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Legal Hotline Heats Up

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News & Media

Legal Hotline Heats Up

New Director, Extended Hours and a Call for Volunteers
December 2008

The City Bar Justice Center's Legal Hotline has received a marked increase in calls since the start of the economic downturn this summer. The Hotline had nearly twice as many consumer-related calls from July through September as it did during the same period in 2007. Many of these callers are facing bankruptcy or foreclosure and have few places to turn for help. In typical fashion, the Justice Center has mobilized support to address these urgent citywide issues.

In June, Libby Vazquez became the new Director of the Hotline, applying the expertise she gained as a staff attorney at inMotion Inc., where she provided legal representation to women facing family, matrimonial and immigration issues, mentored volunteer attorneys and conducted outreach programs to provide legal information to unrepresented women. An additional part-time staff attorney, Joseph Krummel, who has extensive experience in landlord/tenant law, was also recently added.

In September, the Hotline extended its hours and added evening hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As a result, the number of calls answered monthly has nearly doubled from January to September 2008. "At this time of increased need in New York City, it is terrific to have been able to increase the capacity on our hotline to help those in need," said Lynn Kelly, Executive Director of the City Bar Justice Center.

The Hotline, launched in 1997, offers legal information, advice, referrals and pro se brief services to low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford a private attorney. The Hotline assists callers on a range of civil legal issues, including matrimonial and family law, housing law, employment law, domestic violence, bankruptcy and benefits. Frequently calls come from elderly individuals who are being hounded by creditors but are unaware that they are judgment proof. By helping to draft and mail cease and desist letters, Hotline staff are able to reassure callers as well as save them time and money. The service is bilingual, in English and Spanish, and can handle calls in any language through interpreting services. From May to September of 2008, the Hotline served over 6,500 callers.

"A lot of what we do is aimed at easing fears for callers by explaining their rights on a particular issue, assisting with paperwork, prepping them for hearings and simply letting them know what to expect in court," said Vazquez.

The Legal Hotline is available to low-income New Yorkers Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at 212.626.7383. The New York City Bar's Legal Referral Service is also available at 212.626.7373 (English) and 212.626.7374 (Spanish) Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm.

This article originally appeared in the City Bar's monthly newsletter, 44th Street Notes, in December, 2008.