On October 29, 2013, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo), the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) of the City Bar Justice Center, and eight other NYC legal service providers hosted the inaugural Small Business Legal Academy at Harlem’s World Famous Apollo Theater.

Over 200 small business owners attended to receive free legal counsel from volunteer attorneys representing nearly 35 NYC law firms.  On Tuesday, attorneys from top corporate law firms took the main stage of the Apollo, where musical legends such as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin have performed in the past.  The presentations covered information on legal essentials for small businesses, intellectual property issues, and not-for-profit formation, among other topics.

Business owners were free to move between the presentations taking place on the main stage and the legal counseling tables in the back of the auditorium. Over 25 corporate attorneys lined the back wall to meet one-on-one with clients who had specific legal questions about their businesses. Among the many issues addressed, incorporation matters and intellectual property questions were the most common.

Business owners who required ongoing legal assistance were referred back to the nine legal service organizations that partnered together to organize the all-day conference: Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, City Bar Justice Center, Lawyers Alliance for New York, The Legal Aid Society, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Pro Bono Net, Start Small Think Big, Urban Justice Center, and Volunteers of Legal Service.

Photography by Joyce Mishaan.

 

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Early last year, Milteri Tucker Concepcion approached NELP for legal assistance filing a trademark for her business, BOMBAZO. Born in Puerto Rico, Milteri moved to the Bronx after high school to pursue her passion for dance. She began her New York City career as a Hispanic folkloric dancer, combining the traditional Afro-Puerto Rican style of bomba with modern-day influences. By offering bomba dance classes and producing recitals for her students to showcase their work, Milteri sought to keep Puerto Rican heritage alive in her local Bronx community and empower young girls through the benefits of dance.

Bomba consists of a creative exchange between the drummer and dancer in which the dancer leads, producing a series of movements with her full, colorful skirt, while the drummer keeps up with a synchronized beat. As Milteri’s classes grew more popular, she began to receive numerous requests for the particular style of skirt that bomba dancers wear. Seizing the entrepreneurial opportunity, she started BOMBAZO in 2009 to combine her business endeavors: Bombazo Dance Company and Bombazo Wear by Milteri®.

Bombazo Wear by Milteri

In early 2012, Milteri reached out to NELP to assist her with employment and intellectual property matters. She knew she had a great product and a growing business, and she wanted to take prudent steps to protect her work. Through NELP, Milteri was able to secure pro bono legal assistance filing a trademark application to protect her brand. Her pro bono attorney, Michael Lavine from Kirkland & Ellis, praised Milteri: “Though very busy, Ms. Tucker has been a very focused, enthusiastic client and has been actively engaged in the process to obtain her trademark. Ms. Tucker indeed has a very entrepreneurial spirit.”

Bombazo Wear by Milteri

Since receiving legal assistance from NELP, Milteri has enjoyed great success in her business. Bombazo Wear by Milteri® has been featured in the Off Broadway Musical: Temple Of The Souls, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, and the 2012 International New York Salsa Congress.

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Last month, City Bar President Carey R. Dunne testified at hearings on civil legal services convened by Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York. The transcripts have now been posted on the NYCourts.gov website.

The day’s hearings began with Judge Lippman describing a “crisis in this State, in this city, in this country in civil legal services for the poor. What we’re talking about are people fighting for the necessities of life, the roof over their head, their physical safety, health care, their livelihoods, the well-being of their family.”

Dunne’s testimony focused on the work of the City Bar Justice Center. “Last year, the Justice Center provided the equivalent of $21 million worth of legal services to low income New Yorkers, in areas such as homelessness, debt relief, veteran’s benefits, immigration and elder law,” he said. “We did all this with a very small staff of 18 attorneys, who were able however to enlist a pro bono army of over 1,000 attorneys from firms around the city. Now, one of the small but essential sources of financial support for this effort has been Legal Services funding from the judiciary, and because of our leverage, again, those dollars go a very long way.”

Dunne went on to describe the Justice Center’s response to the enormous and sudden demand for legal services brought on by Superstorm Sandy. “In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the Justice Center helped train 375 pro bono lawyers in sessions at the City Bar. These hundreds of volunteers then fanned out with just three Justice Center staff to places in the Rockaways, and later in Staten Island and Brooklyn, to provide emergency legal help. These efforts assisted 450 households and small businesses,” he said.

Following Dunne’s testimony, Judge Lippman brought up Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court ruling providing representation for criminal defendants without the means to pay for their own attorneys, and asked, “Are we anywhere near a civil Gideon v. Wainwright?” Dunne responded, “Well, my own personal view is I don’t see it on the horizon….I think it is something that ought to be discussed more actively. Not just in our city, but on a national level.”

Read the complete testimony here: http://bit.ly/16wmn6r

This blog has been cross-posted on the New York City Bar Association’s website.

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On September 30th, the New York Law Journal reported on the two public defender organizations that will form the New York Immigrant Defenders (NYID), a unique pilot project to provide universal legal representation to indigent detainees facing deportation. Through funding from the New York City Council, NYID will begin in early November and take on 166 cases in the next year at the Varick Street Immigration Court. Potential clients will be screened only for economic need, with anyone making under 200 percent of the poverty limit receiving a court-appointed lawyer.

This announcement is of particular interest to the City Bar Justice Center because we operate programs serving low-income New Yorkers in ICE detention and have long advocated for the right to government assigned counsel for anyone facing removal. In addition to our work on community education regarding immigration rights, the Justice Center has three main pro bono immigration programs. The Justice Center’s Immigrant Women & Children Project assists survivors of violent crimes in applying for immigration relief, the Refugee Assistance Project helps those who have fled violence in their own countries to obtain asylum, and the Varick Removal Defense Project specifically matches pro bono attorneys to New Yorkers who are detained and cannot afford attorneys to enable them to raise cancellation and other defenses in the Immigration Court.

Additionally, research by a study group convened by Second Circuit Judge Robert Katzmann demonstrated the inability of immigrant detainees to represent themselves, with only three percent of them achieving success in their cases without counsel. Lynn Kelly, the Executive Director of the City Bar Justice Center, participated in Judge Katzmann’s efforts. The Justice Center is hopeful that the NYID model is a first step towards a nationwide immigration public defender system that will ensure fairness and the opportunity for all residents of New York City to have their day in court with lawyers who will assert their rights.

The launch of this innovative pilot project is particularly timely in light of a recent report that calls into question the way in which many individuals end up in ICE detention in the first place. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has newly obtained data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that shows a startling difference between the agency’s stated goals and its actual performance. Specifically, the report focuses on ICE detainers, which are notices issued by ICE and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies that ask local, state and federal law enforcement agencies not to release suspected non-citizens held at their facilities in order to give ICE an opportunity to take them into custody. While these detainers have became a primary tool that ICE uses to apprehend the suspects it is seeking, there is no legal obligation for state and local law enforcement agencies to honor these detainers and some jurisdictions have begun refusing to hold individuals arrested for minor violations or those who pose little to no risk to public safety. The case-by-case data received by TRAC reveal that, despite ICE setting new, stricter detainer guidelines in December 2012, fewer than one in nine of the ICE detainers actually met the agency’s stated goal of targeting individuals who pose a serious threat to public safety or national security. Further, only one third of the individuals against whom detainers were issued had any record of a criminal conviction, including minor traffic violations. Equally troubling, common offenses like simple traffic violations can sometimes lead to the placement of an individual in the highest threat-level category.

The Justice Center, whose clients cover a broad spectrum of New York City’s neediest and whose mission is to provide lawyers to those unable to adequately represent themselves, salutes the City Council’s commitment to fund lawyers to represent the underserved community of non-citizen residents facing detention and deportation.

The City Bar’s reports on right to counsel for immigrant detainees can be read at the following links:

Varick Removal Defense Project’s Report

Immigration & Nationality Committee’s Report

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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 fifth 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 22nd, as part of National Pro Bono Week.

This year’s awardees are:

Pamela Ehrenkranz, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Edward J. Ferraro, Law Offices of Edward J. Ferraro
Douglas S. Heffer Alicia L. Pitts, Foley & Lardner LLP
Meghan Hill, Dickstein Shapiro LLP
Carol Notias Kotsinis, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP
Matthew W. Mamak, Alston & Bird LLP
Arnold H. Pedowitz, Pedowitz & Meister, LLP
Stacey Pramer, Pramer Communications
Gregory P. Rodgers, Latham & Watkins LLP
Marc D. Rosenberg, Kaye Scholer LLP & Daniel A. Bloom, Kaye Scholer/Curtis
Adam C. Tubbs, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates
Scott Wilcox, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Hon. Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Judge, SDNY, will deliver a keynote address and Mei Lin Kwan-Gett, City Bar Fund Board Chair, will present the awards. City Bar President Carey R. Dunne will provide introductory remarks.

When: Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 5:30 p.m.

Where: New York City Bar Association, 42 W 44th Street, New York, NY

By invitation only. Media welcome. Please register here.

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 the last 20 years.

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The Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP), in conjunction with BNY Mellon Legal Department’s Pro Bono Committee, Mayer Brown LLP, the National Minority Business Council, and Vera Moore Cosmetics, hosted a “Small Business Branding Makeover for Women Entrepreneurs” on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at BNY Mellon’s downtown corporate office.

Thirty-three New York entrepreneurs attended the free event to learn best practices for marketing their business and successful strategies for protecting their business’ brand and intellectual property. Akira Arroyo from NELP opened the evening’s program by introducing the guest speakers. Ajita Abraham from BNY Mellon and Allison Stillman from Mayer Brown shared their expertise on patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property matters. Emily Mason from BNY Mellon and Peter Columbus from Mayer Brown shared marketing and networking tips, along with successful strategies for developing an effective brand identity.

The presentations were followed by a short talk by special guest speaker Vera Moore, President & CEO of Vera Moore Cosmetics. Moore shared her personal journey as an entrepreneur who followed her passion to become the founder of one of the most progressive cosmetic and skincare lines in the country. Moore recounted her initial struggles as a black businesswoman in New York and the barriers within the highly competitive cosmetic industry she ultimately overcame to thrive for thirty-three years in business.

Two lucky attendees won complimentary makeovers by Vera Moore Cosmetics: Deidra Braz of Life In A Day Of and Angela Friedman of Angela Friedman. Entrepreneurs had the opportunity to network with each other and with attorneys from Mayer Brown LLP and BNY Mellon to receive informal business and legal tips over wine and cheese.

 

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This summer we hosted seven great law school and college interns for our summer intern program.

Justice Center Summer Interns 2013They are, from left to right, top to bottom: Andrew Lippman, CUNY Law; Faina Savich, Fordham Law; Megan O’Toole, Wake Forest; Ellen Rehnberg, Mt. Holyoke; Jill Westerberg, CUNY Law, Ryan Brachter, University of Oklahoma Law; and Janeen Hall, Brooklyn Law.  Among many other accomplishments, our interns helped carry out our mission of serving low-income New Yorkers by: conducting client intake interviews of refugees, potentially trafficked persons and cancer patients; assisting at legal clinics for veterans, small business owners, those affected by 9/11 and senior citizens; doing intensive legal research and writing; and going off-site to court and settlement conferences. The interns gained exposure to public interest work, various types of civil legal law projects and to the importance of pro bono in closing New York’s justice gap. We also thank Molly Greathead for her hard work during the spring/summer term.  We wish them the best in their school year and for their future law careers!

 

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Mei Lin Kwan-Gett, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, has been elected Chair of the City Bar Fund, which oversees the City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono affiliate of the New York City Bar Association.

In addition, the following officers were elected for the 2013-2014 term: Edward S. Kornreich, Partner, Proskauer, as Vice President; Heidi Levine, Partner, DLA Piper, as Vice President; Bret I. Parker, Executive Director, New York City Bar Association, as Vice President; William Viets, Managing Director, JPMorgan Chase, as Secretary and Carol S. Rosenbaum, CFO, New York City Bar Association, as Assistant Treasurer.

Carey R. Dunne, Partner, Davis Polk, and President, New York City Bar Association, and Hon. Allan L. Gropper, United States Bankruptcy Judge, SDNY, who serves as City Bar Treasurer, serve ex-officio as President and Treasurer, respectively, of the City Bar Fund.

Four new members were elected to the board: Hazel-Ann Mayers, Senior Vice President, Assistant General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, CBS; Pedro A. Medrano, Senior Counsel, BNY Mellon; Ellen J. Rosenthal, Vice President and Chief Counsel for Pfizer Legal Alliance, Pfizer; and Jordan A. Thomas, Partner, Labaton Sucharow.

Kwan-Gett is a partner in Willkie’s Litigation Department and co-head of the firm’s White Collar Criminal Defense Practice Group. She specializes in white collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement matters, internal investigations, and complex commercial litigation. Prior to joining Willkie, Kwan-Gett was a Deputy Chief in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. From 2001 to 2003, Kwan-Gett served as Special Investigative Counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General. While in private practice, Kwan-Gett has worked on numerous pro bono matters, including representing political refugees, battered women, and criminal defendants. Kwan-Gett was previously a Vice President of the New York City Bar Association and a member of the City Bar Fund Board. As Chair of the Justice Center, Kwan-Gett succeeds Jay Holtmeier of WilmerHale.

“The City Bar Justice Center’s dedicated and expert attorneys successfully mobilize the resources of the New York legal community to assist more than 20,000 indigent and low-income clients annually,” said Kwan-Gett. “I’m excited by the opportunity to help them further their mission.”

City Bar Justice Center Executive Director Lynn Kelly said, “The City Bar Justice Center is delighted to welcome our new board chair and board members. The City Bar Fund Board has an important role to play in encouraging pro bono, particularly as the New York courts institute new admission and reporting requirements for pro bono. This is an incredibly important time for the CBF Board to help facilitate the expansion of quality pro bono opportunities that are well supported by mentors with poverty law expertise.”

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As Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, I would like to thank the City Bar Justice Center for its invaluable service in offering free legal clinics (the most recent one on June 11, 2013) for individuals needing assistance in filing claims without an attorney under the Fund. Nine clinics, serving over 300 individuals, have been held through the Justice Center since the VCF opened on October 3, 2011. Needless to say, this service could not be provided without the diligent aid and extraordinary commitment of the many law firms and pro bono attorneys in the New York Metropolitan Area who have been willing to give of their time and expertise. The individuals filing claims have expressed much gratitude for the legal advice they received in filing their claims. In addition, pro bono coordinators from these law firms have been enormously helpful in recruiting the attorneys.

In particular, I would like to emphasize the value of this free legal service in increasing the possibilities of greater access to benefits and justice for claimants filing with the VCF.  Enabling claimants to submit more complete and accurate claims enables the Fund to review the claims more efficiently, and to expedite the process for making awards to those eligible. The Justice Center has played a critical role as well in providing general information about the VCF and the claim filing deadlines.

GENERAL PROGRAM INFORMATION: On January 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-347) (Zadroga Act). Title II of the Zadroga Act reactivates the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 that operated from 2001-2004 and requires a Special Master, appointed by the Attorney General, to provide for economic and non-economic loss for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.

CLAIM FILING DEADLINES: In general, Claimants with a qualified injury who plan to file a claim with the Fund will have two (2) years to file a REGISTRATION FORM in order for the VCF to consider your claim.Claimants who know (or reasonably should have known) of physical harm resulting from the September 11th attacks as of October 3, 2011, must Register by October 3, 2013. If you subsequently learn of physical harm, you must Register within two (2) years of the date you learn (or reasonably should have known) that you suffered an injury as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

The final rule adding certain types of cancer to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions took effect on October 12, 2012. Therefore, if you know (or reasonably should have known) as of October 12, 2012 that you suffer from a covered cancer, you must file your Registration Form with the VCF by October 12, 2014. If you learned after October 12, 2012 that you suffer from a covered cancer, you must file your Registration Form within two (2) years of the date that you learn (or reasonably should have known) that you suffer from the covered cancer.

Where Do I Obtain Additional Information?

www.vcf.gov

This website has been set up to support making the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) as fair, transparent, and easy to navigate as possible. On it, you will be able to do the following:

  • File a claim with the VCF;
  • Obtain a list of the kinds of documents and information that we will need in order to process your claim, so that you can begin collecting any necessary materials; and
  • Review newly updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Assistance and Accessibility
If you need assistance using the website or with your submission, you can call our toll-free number 1-855-885-1555 (or 1-855-885-1558 for the hearing impaired). If you are calling from outside the United States, please call 1-202-353-0356.

Again, many thanks to the Justice Center and the New York legal community for your invaluable pro bono efforts on behalf of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.  I look forward to our continued collaboration. Much success to all in your other endeavors.

 

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On April 12th, City Bar Justice Center Managing Attorney Alice Morey testified before the ABA Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness. Her testimony follows:

Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony.

The City Bar Justice Center, which is the nonprofit legal services arm of the NYC Bar Association, provides low-income individuals with pro bono civil legal services in over a dozen areas.  We recruit and train volunteer attorneys; match them with opportunities in a range of subject areas; screen cases before assigning them to pro bono attorneys; and provide experienced staff support and ongoing mentoring to the pro bono attorneys.  Our clients cover a broad spectrum of New York City’s needy, including, among others, consumers filing for bankruptcy, homeowners facing foreclosure, veterans seeking VA disability benefits, battered and trafficked immigrant women, homeless families, and immigrant detainees. Augmenting these subject-matter-specific projects is our Legal Hotline, the city’s busiest civil legal telephone hotline. The Legal Hotline provides free information and advice, brief services, and referrals to thousands of callers on a range of civil legal matters.

The Justice Center’s work is to mobilize the legal community to respond to unmet legal needs, and we have a history of training and mobilizing pro bono volunteer attorneys to meet those needs when disasters strike.  This has been exemplified by the pro bono programs we built following September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Haiti.  When Superstorm Sandy hit, we were lucky – our offices, located in this building in midtown – were not directly affected by the storm.  As a result, we were able to immediately launch a response to Sandy, a response that is continuing and will likely go on for an extended period of time, as the need for legal assistance is seen to extend well beyond the present humanitarian crisis.   We also were able to house part of the legal department from DC37 for several months, as their offices in lower Manhattan had been destroyed by the storm.

My discussion of the Justice Center’s response to Sandy will provide a lens into our work as a pro bono organization. This testimony will focus on the key responses by our organization, which entailed: collaborating with major legal services players and firms, training hundreds of volunteers for legal clinics in the affected neighborhoods, directly assisting hundreds of affected individuals, following up on emerging issues, and setting up a framework for longer-term help. We utilized our connections with the private bar and legal services providers in order to anticipate both short and long-term legal responses to Superstorm Sandy.

I would like to give you a brief road map of our key actions responding to Sandy.

On November 5th, a week after the storm, the Justice Center convened a meeting at the City Bar of the legal services community and bar association pro bono groups to strategize on information sharing and best practices for providing free legal services to Sandy victims.

By the end of that week, on November 9th, we hosted a training program for pro bono attorneys on disaster assistance for individuals and families, which was attended by over 250 pro bono lawyers.  The materials from that training (as well as all subsequent ones) were posted on ProBono.Net to help grow the pool of attorneys capable of providing service.

On November 13th, we organized a training on Small Business Disaster Assistance, which was attended by over 125 pro bono attorneys.

Starting in early November, the Justice Center expanded the hours of the Legal Hotline, shifting personnel to provide coverage, so that the hotline would be open Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. to handle the increased volume of calls.

Beginning on November 17th, the Justice Center organized and supervised disaster relief legal clinics by taking a group of volunteer attorneys out to the Rockaways. During that first weekend we had a dozen or so lawyers at two sites – a vacant lot on the street and an unheated dusty storefront – and we helped 68 people in two days.

Early integration of legal services into the city’s disaster recovery efforts is crucial and should be prioritized.  Recognizing this, we negotiated access for pro bono legal clinic teams at the NYC Restoration Centers, which the City was setting up as a convenient single stop venue for storm victims seeking assistance from various federal, state and city agencies. With the help of the ABA, whose subcontract with FEMA facilitated our entry into the Restoration Centers, the Justice Center was ‘invited’ to staff all seven sites; so we recruited pro bono firms and legal services offices to handle the service delivery – in partnerships – at each site on at least one day a week.

The staffing of the NYC Restoration Centers began in December, with the Justice Center providing the ongoing management of the entire process and also staffing a Saturday pro bono clinic at one of the sites in the Rockaways.  These clinics continued every week until the City closed its Restoration Sites at the end of February.  In March, FEMA took over a few of those sites and some clinics remained in operation. Our staff continued to supervise these clinics in addition to handling their existing duties, until January, when we were able to hire a dedicated disaster relief attorney, Victor Tello.

From November through March, we coordinated a total of 25 Sandy relief clinics that were held in the Rockaways, Staten Island, and Coney Island, with 85 volunteers from 39 different law firms and corporate legal departments, assisting over 450 people.

In addition, since early November, the Justice Center’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) has organized 14 Sandy-related Small Business Legal Clinics in Red Hook, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, Rockaway, Staten Island and the South Street Seaport, assisting a total of 116 clients with Sandy-related legal issues.  In addition to organizing and staffing legal clinics, NELP has assigned pro bono counsel to represent seventeen small business owners facing denials from their commercial insurers, having landlord-tenant disputes, and/or seeking assistance with applications for loans and grants for their affected businesses.

Additionally, in December, the Justice Center began outreach clinics in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  We once again recruited staff and pro bono attorneys.  To date, three clinics have been held in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank: in Staten Island, Coney Island and the Rockaways.

From our experience at these clinics, we have been able to see what issues were paramount to affected persons and how those issues are changing. Initially, residents were focused on applying for immediate aid, so we helped them apply for FEMA, disaster unemployment and replacement food stamps, and answered many landlord tenant questions. As months have passed, clients increasingly are needing help dealing with their insurance companies, filing FEMA appeals, facing possible foreclosure, and with family law issues (as families struggle to survive after displacement and loss).

Accordingly, on December 14th, the Justice Center held a training session focusing on FEMA and insurance issues.  At this time, we also brought together members of the legal community to discuss making FEMA appeals a priority pro bono effort.   Insurance and FEMA denials remain a significant issue for most victims, and further trainings on handling insurance cases – an area most legal services providers are not familiar with – are planned for later this month.

A lasting legacy of our efforts is the model pro se FEMA appeal form that the Justice Center drafted based on initial research by Skadden and with input from some legal services providers. We created a model FEMA appeal form, along with instructions, to simplify the process of appealing FEMA denials. Subsequently, ProBono.Net turned this into an A2J form – an online interactive form that walks you through the required steps to generate a FEMA appeal letter at the end. We are pleased to say that our form is being used nationwide as the template for a FEMA appeal.

Unfortunately, many of the victims’ concerns cannot be resolved in a brief consultation.  The Justice Center alone has opened over 450 cases, many of which involve complicated insurance issues. To deal with the many cases needing more than just advice or a brief service, we have created a clearinghouse for Sandy cases, both those screened by the Justice Center and those referred by other legal services programs.  Without the partnership of the firms who have offered to take some of these cases and represent clients, especially against insurance companies, many more people would be struggling to rebuild their lives.

Nevertheless, the pool of pro bono attorneys able to take on cases for full representation is modest.  To date we have placed about 30 insurance and FEMA cases for extended representation by pro bono counsel.   The need continues and we are working with the private bar and the legal services community to increase the capacity of the nonprofit legal offices to evaluate and handle the insurance issues that are arising post-disaster.

To quote one of our clients, Felix: “After Hurricane Sandy, it was lovely to meet the genuine, articulate and compassionate people who advocated on my behalf to get my life back to normal.”  We at the Justice Center realize that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and are happy that the bar associations are and will continue to help for the long-term.

 

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