of trafficking pursue their dreams of education, gainful employ­ment, and family reunification where possible. The report outlines the types of legal services provided, current immigration status, and the number of clients that pursued education after receiving IWC’s assistance, among other data.

IWC assists low-income survivors of violent crimes, including inti­mate-partner violence, trafficking, sexual assault, child abuse, and hate crimes. IWC represents adults and children in immigration matters with the goal of promoting better access to safety, stability, and self-sufficiency.

The report may be viewed here.

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From the time she was five years old, Miriam (not her real name), a Nigerian victim of human trafficking, lived with an aunt’s family where she was mistreated and abused, especially by an older cousin. In 2003, when she was 27 years old, that cousin and her husband took Miriam to New York with them where she worked as an unpaid, badly treated domestic servant, caring for their children, cleaning their house, and cooking their meals.  Although she was permitted to leave the house, Miriam had no legal status, no money of her own, no identification, and lived with the constant threat of deportation by her cousin if she talked about her situation to outsiders. Miriam felt imprisoned and remained subservient.  The cousin forced Miriam to take jobs outside the home but confiscated her paychecks. As the cousin’s psychological and physical abuse increased, Miriam began to be fearful for her life.

In 2011, Miriam learned that her cousin was planning to send her back to Nigeria to force her to marry, and with the assistance of an acquaintance she had met at one of her jobs, Miriam finally fled.  That same friend helped connect her to the City Bar Justice Center’s Immigrant Women & Children Project (IWC), which assisted her in reporting her trafficking to law enforcement and applying for and obtaining lawful immigration status in the United States as a human trafficking victim.

IWC’s work for Miriam did not end there.  Having identified potential legal remedies for obtaining compensation for the unpaid work that Miriam had performed as a trafficking victim, as well as for the paychecks that her cousin had stolen from her, IWC joined forces with pro bono lawyers at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, to bring a federal civil lawsuit against Miriam’s cousin and her husband.  In August 2012, Greenberg Traurig filed a complaint on Miriam’s behalf in the Eastern District of New York, which alleged, among other claims, violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, violations of the Federal Labor Standards Act, false imprisonment, conversion, and assault and battery.  After completing discovery, Greenberg Traurig successfully defeated a motion for summary judgment brought by the defendants.  In December 2015, shortly before trial was scheduled to begin, the case was settled.

Miriam is now successfully living on her own, working full-time as a home health aide, and is in the process of applying for permanent residency in the United States.  IWC Director Suzanne Tomatore reports that “Miriam is now safe, self-sufficient, and free from exploitation. The team at Greenberg Traurig worked tirelessly to help her get a settlement that will allow her to save money for her future.”  That team includes Greenberg Traurig attorneys Daniel Clarkson, Meghan Newcomer, Sean Berens, and Julia Rogawski, as well as former Greenberg Traurig shareholder William Silverman (now a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP).

The Immigrant Women & Children Project has been assisting survivors of human trafficking and other violent, gender-based crimes with civil legal assistance since 2002.  As evidenced by Miriam’s case, IWC’s partnership with pro bono attorneys is essential to helping survivors of trafficking access justice so that they can begin rebuilding their lives.

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In this third installment of the Veterans’ Legal Series from the City Bar Justice Center, Veterans Assistance Project Director Kent Eiler discusses how the VA evaluates the degree of disability of a service-connected injury or disease. After the VA determines a veteran is eligible to receive (and qualifies for) disability compensation, Kent explains the next step in the VA’s process in which it determines the severity of the disability and assigns a percentage evaluation, from 0 to 100, based on the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities.  ee more at:

Click here to view all episodes in the Veterans’ Legal Series, and stay tuned for more additions.

Veterans who reside in New York City: For free help with VA benefits for low-income veterans residing in NYC, please call 212-382-4722 or visit the Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project web page.

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In this second installment of the Veterans’ Legal Series from the Justice Center, Veterans Assistance Project Director Kent Eiler provides an overview of eligibility for service-connected disability compensation.

Kent explains the criteria veterans must meet in order to be eligible for this type of benefit from the VA, the process that occurs when a VA receives a claim for service-connected disability compensation, and what veterans must show for their claims to be approved.

Click here to view all episodes in the Veterans’ Legal Series, and stay tuned for more additions.

Veterans who reside in New York City: For free help with VA benefits for low-income veterans residing in NYC, please call 212-382-4722 or visit the Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project web page.

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On this Veterans Day, the City Bar Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project presents the first video in an ongoing series intended to help veterans understand the benefits available to them from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In this episode, Project Director Kent Eiler, an attorney and a Major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, gives an overview of the basic eligibility requirements for receiving health care services from the VA:

More videos for veterans are coming soon. Click here and bookmark the page to view them all.

Veterans who reside in New York City: For free help with VA benefits for low-income veterans residing in NYC, please call 212-382-4722 or visit the Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project web page.

 

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The Justice Center kicked off the start of National Pro Bono Week on Monday night with the seventh annual Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for Outstanding Pro Bono Service. The reception hall at the New York City Bar Association was packed with family and friends celebrating the pro bono volunteers who went above and beyond in assisting disadvantaged New Yorkers with their complex legal problems.

New York City Bar President Debra L. Raskin started the evening with opening remarks and introduced the keynote speaker, Hon. Carol Bagley Amon, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Judge Amon described Jeremy G. Epstein’s unrelenting commitment to pro bono service and lauded the honorees’ achievements by stating:

“The attorneys we honor tonight have each found their own way to open the doors of justice to the communities they serve, and I am so impressed with their accomplishments. In learning about tonight’s recipients, I was reminded of the words of Pope Francis on his recent visit to New York in his speech at Madison Square Garden. He said:

‘In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity.’

All of the award recipients tonight have, in their own way, noticed these faces and have heard their voices, lifting them up from that deafening anonymity.”

City Bar Fund Board Chair Jane C. Sherburne presented the awards to the honorees, pictured below:

 Jeremy G. Epstein Awards Honorees & Speakers
Back row, from left: Anna Karpman, BNP Paribas; Rustin Paul, Blank Rome LLP; Angela Ni, Paul Hastings LLP; Pia Williams Keevil, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP; Jane C. Sherburne, City Bar Fund Board Chair; Fay Cleghorn-Stephens, Citigroup Inc.; Jennifer Kroman, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Mary Croly, McLaughlin & Stern LLP; Lynn M. Kelly, CBJC Executive Director; Chelley E. Talbert, NBCUniversal, Inc.; Santiago Assalini, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP; Marissa Geannette, White & Case LLP; Richard Mancino, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP; Hon. Carol Bagley Amon, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Front row, from left: Martin Bunin, Alston & Bird LLP; Amy Epstein; Peggy Collen, Attorney-at-Law; Debra L. Raskin, New York City Bar Association President; Lisa Koenig, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP

The 2015 Jeremy G. Epstein Awards are a part of the City Bar Justice Center’s “Falling for Pro Bono” campaign celebrating National Pro Bono week.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and their families. The City Bar Justice Center (CBJC) can attest to this figure, as 30% of clients assisted by the Legal Clinic for the Homeless have been victims of or affected by domestic violence.

Attorney General Schneiderman has issued a helpful new brochure—“Victims of Domestic Violence: Know Your Rights!”— to inform domestic violence victims and survivors about their legal protections.

In the announcement of the brochure, the Attorney General stated, “Protecting New Yorkers from domestic violence – and the housing and job discrimination that victims often face in the wake of such abuse – is a key part to stopping the cycle of violence in our state and our nation.”

The brochure includes information on fair treatment in the workplace and rights to fair housing, such as the following guidance:

  • Under New York State’s Human Rights Law, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because that person is a victim of domestic violence.
  • It is illegal for a landlord to refuse the federally subsidized housing vouchers of domestic violence victims.

You can download the “Victims of Domestic Violence: Know Your Rights!” brochure here.

CBJC offers the following additional advice and resources for victims of domestic violence:

  • If you are in need of immediate help, please call 911.
  • If you are an immigrant survivor of domestic violence, child abuse, trafficking or sexual assault, CBJC’s Immigrant Women and Children Project (IWC) may be able to help. IWC assists clients with the preparation of immigration applications, including special immigration relief under the Violence Against Women Act or U & T nonimmigrant status. Contact the IWC at (212) 382-4711.
  • CBJC’s Legal Hotline offers legal information, advice and referrals to low-income New Yorkers on a range of civil legal issues, including domestic violence. The Legal Hotline phone number is (212) 626-7383.
  • The New York City Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-621-HOPE, or by calling 311 if you are in New York City.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, in an effort to encourage women to utilize this important screening tool, Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert (JALBCA) is sponsoring free mammograms in New York City. If you are a woman aged 40 or older, have never had a mammogram, or have not done so in the past year, here are some reasons why you should visit their SCAN VAN.

1. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

2. A mammogram can detect early signs of breast cancer and can show changes within the breast before the patient or doctor can feel them. Mammograms are the most powerful and accurate method currently available for detecting breast cancer.

3. Early detection saves lives. According to studies, breast cancer in younger women – between the ages of 40 and 50 – tends to be more aggressive than in older women; therefore early detection is particularly crucial for this age group.

4. Mammograms lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by 35% in women aged 50 and over. While women in this age range tend to have slower-growing breast cancers, they make up eighty-five percent of new diagnoses.

5. Approximately 75 percent of patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no discernible risk factors, making mammograms a vital factor in early detection. Since 1990, mammograms have reduced breast cancer mortality in the United States by nearly one-third.

JALBCA’s SCAN VAN will be at the following locations in Queens on Monday October 26th:

Queens Family Court, 151-20 Jamaica Avenue, from 8:00a.m. to 12:00p.m.

Long Island City Court House, 2510 Court Square, starting at 1:30p.m

Appointments are necessary.  To make an appointment, call 1-800-564-6868.

By: Vivienne Duncan, Director, Cancer Advocacy Project, City Bar Justice Center.

CAP is supported by funding from JALBCA.

 

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The City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono affiliate of the New York City Bar Association, has announced the winners of the seventh annual Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for Outstanding Pro Bono Service. Honoring the most outstanding volunteer attorney in each of the Justice Center projects, the awards will be presented at a Celebration of Service reception on October 26th from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., at the New York City Bar Association, 42 W. 44th St., as part of National Pro Bono Week.

This year’s awardees are:

Santiago Assalini, Rich Mancino, Pia Williams Keevil, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
Martin Bunin, Alston & Bird LLP
Fay Cleghorn-Stephens, Citigroup, Inc.
Peggy Collen, Solo Practitioner
Mary Croly, McLaughlin & Stern LLP
Marissa Geannette, BNP Paraibas
Lisa Koenig, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP
Jennifer Kroman, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Angela Ni, Paul Hastings LLP
Rustin Paul, Blank Rome LLP
Chelley E. Talbert, NBCUniversal, Inc.

Hon. Carol Bagley Amon, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, will deliver a keynote address and Jane C. Sherburne, City Bar Fund Board Chair, will present the awards. City Bar President Debra L. Raskin will provide introductory remarks. Lynn M. Kelly, Executive Director of the City Bar Justice Center stated “The 2015 Epstein Pro Bono Award winners represent the range of New York City’s vibrant legal community engaged in pro bono work to assist the disadvantaged – from attorneys in corporate legal departments and global law firms to a solo practitioner. Their dedication and commitment to their pro bono clients represent the very best in the profession and we are so proud to work with them.”

Jeremy G. Epstein, who passed away in May 2009, was a partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP and a board member at the City Bar Justice Center, The Legal Aid Society and the Fund for Modern Courts. He logged over 5,000 hours of pro bono and public service over 20 years.

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Scenario: Judy is retired and her long-term companion Mavis has been unable to work in her later years because of a disability. They have no children and live alone in a modest co-op apartment that Mavis purchased decades earlier. Both contribute their fixed income to the maintenance fees and other shared expenses. They watched with some interest the marriage equality movement but never thought marriage was right for them. While they know they can benefit from speaking with a lawyer to get their affairs in order, the legal fees are beyond their means and there always seems to be some more pressing financial obligation.

The central mission of the LGBT Advocacy Project is to address unmet legal needs of the most vulnerable low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers. The project partners with community organizations and operates a free helpline to determine the community’s needs and how best to address them. The lack of sufficient life-planning services for the elderly is an area of particular concern the project has identified.

Life planning is generally the long view of how an individual may live his or her life securely and to its full potential, taking stock of goals and challenges. For a young person, it may be securing stable housing and employment. For a transgender person, it may be changing one’s name to match self-identified gender. For an elderly person, it may be to ensure healthcare and end-of-life decisions are in place and loved ones are protected in the case of death or illness.

Far too often, a gay or lesbian senior comes to the project when his or her life partner or close friend gets sick or passes away and there has been inadequate or no planning. If Mavis, for example, gets sick and is no longer able to make healthcare decisions for herself, someone else will have to step in. Without any formalized relationship or legal documentation, Judy has no say in what happens with Mavis, even if Mavis made clear her wishes. Even worse, Judy could potentially be kicked out of her home she shared with Mavis if a hostile family member, even a distant cousin, appears and takes control of the estate after Mavis passes away.

A spouse or domestic partner is presumed to make some of these decisions, but if a person is not partnered or his or her relationship is not formalized, a healthcare proxy, living will and power of attorney can allow a trusted friend or companion to make these important health and financial decisions. A will can ensure that a person’s property—whether the contents of an apartment, retirement account or the apartment itself—is distributed as wished.

If you are elderly or suffer from a serious illness or disability, you should consult with an attorney to get your personal and financial affairs in order so that your wishes can be carried out when you are unable to do so. The LGBT Advocacy Project can provide legal advice and may match you with a trained volunteer attorney to assist you with preparing a healthcare proxy, living will, power of attorney, and will. To speak with a project coordinator to request such services, call the LGBT Advocacy Helpline at 212-382-6759.

If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer with the LGBT Advocacy Project, please email the project coordinator, David Preciado. The CBJC is providing a free training titled “Will Preparation for Low-Income New Yorkers” on October 1, 2015, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. You can find more information at this link: http://bit.ly/1NrS5WJ

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