Maiffn Area

STATEMENT: Final state budget has steady progress in some areas, gaps in others

Posted on May 4th, 2023

Read full statement here: Empire Justice Statement on the Final 2023 New York State Budget

Empire Justice logo on a red background

PRESS RELEASE: Empire Justice Center Welcomes Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow

Posted on March 31st, 2023

Fellow is Focusing on the Intersection of Housing and Public Benefits


For Immediate Release: March 31, 2023

Contact: Kristi Hughes, KHughes@empirejustice.org, 585-454-4060

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ROCHESTER, NY – Empire Justice Center is proud to announce Zora (Zoe) Raglow-DeFranco as the Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow. The Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship is a prestigious 2-year fellowship awarded to a dynamic, new attorney in public interest law. Zoe’s fellowship focuses on the intersection of housing and public benefits at Empire Justice’s Rochester Office.


Zoe’s role reflects Empire Justice Center’s unique 360-degree approach to justice. Her work ranges from individual client representation to supporting impact litigation, to engaging in legislative and administrative advocacy for lasting, impactful changes throughout the state.


As part of her fellowship, Zoe works within two of Empire Justice Center’s Legal Practice Units, Housing and Public Benefits. Within the Housing practice unit, she represents tenants at risk of homelessness through the Telesca Center for Justice Center Partner’s Tenant Defense Project and connects with tenants’ rights groups and homelessness prevention service providers. As a member of the Public Benefits Unit, she works with clients to ensure they are maximizing their eligibility for benefits and supports Empire Justice Center’s work to increase the public assistance shelter allowance to better reflect the real cost of housing.


“In order to positively improve the lives of lower income individuals, change must be made both on a large-scale policy level and in individual cases on a micro-level,” states Zoe.  “Empire Justice Center has given me the unique opportunity to use my legal education to help individuals in both capacities. Being able to gain experience in two legal units is invaluable for both my personal growth and for my ability to be a successful advocate for lower-income individuals.”


Zoe, a native of Niagara Falls, NY, received her Master’s in Social Work at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and her law degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio in May 2022. While in law school, she was involved in various projects and programs such as the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s Right to Counsel Program and Housing Court Program, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless to work on their Homeless Bill of Rights Project, the Ohio ACLU, New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, and was a fellow at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Prior to law school, Zoe volunteered with a youth organization for underprivileged children and was a project coordinator for a community investment program through AmeriCorps.


The Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship was established in 2002 in memory of Hanna Cohn, who was the Executive Director of the Volunteer Legal Services Project (VLSP), now JustCause, in Rochester for 20 years. The Fellowship allows the attorney to design and implement a project to increase legal advocacy for Greater Rochester’s low‐income families. The Fellowship is made possible by the Hannah S. and Samuel A. Cohn Memorial Foundation and by contributions from Hanna’s family and friends.


Hanna’s son Eli Cohn-Wein stated, “Hanna came to Rochester as a brilliant and energetic legal mind with a focus on improving the lives of those who were left behind by the legal system. Even early in her career, Zoe has established herself as a tireless pursuer of justice, and we are certain that Zoe’s work through the fellowship will be a tremendous boon to Rochester and Hanna’s legacy.  Our gratitude to her, Empire Justice, and the Hanna and Samuel Cohn Foundation for honoring Hanna’s memory in this way that knows no bounds.”


Empire Justice is thrilled to bring on a law graduate whose work is fulfilling our mission of making the law work for all New Yorkers, especially for those who need its protection the most.


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Empire Justice Center is a non-profit law firm dedicated to making the law work for all New Yorkers using a powerful, 360-degree approach. We teach the law by providing training technical assistance to other advocates organizations. We practice the law by providing free, direct civil legal services and impact litigation. We change the law by engaging in legislative and administrative advocacy on issues that affect under-served communities.



Important Notice for Individuals with Disabilities Who Are Applying for or Trying to Keep Public Benefits in Suffolk County

Posted on August 10th, 2022

Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement Regarding Disability Accommodations at the Suffolk County Department of Social Services.

Attorneys from the Empire Justice Center, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) and Dentons LLP obtained class certification and a settlement in a Federal Court class action case called Newkirk v. Pierre, 19-cv-4283 (E.D.N.Y.). Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are individuals with disabilities who need help applying for or trying to keep public benefits through programs run by the Suffolk County Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

This is an important notice about accessing Public Benefits and a proposed Settlement in a Federal Court class action case. Please read the entire notice provided in the links below if:

  1. You are an individual with a disability living in Suffolk County, New York; AND
  2. You have applied for or will apply for benefits and services from SCDSS, including SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance, and Temporary Housing Assistance (THA); AND
  3. Because of your disability, you need help applying for or keeping those benefits and services.


Audio Recording of Notice


Members of the Plaintiff Class who are deaf or hard of hearing and require interpreter services to participate in the Fairness Hearing with the Court on September 6, 2022, should contact the National Center for Law and Economic Justice at info@nclej.org, or (212) 633-6967, in advance of the hearing.

Press Release Announcement


Aviso Importante para Personas con Discapacidades que Solicitan o Intentan Mantener Beneficios Públicos en el Condado de Suffolk

Posted on August 10th, 2022

Aviso de propuesta de acuerdo de demanda colectiva sobre Adaptaciones para Personas con Discapacidad en el Departamento de Servicios Sociales del Condado de Suffolk

Los abogados del Empire Justice Center, el  National Center for Law and Economic Justice (Centro Nacional para la Ley y la Justicia Económica) y Dentons LLP obtuvieron la certificación colectiva y un acuerdo en un caso de demanda colectiva del Tribunal Federal llamado Newkirk v. Pierre, 19-cv-4283 (E.D.N.Y.). Los demandantes en esta demanda son personas con discapacidades que necesitan ayuda para solicitar o tratar de mantener los beneficios públicos a través de programas administrados por el Departamento de Servicios Sociales del Condado de Suffolk (SCDSS).


Lea el aviso completo proporcionado en el siguiente enlace si:

  1. Usted es una persona con una discapacidad que vive en el condado de Suffolk, Nueva York;
  2. Ha solicitado o solicitará beneficios y servicios de SCDSS, que incluyen SNAP (cupones de alimentos), Medicaid, Asistencia Temporal y Asistencia de Vivienda Temporal (THA); Y
  3. Debido a su discapacidad, necesita ayuda para solicitar o mantener esos beneficios y servicios.



Los miembros de la Clase de Demandantes que son sordos o tienen problemas de audición y requieren servicios de interpretación para participar en la Audiencia de Equidad con el Tribunal el 6 de Septiembre de 2022, deben comunicarse con el National Center for Law and Economic Justice (Centro Nacional para la Ley y la Justicia Económica) en info@nclej.org , o ( 212) 633-6967, antes de la audiencia.

Press Release Announcement