Brooklyn Defender Services

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1 Brooklyn Defender Services Overview of Achievements, The Civil Justice Program of Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) significantly expanded its services to Brooklyn residents during the grant period, consistent with BDS s goal of addressing a wide range of civil barriers to clients successful reentry into society after criminal justice involvement. Our program closed 869 cases on behalf of indigent and low-income Brooklyn residents (our primary target population), benefitting more than 2500 people. In December 2012, BDS incorporated the Brooklyn Family Defense Project (BFDP), formerly part of Legal Services NYC. BFDP was selected by the New York City in 2007 as one of the first institutional providers of parent representation in abuse and neglect (Article 10) cases in Family Court. BFDP defends parents in Brooklyn Family Court and helps them access the benefits and services needed to keep their children safe and stable. Interdisciplinary teams of attorneys and out-of-court advocates provide families with the tools they need to stay together and improve the quality of their children's lives. BFDP represents 850 new clients in child welfare cases each year over half of all respondents in Brooklyn Family Court. BFDP s cases last an average of two years and BFDP has a case load of more than 1,500 clients. This expansion marks a large step toward further integrating civil legal services into BDS s activities consistent with BDS s overall mission of providing holistic legal services to Brooklyn residents. BFDP clients usually are involved with the child welfare system due to poverty and often face barriers to family reunification such as homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence. The root causes of their child welfare problems are similar to those of BDS s criminal defense clients. Indeed, BDS s criminal defense program and BFDP very often represent the same individuals, because they face both criminal and family charges. During the grant period, BDS s Immigration Unit grew with an additional attorney, a BIA accredited representative, and an administrative assistant, which significantly increased our capacity to Continued on last page Kings This Provider At a Glance Population Served: General Low Income Population Area Served: Kings County Total Funding: $1,707,125 Total IOLA Grant: $50,000 Staffing - Full Time Equivalents Total Staff: Lawyers: Paralegals: 1.30 Other Staff: 4.25 Types of Services Provided Direct Civil Legal Representation Brief Services Extended Services Hotlines and Other Phone-Based Services Technology and Other Innovations Community Legal Education Pro Se Assistance Collaborations With Other Service Providers Major Cases or Other Advocacy Projects Brooklyn Defender Services - 1

2 Outcomes 2,566 Individuals Benefited from 869 Closed Direct Civil Legal Cases Extended Representation Outcomes 814 People obtained or maintained custody of children 602 People obtained legal status (e.g., U visa, T visa, VAWA, etc.) 366 People obtained protection from domestic violence 152 People obtained or preserved right to visitation 398 People obtained benefits from other "extended representation" Brief Representation Benefits 172 People benefited from legal advice and counsel 62 People benefited from non-litigation advocacy services Examples... Outcomes for Clients fter our client s husband Mark was laid off from his job in Maryland, our client Michele S. A moved from Maryland to Brooklyn with Mark and their six children with hopes of building up Mark s business. Mark and Michele fell behind on their rent and were evicted from their home. Homeless and desperate, they moved with their children to a basement storage space that had no amenities not even running water. When their oldest child went to a shelter for homeless youth, the family s troubles came to ACS s attention. ACS removed the five youngest children and placed them in foster care. BFDP filed an application for an emergency hearing. There was no dispute that the family lived in terrible conditions as a result of their poverty. The mother testified that she was afraid to seek public assistance; she did not know whom to trust and did not want to depend on government assistance, believing the father s business would soon profit. Despite the extreme poverty and terrible living conditions, the Court found that Michele managed to keep her family together, fed, and schooled. After a hearing, the judge returned the children on the condition that Michele apply for public assistance for housing, financial, medical, food stamps, and any services that will support the family and avoid return to foster care. hen we met Carmen, she was anxiously seeking a lawyer to represent her in deportation W proceedings. A 52-year old Haitian woman who lived in the United States, undocumented, for almost thirty years, she was placed in deportation proceedings because she applied for Temporary Protected Status after the Haiti earthquake in She did not know that she was ineligible for TPS, and deportable instead, because of one twenty-year old drug conviction during a time when she suffered from drug addiction. Now rehabilitated from her drug addiction, Carmen has been steadily employed at the same nursing Examples continued on page 5 Breakdown of Cases by Legal Problem Area People Cases Total 2, Family 1, Individual Rights 1, Family 53% Individual Rights 47% Brooklyn Defender Services - 2

3 Other Services Legal Services Other Than Direct Legal Representation In addition to providing direct legal services, BDS s Civil Program provides the following additional legal related services to benefit lowincome Brooklyn individuals and families, particularly youth and immigrants: (1) Know Your Rights community education outreach events, to relay information and empower individuals; (2) Legal trainings and presentations, as well as technical back-up support, to other legal service providers and community-based advocates, to increase their capacity to help immigrants surmount barriers to successful reentry into society after criminal justice involvement; (3) Referrals to other reputable legal service providers where we lack capacity to take cases in-house, to maximize individuals access to competent legal counsel; and (4) Participation in broader advocacy, to promote greater access to justice and advance policy reforms. BFDP s Young Parents Empowerment project provides young parents with intensive support through a parent advocate and connects young parents with ongoing community-based services. The project offers monthly workshops, such as a cooking and nutrition class, that empower young parents to develop the tools and skills they need to parent their children while getting an education and obtaining employment. BDS s Immigration Unit trains all other attorneys at BDS, including staff of BFDP, on the immigration consequences of criminal and family defense cases. In addition to providing in-depth, all-day trainings to new attorneys, we provide periodic CLE and Law Lunch presentations within BDS. Our Immigration Unit attorneys also train attorneys and community-based advocates outside BDS. During the grant period, we conducted trainings within BDS and additional trainings and presentations at the Defending Immigrants Partnership national conference, the New York Immigration Coalition, the Federal Defenders of the Eastern and Southern Districts, the Kings County Bar Association, and the Brooklyn Bar Volunteer Lawyers Project, training a total of more than 350 people. Collaborations With Other Service Providers As part of BFDP s efforts to improve child welfare practice for families affected by mental illness, BFDP formed a coalition with other parent institutional providers (Bronx Defenders, Center for Family Representation), attorneys for children (Lawyers for Children, Legal Aid Juvenile Rights Practice), disability and mental health advocates (New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, NAMI and MFY Legal Services) and mental health professionals to address our concerns. These organizations worked together to develop Principles to Inform Child Welfare Decisionmaking Regarding Mental Health Issues and once they are formally issued by NYCCS, the coalition will coordinate educational sessions in family courts and offices throughout the City regarding use of the principles in every day practice. A subset of these groups is working with the Family Court Administration to improve the quality of mental health evaluations used to make decisions about families involved in child welfare cases. BFDP collaborates with the Children s Museum of the Arts on a therapeutic visiting program and the Child Welfare Organizing Project on community forums and on developing a parent leadership institute. BFDP has joined the New York City Coalition of Family Court Advocates, spearheaded by Citizen s Committee for Children, to advocate with the state legislature for more family court judges and funds for family court because our clients and their children are being harmed by insufficient court resources, such as court rooms closing promptly at 4:30 even when ACS is seeking the removal of the children. Judges often instruct ACS to remove the children if ACS thinks the children are in danger, even though the law requires the court to provide judicial oversight. In many cases, children are unnecessarily removed only to be returned after a hearing is held, which Number of People Benefited by Legal Services Other Than Direct Legal Representation Total: 2,667 People Community Legal Education: 484 People Web Usage: 2,183 People Brooklyn Defender Services - 3

4 Other Services, continued ultimately costs the state much more money than keeping a court room open for a short period of additional time. BDS s Immigration Unit intake for individuals who are not former BDS criminal defense clients focuses primarily on Brooklyn s immigrant youth and on its Haitian community. Our Program has existing relationships with Brooklyn communitybased organizations and local elected officials who have referred their constituents to us. We work closely with other immigrant youth legal service providers throughout the city to share knowledge and avoid duplication of effort. We work in collaboration with La Union, a community-based organization in Sunset Park, to deliver our legal services to Brooklyn youth in particular. In addition, BDS has a strong working relationship with the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Program, with which we have continued to collaborate in both our youth and Haitian community immigration legal clinics during this grant period. Backup or Support Services BFDP provides training for social service providers and elected officials throughout Brooklyn on navigating the child welfare system, and is available for technical assistance on individual client questions as well. BDS s Immigration Unit provides technical legal assistance to other civil legal service providers, including BFDP attorneys, and to pro bono lawyers on a case-by-case basis when they seek our guidance on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and strategies to best advocate for a client in light of them. Finally, from time to time the Immigration Unit recruited pro bono counsel at private law firms to represent our clients in deportation proceedings. In those cases, we continued to provide guidance and mentorship to recruited counsel over the course of each case. Major Cases or Other Advocacy Projects BFDP Emergency Removal Project For the past several years, BFDP has challenged NYCCS s practice of removing children without seeking court approval first. Although NYCCS issued a policy clarifying when emergency removals can be conducted as a result of BFDP s advocacy, BFDP continues to challenge the practice which went from conducting emergency removals without seeking court permission first in 75% of the cases to 50% of the cases. In addition, BFDP is working with NYCCS to ensure that the court hears these cases when they are filed even though the court closes at 4:30. Pro Bono Volunteer Involvement BFDP partners with many of New York City s major law firms to provide pro bono assistance to our clients whose cases raise more complicated legal issues. BFDP does not refer cases but rather works closely with associates on particular assignments or parts of cases. Associates from the firms of Davis Polk, Kaye Scholer, Skadden Arps, Kramer Levin, O Melveny and Meyers, Ropes and Gray, and Crowell and Moring work with BFDP attorneys on motions, appeals and fact finding trials. Our pro bono brochure is on our website at BFDP also has an associates advisory board with members Sources of Funding Total $1,707,125 IOLA Grant $50,000 City and County Funding $1,615,875 Foundations $28,750 Income from fundraising events $12,500 City and County Funding 94% Foundations 2% Income from fundraising events 1% IOLA Grant 3% Brooklyn Defender Services - 4

5 Other Services, continued from major New York City Law firms. The board assists BFDP with fundraising, communication and policy issues. In addition, we generally have one or two volunteer lawyers each year, often hosted by New York University s School of Law. Each year, law students from the New York University School of Law s Family Defense Clinic are placed with BFDP; the students handle some of our most complicated cases and represent the client for the school year. Two NYU social work interns are also placed with BFDP through the clinic and work in interdisciplinary teams with the students. BFDP hosts law students from New York City area law schools each summer and 3-5 interns during the school year. BFDP also partners with Brooklyn Law School on the Second Chance Project which helps parents clear their name with the State Central Registry so they can enhance their opportunities for future employment. Information on our Second Chance Project is on our website at second-chance-project. BDS s immigration legal services have continued to utilize an organized immigration pro bono program that builds on our existing relationship with Brooklyn Bar Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and private law firms, which have been cultivated over the years through our Haitian and Youth community lawyering projects. For our DACA clinics alone, the existing VLP pool of trained DACA attorneys whom we supervise includes over 30 enthusiastic volunteers, some with prior immigration experience and several who are native Spanish speakers. We have had hundreds of attorneys donate thousands of hours of their time providing immigration legal services under our supervision. BDS s Immigration Unit has also continued to leverage its resources with volunteer lawyers and law student interns working with us from our offices. Pro Bono Statistics During , the following volunteers provided services in our program: Attorneys: 41 Volunteers 2,766 Hours Law Students: 18 Volunteers 2,607 Hours Other Volunteers: 12 Volunteers 2,880 Hours Total Cases Completed by Attorneys: 114 Cases Dollar Value of Attorney Services*: $0.69 million *estimated at $250 per hour This grant period the Immigration Unit benefitted from the significant contributions of a full-time volunteer attorney over a nine-month period, a full -time law student extern over a three-month period, four full-time summer interns, as well as other volunteer attorneys and interns. From time to time the Immigration Unit also recruited and mentored pro bono counsel at private law firms to represent our clients in deportation proceedings. In this manner, we have leveraged our existing capacity to provide deportation defense services and increased access to justice for our immigrant clients. Outcomes for Clients continued from page 2 home, as a certified nurse s assistant, for a decade. She has been attending the same Brooklyn Baptist church for twenty years, and is a member of its choir. She attends church on average three times a week. She is the wife of a U.S. citizen, mother of three adult U.S. citizens, daughter of a U.S. citizen mother, and grandmother to numerous U.S. citizen grandchildren. Realizing that Carmen needed her criminal conviction vacated before she could mount strong defenses against her deportation, we recruited low -bono private defense counsel to bring a successful motion to vacate Carmen s criminal conviction. BDS defended Carmen in her deportation proceedings, successfully arguing to have the deportation proceedings terminated. We then represented Carmen in her renewed application Temporary Protected Status (TPS). She now has TPS status, along with employment authorization. BDS will now represent Carmen to help her obtain lawful permanent residence through her adult U.S. citizen daughter. Brooklyn Defender Services - 5

6 Snapshot of Accomplishments continued from page 1 provide a full range of immigration legal services to indigent Brooklyn immigrants. Now a robust staff of ten, the Immigration Unit has continued to achieve positive results for our clients. We launched an Immigrant Youth Project, which included Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clinics in partnership with La Union, a community-based organization in Sunset Park, and staffed by volunteer attorneys from Brooklyn Bar Volunteer Lawyers Project. We continued our community-based Haitian Immigration Legal Assistance Program (HILAP) to help Brooklyn Haitians maintain their Temporary Protected Status and obtain other immigration protections. We also strengthened our expertise in the areas of deportation defense, advocacy against immigration detention, and affirmative immigration benefits assistance in complex cases. Through administrative and court-based advocacy before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Customs and Border Patrol, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Unit has been successful in obtaining lawful immigration status and preventing deportation for clients who have a valid claim, including immigrant youth. To maximize our reach and the services afforded to our clients, we worked closely with other community based groups, local elected officials, churches, and social service providers. We improved the administration of justice by meeting the legal needs of Brooklyn immigrants with a criminal history and threatened with detention and deportation those least wellserved by other service providers. BDS s seamless referral process from our criminal defense program which helps 38,000 clients a year to our Program once the criminal case over ensures that this point of access for indigent individuals translates into the delivery of much needed community civil legal services. Our services were delivered with our in-house staff attorneys and through a robust pro bono program. Brooklyn Defender Services - 6

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