×

Maiffn Area

Memorandum in Support –  Remove Barriers to Access to Justice Certain Civil Proceedings

Posted on June 26th, 2024

Memorandum in Support

 Remove Barriers to Access to Justice Certain Civil Proceedings

 S.9032A (Ryan) / A.9478A (McMahon)

 

The New York Legal Services Coalition supports this legislation that will take the final steps necessary to remove significant barriers to access to justice for low-income New Yorkers, especially in housing, civil and family court matters.

 

This bill clarifies Chapter 559 of 2023 law that eliminated the notarization requirement in civil proceedings. The changes allow a person to submit an affirmation under penalty of perjury in lieu of an affidavit in an administrative proceeding (CPLR 2106). The bill passed with broad support and was signed by the governor. Despite clear legislative intent, however, OCA is advising that the 2023 statutory change does not apply to verifications under CPLR 3020 or to administrative proceedings. This bill would merely clarify that the 2023 law also applies to verifications and administrative proceedings.

 

While technical in nature, the passage of this bill is critical to fully realize the original intent of the 2023 law change. The notary requirement continues to be an outdated burden to access to justice in civil proceedings. There is no evidence that notarization increases the truth of statements made. Under Federal Law and in more than 20 states unsworn and unnotarized declarations are accepted as long as they include a statement that the document is true under penalty of perjury.

 

The notarization process became more onerous during COVID: Litigants who do not have a lawyer have to pay a notarization fee, spend time and money to find a notary, take time off work, and travel to the notary.

 

Requiring a notary disproportionately affects low-income and unrepresented individuals, especially communities of color and deepens the digital divide. The “opportunity” to notarize court documents remotely only works for those who have access to the internet and necessary technology and are digitally literate.

 

Please contact Kristin Brown: kbrown@empirejustice.org or Sal Curran: scurran@vlpcny.org if you have any questions.

 

The memo is available in PDF format 

 


Memo of Opposition: Bill would waste taxpayer dollars, would not protect women, girls in sports

Posted on June 25th, 2024

Memorandum of Opposition  

Bill would waste taxpayer dollars, would not protect women, girls in sports 

Proposed Nassau County Bill 121-24 

 

Empire Justice Center writes in strong opposition to Nassau County Bill 121-24, “Fairness for Women and Girls in Sports.” From an economic perspective, this legislation is a waste of taxpayer dollars and from a community safety perspective, it does nothing to protect or promote women and girls in sports.   

The County Executive’s prior attempt to do this has already resulted in lawsuits, the costs of which have already been borne by county taxpayers. This latest attempt by the legislature is certain to have the same results. If passed, this legislation will also cost Nassau County considerable tax dollars which could instead be spent on improvements to sports for women and girls: improving facilities and purchasing equipment and uniforms, paying the salaries of coaches, or promoting existing programming. This proposal will likely also impact county revenue by decreasing the number of teams and groups who will use Nassau County facilities, and thus limiting revenue stream…

 

See the PDF for further information


Memo of Support – Bank of Rochester Act

Posted on May 20th, 2024

Memorandum of Support 

The Bank of Rochester Act is a way to model how municipal public banks can leverage city funds for large projects that contribute to the public good  

 S9326 (Brouk)/A10134 (Bronson)  

“An act to amend the banking law and the state finance law, in relation to enacting the ‘Bank of Rochester Act.’” 

Empire Justice Center enthusiastically supports the Bank of Rochester Act and strongly urges its passage this session. As a statewide organization focused on changing systems to make the law work for all New Yorkers, especially for those who need its protection the most, including addressing poverty, predatory financial practices, and inequality in Rochester, Empire Justice believes a public bank will be a powerful tool for boosting local economic development, expanding access to fair and affordable credit, and strengthening our local financial sector. We have long advocated for the New York Public Banking Act, and we are excited to see its general framework adopted in the Bank of Rochester Act. 

 

Public banking offers a bold, transformative solution to address deep-seated inequities in our financial system and economy that perpetuate poverty, inequality, and segregation. Currently, the bulk of government funds (taxpayer money) are deposited in big banks like JPMorgan Chase that systematically harm communities through redlining, fee gouging, and discriminatory lending. Last year, the NYS Attorney General’s report exposing pervasive systemic racial inequities in mortgage lending across the state recommended public banking as a key solution. Moreover, the big banks fund industries detrimental to New Yorkers, such as fossil fuels and speculative real estate, further destabilizing neighborhoods. 

 

The bill authorizes Rochester to establish and control a municipal public bank for the purposes of facilitating cost savings, strengthening the local economy, supporting community economic development, and addressing infrastructure and housing needs. It requires the public bank to partner with local financial institutions and restricts it from engaging in retail banking. The bill sets up a robust governance structure and regulatory framework to ensure safety and soundness and public accountability. 

Through public banking, cities and counties can divest from banks that engage in harmful activities and redirect those financial resources to a mission-driven, publicly accountable institution. Public banks prioritize investments in community economic development initiatives – such as affordable housing, community land trusts, small and worker-owned businesses, green energy, and more – that build wealth in communities rather than extract wealth from them. The Bank of Rochester Act is a pivotal and historic first step toward making public banking a reality in New York State.  

 

Empire Justice Center urges the Legislature to take immediate action and pass the Bank of Rochester Act this session. 

A PDF is also available


PRESS RELEASE: Groups Submit Amicus Brief to Support Disability Rights in Anderson v. Roberts

Posted on May 13th, 2024

For Immediate Release: May 7, 2024

Contact:

Julie Morse, Staff Attorney, LSCNY | jmorse@lscny.org
Patrick Fowler, Communications Strategist, NCLEJ | fowler@nclej.org
Susan Antos, Managing Attorney, Empire Justice Center | SAntos@empirejustice.org

 

Read as a PDF

 

Groups Submit Amicus Brief to Support Disability Rights in Andersen v. Roberts

 

NEW YORK – Fifteen organizations, led by Legal Services of Central New York, signed onto an amicus brief submitted to the Appellate Division of the State of New York in support of the plaintiffs in the disability and labor rights case Andersen v. Roberts.  Eisenburg & Baum LLP authored the amicus brief, which was accepted by the court on May 6, 2024.

 

Brought by the Empire Justice Center and later joined by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), the Andersen case concerns whether New Yorkers with disabilities have the same right to receive credit for work performed as a requirement of receiving public assistance that non-disabled people do. The plaintiffs contend that the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) refuses to credit required work hours by people with disabilities who later receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), in violation of a 2015 ruling.

 

“The State of New York continues to flout the rights of disabled New Yorkers by refusing to equally value their labor compared to nondisabled people,” said Julie Morse, Staff Attorney with Legal Services of Central New York.

 

In 2015, the New York Court of Appeals determined that public assistance recipients who participate in a Work Experience Program as a condition of receiving public assistance benefits are “employees” under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and that the required work must be credited against their public assistance debt. The Andersen case challenges the failure of OTDA to implement that policy statewide.

 

Although a settlement agreement was reached under which OTDA agreed to apply the 2015 decision to its recovery of public assistance debt from inheritances, insurance payments, personal injury awards, and lottery winnings, OTDA has not complied with the 2015 ruling for individuals with disabilities. When an individual receives public assistance and is later found by SSA to have been eligible –and thus retroactively awarded SSI benefits for the same period of time in which they received public assistance –OTDA does not give any monetary credit to the individual with disabilities for the work they performed.  OTDA instead requires all of the public assistance to be repaid from the retroactive SSI award, in violation of the 2015 ruling.

 

The amicus brief argues that the Court should affirm the lower court’s decision in favor of the Plaintiffs because:

  • OTDA’s reimbursement policy denies equal opportunity to people with disabilities;
  • OTDA fails to establish a rational basis for its policy, thus denying due process to people with disabilities;
  • OTDA’s policy furthers the economic disenfranchisement of disabled New Yorkers

 

Lead Andersen counsel Susan Antos, Managing Attorney, Empire Justice Center stated, “The State’s position is indefensible. More than a dozen organizations recognize that the State is violating the law and discriminating against people with disabilities through this policy, and we welcome their support in this important disability rights case.”

 

“We deeply appreciate the members of the disability rights and legal services communities standing with us and thoughtfully bringing these critical concerns before the Court,” said Saima Akhtar, Senior Attorney with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

 

OTDA’s appeal in Andersen is scheduled to be heard by New York’s Third Department Appellate Division during the term beginning on May 28, 2024. LSCNY, along with the fourteen other amici named in the brief, urges the court to affirm the New York Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Plaintiffs.

 

The following organizations appear as amici on the brief prepared by Eisenberg & Baum LLP:

  • Legal Services of Central New York (LSCNY)
  • The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN)
  • Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services (CBTLS)
  • Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY)
  • Cornell Law School’s Veterans Law Practicum
  • The Disability Rights Bar Association (DRBA)
  • The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
  • Disability Rights New York (DRNY)
  • The Legal Aid Society
  • The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York Inc.
  • Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. (LawNY)
  • The National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC)
  • The National Partnership for Women & Families
  • New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
  • The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)

 

Read the amicus brief here.

 

Legal Services of Central New York is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization serving the needs of low-income families and individuals in a 13-county region of central New York. LSCNY fights for economic, housing, health, and cultural and community justice. We provide free legal advice and representation to people in civil cases and are engaged in policy advocacy, community education, and support for community organizing. LSCNY’s work includes disability rights and employment law practices. Our attorneys represent people with and without disabilities to obtain and retain public benefits, including public assistance, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, childcare, and Social Security benefits, and also work to enforce employee rights, including wage and hour, equal pay, non-discrimination, and family and medical leave laws.

 

###


Amend the Family Court Act to Limit the Liability of Parents to Reimburse Social Services Districts for the Cost of Foster Care

Posted on March 22nd, 2024

Funding for foster care is based on a complicated formula consisting of federal, state, and local dollars. Parents of children in foster care are routinely sued by social services districts in New York’s Family Courts to recover the cost of such care, whether the care be residential or institutional. Dutchess County v. Day, 96 NY 2d 149, 155 (2001). The recovery of foster care costs has also been seen as disruptive to efforts to maintain familial and economic stability, with particularly egregious effects on children of color.

On July 29, 2022, the Administration for Children and Families issued an administrative letter announcing a change in federal policy, encouraging states to limit this practice.

A.4027 (Kim)/S.7054 (Hoylman-Sigal) would amend Family Court Act which would adopt the recommendation in the federal guidance. In particular, the amendment provides that parental liability will not be imposed if it would “adversely affect the health, safety or welfare of the child on whose behalf” the payments are made, adversely affect the length of the child’s placement, or impair the ability of the child to return home.

The Empire Justice Center strongly supports this bill and encourages its passage.

 

A PDF of the Memo of Support is also available.


PRESS RELEASE: Legal Aid, Empire Justice, NYLAG Launch “Fair Hearing Help NY” Website

Posted on June 20th, 2023

For Immediate Release: June 20, 2023

Contact:

The Legal Aid Society: Alejandra LopezPreview Changes (opens in a new tab)
Empire Justice Center: Alex Dery Snider
New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG): Nadia Khasawneh

 

Read as a PDF

 

Legal Aid, Empire Justice, NYLAG Launch “Fair Hearing Help NY”

New Website Offers Free Legal Resources for New Yorkers Navigating Government Benefit Hearings

(NEW YORK, NY) – The Legal Aid Society, Empire Justice Center, and New York Legal Assistance Group, in partnership with Columbia Law School’s Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic, have launched Fair Hearing Help NY, a free, virtual legal resource for New Yorkers who are representing themselves at an administrative hearing with the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). When an individual’s benefits — such as SNAP benefits — are reduced, discontinued, or their application is denied, they can request a Fair Hearing. A Fair Hearing allows the individual to make their case and the agency will review the decision. However, this is a legal process, and it can be intimidating for many individuals.

 

According to OTDA’s Annual Report, 155,662 hearings were requested in New York State in 2022 (123,990 in New York City alone). Ninety-seven percent of Appellants are not represented by counsel.
The new website will help New Yorkers who are representing themselves in a Fair Hearing navigate the complex process of administrative hearings and offer information that will allow them to more fully participate in their Fair Hearings and exercise their due process rights.

 

“We are proud to launch Fair Hearing Help NY with our partners to help thousands of low-income New Yorkers maintain the life-sustaining benefits to which they are entitled,” said Anne Callagy, citywide director of the Government Benefits Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “When a family’s benefits are wrongfully reduced or terminated, they are forced to make impossible decisions, like whether to put food on the table or pay rent. The new website will equip New Yorkers with the tools to help them keep their benefits.”

 

“For New Yorkers representing themselves in Fair Hearings, having access to the information and resources that will allow them to fight for their benefits is essential,” said Marta Mychak, coordinating attorney in the Public Benefits Unit at New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). “Fair Hearing Help NY will help to level the playing field during these hearings so that more New Yorkers can keep their benefits to feed their children, stay in their homes, and more. We are thrilled to launch this website to empower more New Yorkers with tools they need to assert their rights.”

 

“Fair hearings are the only recourse for New Yorkers whose benefits have been unfairly reduced or denied,” said Susan Antos, Managing Attorney of the Benefits practice at Empire Justice Center. “However, Fair Hearings are fundamentally a legal process. The new Fair Hearing Help NY website will walk people through the process so they understand the procedural rules and are more likely to be successful. This will mean the difference between people being able to access basic necessities – like food for their families, shelter, access to medical care – or not.”

 

Individuals can request a hearing online, by mail, by telephone or by fax, and once a hearing is scheduled, they will be able to explain why they think a decision about their case made by a local social services agency is wrong. OTDA will then issue a written decision which will state whether the local agency’s decision was right or wrong. The written decision may order the local agency to reverse its prior determination, and restore an individual’s benefits.

 

Fair Hearing Help NY can be accessed at http://fairhearinghelpny.org/

Download our Fair Help Hearing Flyers in multiple languages:

English

Spanish

Bengali

Chinese

Polish

Russian

##

The Legal Aid Society exists for one simple yet powerful reason: to ensure that New Yorkers are not denied their right to equal justice because of poverty. For over 145 years, we have protected, defended, and advocated for those who have struggled in silence for far too long. Every day, in every borough, The Legal Aid Society changes the lives of our clients and helps improve our communities. www.legalaidnyc.org

Founded in 1990, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) is a leading civil legal services organization combating economic, racial, and social injustice by advocating for people experiencing poverty or in crisis. NYLAG exists because wealth should not determine who achieves justice. Our services impacted the lives of 113,000 people last year. www.nylag.org

Empire Justice Center is a statewide nonprofit law firm whose mission is to make the law work for all New Yorkers, particularly for those who need its protection most. We take a 360-degree, comprehensive approach to changing systems by engaging in three major and interconnected areas of service. We teach the law by providing training, support and technical assistance to legal services and other community-based organizations; we practice the law by providing
direct, civil legal assistance to low-income people with a particular focus on those from marginalized communities; and we change the law by engaging in policy analysis, research and advocacy and undertaking impact litigation to get at the root of systemic issues.