Thank you to all those who attended the CLE – Aiding Ukraine: Initial Temporary Protected Status Applications
For those who are interested in volunteering, please see the following links below:
I-ARC is signing up volunteers and coordinating with organizations who may need them.
- This is the sign up form for helping Afghans: https://forms.gle/w2XBbzwXncQWwigU8
- This is the sign up form for helping Ukrainians: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdWZv6uYV4q7TuyhtDcD7kJ7wbPmEedDDJVns7IQoXWu6X3RQ/viewform
You may sign up for both or either one.
If you are interested in helping the NYSBA Ukraine Task Force, please email Carra Forgea at [email protected] or you may
Sign up here if you’re interested in volunteering for the Ukraine Task Force: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ukrainetaskforce
The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has a long and proud tradition of advocating for equal access to justice for all New Yorkers in civil matters through a combination of government-funded legal services programs and voluntary pro bono service by private practitioners. The Department also provides assistance and educational training programs for attorneys employed by legal services organizations and oversees a number of attorney recognition programs that promote, recognize, and honor pro bono service by individual attorneys and law firms. The Department works with many of the Association’s sections and committees to encourage their voluntary participation in pro bono projects.
- NYSBA does not generally provide direct legal services to the public.
- NYSBA is currently recruiting attorneys for pro bono work to help Veterans in the Restoration of Honor Project.
- If you need a pro bono attorney, please visit lawhelpny.org for a civil legal service organization that may be able to assist you.
- Looking to volunteer? Click here to find a pro bono opportunity that is tailored to your specific requirements.
- Click here for the Unified Court System’s website that provides info on the pro bono requirement for admission to the bar as well as the mandatory biennial reporting requirements.
- Visit Free Legal Answers website to register as an attorney volunteer. It is A Virtual Legal Advice Clinic where attorneys can answer questions from the public on civil legal issues on a limited scope basis.
- The Pro Bono Appeals Program provides pro bono representation for selected civil appeals to the Appellate Division, Third and Fourth Judicial Departments. Visit the Pro Bono Appeals program page for more information.
- New York Public Interest Research Group’s (“NYPIRG’s”) Small Claims Court Action Centers provide assistance on small claims court and consumer matters. Please visit https://www.nypirg.org/sccac/ or call (800) 566-5020 and leave a message if you need assistance.
- We invite you to submit articles showcasing excellence in pro bono service for upcoming editions of the Pro Bono Newsletter. Articles can be sent to [email protected]
Thank you to the following legal service organizations!
Workers’ Compensation Board’s Injured Workers Legal Assistance Pro Bono Project
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board’s Injured Workers Legal Assistance Project (“IWLAP”) helps injured workers obtain medical treatment through the assistance of pro bono attorneys.
The New York State Bar Association (“NYSBA”), its Torts, Insurance, and Compensation Law Section, and its Workers’ Compensation Law Division have partnered with the Workers’ Compensation Board to connect volunteer attorneys with injured workers seeking representation in medical-only claims.
In these medical-only claims, the insurance carrier or self-insured employer who pays the medical benefits has accepted liability, but is disputing the medical treatment sought by the injured worker. These cases typically pose a challenge for injured workers seeking legal representation as no attorney fees are awarded when there are no lost wages.
Are you an Injured Worker Seeking Representation in Medical-Only Claims?
Please complete the following form if you are currently not represented by an attorney (or licensed representative) and you received a notice telling you that a request for authorization for a medical procedure or medical treatment was denied, and you would like to request legal assistance in navigating the next steps: https://nysbawcb.cliogrow.com/intake/3f1c2d3abbb72c984177e16f941ea146
The New York State Bar Association does not guarantee it will find an attorney who will accept your case and does not guarantee the outcome or results of that representation.
Are you an Attorney Interested in Volunteering?
Sign up here to help injured workers obtain medical treatment: https://nysba.joinpaladin.com/nysba/opportunities/help-injured-workers-obtain-medical-treatment/
This opportunity is for attorneys who are licensed to practice law in New York State. Malpractice insurance coverage is provided for volunteers.
Lawyers who are interested in volunteering will be required to participate in a free training webinar worth 2.0 MCLE credits. The training is presented by Alex C. Dell, Esq., founding attorney of The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC. Volunteers must complete the training webinar to be eligible to receive cases from NYSBA. You can access the training webinar at:
The training webinar is free for both members and non-members but you must log in to the NYSBA website to access the webinar and earn MCLE credits. Please contact the NYSBA Member Resource Center at [email protected] or 800-582-2452 should you need assistance in accessing the training webinar.
NYS Workers’ Compensation Pro Bono Training Program
This program is presented by Alex C. Dell, Esq., Founding Attorney of The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC.
President’s Pro Bono Service Awards
Each year the Association proudly bestows the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards. These awards recognize outstanding pro bono contributions made by individual attorneys, law students, law firms, corporate counsel and/or government offices.
Congratulations to the 2022 President’s Pro Bono Service Award Winners.
Pro Bono Service Award Winners
Neva D. Strom is a Solo Trusts & Estates attorney in Manhattan, where she was born. Neva’s legal career is the result of many life experiences and has not been a linear path. After graduation from Hollins College majoring in piano performance, Neva lived in Vienna, Austria, then in NYC working as a Trusts and Gifts Administrator for a major national religious charity for several years. This exposed her to the legal field and uncovered her love for Trusts and Estates. When the charity left NY, Neva pursued her love for the law by entering New York Law School’s accelerated Mid-Year program, graduating in 2.5 years on the Dean’s List.
At NYLS her volunteerism included serving as President of a student Legal Society with a diverse identification, building a coalition with other similar clubs to successfully ensure their continued ability to mandate leadership to members of that protected identity, an early expression of her efforts to support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She combined service and experience when she served as a judicial intern to then-Surrogate Lee L. Holzman in the Bronx Surrogate’s Court twice, and in the Estate Tax division of the IRS. While awaiting admission to the NY Bar in the 1st Department, she wrote and edited two years of the annual updates of “The Federal Tax Valuation Digest” giving her insight into issues such as the valuation process of assets including businesses (up to 30 factors), and elder fraud.
Neva opened her solo practice “Version 1.0” upon licensure with clients waiting in the wings, serving both international and domestic individual clients as fiduciaries in New York estates, as well as doing estate planning. She took a career gap to meet the demands of childrearing (2) and elder care (4) (she calls them her “Bedsides & Bedrails” years), and began her re-entry into practice several years ago by reopening her solo practice all over again (“Version 2.0”) from scratch. Her exposure to multiple Elder Fraud/Financial Abuse/Inheritance Theft situations over the last 10 years has created her desire to pivot and focus her practice on representing these victims as they seek to restore the rightful ownership of assets through Surrogate’s Court representation. The Corona pandemic and its necessary seclusions over the last two years have only underscored for her how much she appreciates and prefers to work with others on a team, as she continues to serve clients individually.
Neva is a member of the T&E, Elder & Special Needs, and Women in Law Sections of NYSBA. She finds active participation in the Listservs an essential part of her ongoing education as well as a valued opportunity to create relationships with colleagues across the state as well as beyond its borders
Peter De Vries is a Brooklyn based attorney with over fifteen years of experience as a general practitioner. Practicing throughout New York City, he provides accessible services for a wide range of legal matters.
Prior to opening his own firm, he worked as a public defender in Phoenix, Arizona, a provider of legal and business solutions to street vendors in Manhattan, and as an associate for other Brooklyn-based law firms. He maintains a working relationship with the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project, providing divorce, bankruptcy, and guardianship services to those in need, with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking clients.
Jessica Hugabone Vinson, Esq. is a Managing Partner at Vella, Carbone & Associates, LLP. Jessica graduated from Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, with a Bachelors Degree in political science, and received her J.D. from Albany Law School. Jessica has extensive legal experience having worked in private practice in the fields of matrimonial and family law, assisting spouses, parents, grandparents and others in navigating their proceedings in the various courts. Jessica is a certified divorce mediator and works with the spouses to reach a fair and sound agreement that meets both spouses’ needs. Jessica is also appointed as an Attorney for the Child in Saratoga and Warren Counties, advocating for children’s rights.
Jessica is actively involved in the community, currently serving on the Tri-County Literacy Center Board of Trustees as Vice Chair, the Wiawaka Center for Women Board of Trustees as Secretary, and the SUNY Adirondack Foundation Board. Jessica is also a member of the New York State Bar, Warren County Bar Association, and the Adirondack Women’s Bar Association, as well as a member of the Soroptimist of the Adirondacks. Jessica provides pro-bono services through the Private Attorney Involvement Program of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and was the director and founder of the Legal Clinic to Aid Survivors of Domestic Violence in Glens Falls, New York. Jessica has received numerous awards in connection with her pro bono service and assistance to survivors of the domestic violence, including the Distinguished Service Award from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York in 2021, the Angelo T. Cometa Award from the New York State Bar Association in 2016, the Crime Victim Rights Award from the Domestic Violence Project in 2016, the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards from the New York State Bar Association in 2014, and the Post Star’s 20 Under 40 Award in 2014. Jessica has also been named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyer Magazine for years 2017 through 2021.
Scott was raised in Cambridge, New York, and is a lifelong resident of the Capital Region. He received his B.A. from Hamilton College and his J.D. from the University at Buffalo where he graduated magna cum laude and was Managing Editor of the Buffalo Law Review. Following law school, Scott served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate. He returned home after his military service and joined O’Connell & Aronowitz where he became a partner. Scott was with O&A until July 2021 when he left to start his own practice in Saratoga Springs where he represents individuals and companies in government investigations and against criminal charges in state in federal court.
Scott is a member of the Board of Directors for the Saratoga County Bar Association where he coordinates the Bar Association’s Veterans Affairs Committee and its pro bono veteran clinic. Scott is also on the Board of Directors for the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Scott previously served for several years as a member of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce’s Veterans Business Council.
Erika Hooker, an attorney with Bousquet Holstein PLLC, volunteers with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County’s free legal clinics at Landlord Tenant Court and Surrogate’s Court. In Landlord Tenant Court, Erika represents and defends low-income tenants facing eviction in order to find the best possible solution for each situation. Erika also maintains and organizes weekly volunteer attorneys from her firm to assist VLP in its pro bono representation in Landlord Tenant Court. In Surrogate’s Court, Erika advises and guides pro bono clients in matters of estate administration and legal guardianships and assists individuals who cannot otherwise afford an attorney in filing the correct documents for these matters.
Robert H. Wedlake is a partner of Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP and is a member of the firm’s Real Estate Department.
Rob represents clients in all real estate related matters including both commercial real estate and residential real estate, representing both sellers and buyers. Rob also represents landowners relating to energy matters including solar energy matters, wind energy matters and natural gas energy matters. In the past, Rob has had extensive experience with respect to representing landowners in natural gas matters.
In addition, Rob represents business clients in the Southern Tier with respect to sales and acquisitions of business, formation of businesses, commercial leasing, and related matters. Rob also practices in Estate Planning and Estate Administration. Rob is a skilled litigator who represents clients in corporate, real estate, and commercial litigation before New York courts and administrative agencies. Rob has handled many real estate litigation matters including adverse possession, boundary disputes, quiet title actions and other real estate litigation matters. Rob also practices Landlord Tenant Law throughout the Southern Tier area.
Rob is former chair of the Broome County YMCA board of directors and former chair of the Broome County American Red Cross. He is also former president of the Broome County Bar Association, and a former member of the Chenango Forks School District’s Dollars for Scholars Organization.
Educated at Colgate University (BA, summa cum laude, 1989), Columbia University (MA 1992) and the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law (JD, summa cum laude, 1995), Charles (“Chip”) Grieco has been practicing law in Buffalo New York for over 25 years, developing a broad-based practice including environmental litigation and compliance, land use planning, development and litigation, environmental review compliance, all aspects of municipal law and alcoholic beverage licensing. He has long been recognized as a leading practitioner in these areas, including listing in Chambers USA (Upstate New York) for Environmental Law (2021) and repeat listing among New York Super Lawyers and Legal Elite of WNY. Community service has also been a hallmark of Mr. Grieco’s career, and he has served on numerous community boards and commissions., including the City of Buffalo Environmental Management Commission, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the Western New York Book Arts Center and City Honors Crew, Inc. In addition to these volunteer activities, he also enjoys his role as a volunteer coach for the Buffalo Ski Center Alpine Racing Team and City Honors Crew.
I am a graduate of Emory University and Harvard Law School. After a brief stint as a corporate lawyer at Proskauer Rose, I spent thirteen years practicing entertainment law at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, five of those years as a partner of the firm. I stepped away from the practice of law upon the birth of my twins, now twenty years old, and turned my attention to raising my children and volunteering in the community. When the Pace Women’s Justice Center opened a Walk-In Clinic in 2017 to serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer my services as a pro bono attorney there. Volunteering at the Walk-In Clinic has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life. I am privileged to work alongside wonderful colleagues while simultaneously assisting an underserved population, and I am truly honored to receive this award.
Mr. Buchanan grew up in Portugal; his father was a stationed in the Azores. Following service in the U.S. Army, Mr. Buchanan attended SUNY Downstate University and became a registered nurse. His involvement in labor relations and risk management in that career sparked an interest in law. In 1995 he graduated from St. John’s University School of Law and was admitted to the New York State Bar and the US District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. Mr. Buchanan enjoyed a twenty-five-year career in corporate compliance and human resources at NY Presbyterian Hospital before his retirement. He has continued to maintain a small practice specializing in advising clients in Employment and Labor Relations matters.
Mr. Buchanan decided that when he retired in 2017 from full-time work, it was the perfect time to garner experience in the courtroom while helping those less fortunate. He pursued volunteer opportunities through the NCBA, which led him to the VLP Attorney of the Day Project. There he was given training materials, and the opportunity to work under the direct oversight of Roberta Scoll and her team of experienced volunteer Landlord Tenant attorneys.
“The structured environment of the Attorney of the Day Project was an excellent place for me to develop my litigation skills, and I am grateful for the chance to shadow and gain steady feedback from the other volunteers,” states Mr. Buchanan. “Working on a pro bono basis allows me to focus purely on the goal of helping a client get the best deal possible and avoid being put out on the street. It is truly rewarding to roll up my sleeves and deal with the essence of peoples’ basic needs. VLP provides the guidance and support I need to do this.” During his time working with VLP he has represented over five hundred clients facing eviction
Mr. Buchanan also volunteers with the Pro Bono Partnership assisting small Non-Profit Companies with their Employment issues He is an active board member for several Non-Profit companies. During the earlier days of the pandemic, he volunteered to administered Covid Vaccinations for South Nassau Community Hospital. He administered almost 10,000 shots. He enjoys sailing, bicycle riding, travel and spending time with his wife, grown children, and young grandchildren. In 2022 he is looking forward to getting back to traveling.
Ms. Alberty began her pro bono service for the Queens Volunteer Lawyers Project (QVLP) in 2002. She already had an admirable record of pro bono service and was recognized in 2003 when she received a Small Firm Practitioner Award from InMotion, a legal assistance program for women, for representing victims of domestic violence in divorce, custody and order of protection cases. Although we were happy to have another volunteer lawyer for our program, we had no way of knowing just how lucky we were.
Ms. Alberty’s path to the law was a long and arduous one. She was born in Havana, Cuba in 1945 and came to the U.S. in 1961 and began working full time as soon as she arrived. She got her high school diploma, a bachelors degree from Queens College and an A.A.S. from NYU all by attending at night while working full time. At the age of 42 she began law school in the evening and received her J.D. from New York Law School. After working for firms in intellectual property law and personal injury law she struck out on her own. Her solo practice now includes work in family law, bankruptcy, real estate and probate/small estate cases.
Initially Ms. Alberty volunteered to help with pro bono cases in Family Court, divorces and bankruptcy for QVLP. What has characterized her service to our program has not only been her consistently stepping forward and volunteering for potentially difficult pro bono cases but her level of interest in improving our program which immediately became evident. In addition, she has helped us to fine tune our practices over the years and which has improved the efficiency of our service to the community. She doesn’t just want to help a little. If she’s going to be involved she wants to do it right and she expects the same from everyone else working in the program. Ms. Alberty has distinguished herself through this concern but also has been someone we could go to over the years when we were in a pinch on a difficult case. It must also be added, that she is also a person of great humility. It took an inordinate amount of arm twisting to get her to agree to be nominated for this award.
She has remarked; “Doing pro-bono work is my favorite kind of work. There is nothing as satisfying as helping someone who needs legal assistance that they can’t afford.”
I am a graduate of Fordham University School of Law. I received the Arthur Murray Award for 1000 pro bono hours during law school. As a legal intern with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, I worked closely with attorneys and tenant organizers to advocate for groups of tenants against abusive landlords in Bedford-Stuyvesant. In the Legislative & Policy Advocacy Clinic, I helped draft legislation to extend New York State sexual harassment protections to nontraditional workers. I also helped design an extralegal program based on the Fair Food Program aimed at holding nontraditional employers accountable for sexual harassment and other poor work conditions in the modeling industry. As a student and subsequently a legal fellow in the Immigrant Rights Clinic, I completed two ultimately successful petitions for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SJIS) for two minors from El Salvador, as well as assisted on a petition for asylum, a U-visa and an application to remove the condition on a conditional residency. I interviewed young children and victims of abuse and persecution from all over the world. Since relocating to Rochester, New York, I have been working pro bono with JustCause in the Tenant Defense Project connecting clients with resources and delaying or preventing evictions throughout Monroe County. I have also taken pro bono immigration cases assisting with Adjustment of Status applications and Temporary Protective Status applications for clients from Mexico, Venezuela, Afghanistan and Haiti.
Honorable Vera R. Johnson is a former Supervising Administrative Law Judge for the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Since retiring from state service she has handled a variety of legal matters on a pro bono basis throughout the upstate of New York for the Rural Law Center, LawNY and the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.
Notably during the COVID-19 pandemic, she frequently appeared, (in person and virtually) in the cities of Troy and Albany as a volunteer in the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York’s Attorney for the Day Program representing low income individuals and families.
Alex Hyken is a second-year law student at Brooklyn Law School who is pursuing a law degree to advocate against systems that foster gender-based violence and to promote access to fundamental rights. She has worked with the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project in consumer debt protection and family law and with Brooklyn Law School’s Safe Harbor Clinic in immigration. She volunteers with If/When/How, and this summer, Alex will be interning with Advocates for Justice, focusing on issues related to public school education, employment discrimination, and more.
Steeped in a pro bono tradition, the law firm of O’Connell and Aronowitz has a history of generosity to the local community that dates back to its founding partner, Sam Aronowitz. Mr. Aronowitz forged partnerships with local banks to offer low interest, no-cost home mortgage loans to low-income Capital Region families with O’Connell and Aronowitz providing free closing services. Countless families benefited from the program over its 30-year course. More than 90 years later, our firm proudly continues its commitment to providing Pro Bono legal services. We are proud of our long-term relationships with local organizations including The Legal Project of the Capital District Women’s Bar Association and The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, whose missions coincide with our Firm’s commitment to strengthen our community. In the last ten years, our attorneys have performed over 5,000 hours of pro bono work that has benefitted individuals and businesses while protecting civil rights and liberties.
The Immigration Law Society (“ILS”), a student organization at Albany Law School, was founded in the past year by students looking to get more engaged with immigration issues locally, nationally, and transnationally.
The United States withdrew from Afghanistan and the refugee and immigrant crisis arising therefrom became an increasing concern. The ILS and the Justice Center at Albany Law School’s Immigration Law Clinic reached out to the Albany United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (“USCRI”) office to see if the ILS could be of help. USCRI indicated that they had an enormous backlog of calls to return and intakes to complete, as people from the community were frantically calling to see if USCRI could help get their families out of Afghanistan. From that moment forward the ILS set out to clear the backlog of intakes. Their project became known as the Afghan Intake Project (“AIP”).
The ILS recruited and trained over forty law students, consisting of an incredibly diverse group of people. Of those forty, twenty-seven volunteered. Calls were conducted four hours each week, over the course of two semesters. From the start it was clear that self-care would be needed. Therefore, volunteers met both before and after each shift to decompress and check in on mental health. Total hours volunteered at the AIP, excluding work required outside volunteer shifts, amounted to over 220. The total intakes they completed number 168, with over 240 people reached. ILS members have also volunteered dozens of hours at local humanitarian parole clinics, in downtown Albany, New York, to assist USCRI with intakes for those who made it out of Afghanistan; screening humanitarian parolees and their families for potential immigration relief.
The ILS at Albany Law School has done a tremendous job at working for the betterment of immigrants, their community, and the legal profession by way of pro bono projects, community engagement, and trauma-informed lawyering. They are proud of their work, but recognize it is a drop in the immense bucket which must be filled to effectuate more positive and long-lasting systemic change.
Barry McFadden is a 1990 graduate of the University of Buffalo, School of Law. He has been an Assistant County Attorney for the Ontario County Attorney’s Office in Canandaigua, N.Y. for 31 years. His primary focus has been providing legal advice and representation in human services related law. Over the course of his career, he assisted the Ontario County Department of Social Services with child protective proceedings, actions to free children for adoption, adult protective cases, and petitions for support for children on public assistance. Barry presents juvenile delinquency petitions in Family Court, trains and provides legal guidance to police investigators and probation officers, helped create the Ontario County Youth Court and Juvenile Drug Treatment Court, and serves on various committees and advisory boards seeking to improve services to youth. He prefers practical resolution of problems and collaborates with service providers, the court, and fellow attorneys to address challenges frequently presented by legislative changes. Barry is an Eagle Scout, Troop Committee Member, and Merit Badge Counselor for Troop 32 in Canandaigua, N.Y. He is the President of the Gorham Cemetery Association. Barry has been married to his patient wife Amy Szewc-McFadden for nearly 30 years and is the proud father of Patrick and Rachel. Barry enjoys self-deprecating humor and is a regularly devastated fan of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres.
Please Note: the 2020 President’s Pro Bono Service Awards were not held due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
2021 Special Legal Services Awards Ceremony
A 2021 Special Legal Services Awards Ceremony featuring the Denison Ray Civil Award and the Phil Dailey Award was held during Pro Bono Month on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
From President’s Committee on Access to Justice Co-Chair Edwina Frances Martin, Esq.:
2021 Special Legal Services Awards Ceremony featuring the Denison Ray and Phil Dailey Award Winners
Winner of the Denison Ray Civil Legal Services Attorney Award
Laura Diane Rolnick, Esq.
Laurie Rolnick is the Program Director for the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Central New York’s Eviction Defense Program. Laurie earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University’s NY State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where she was an officer of the speech and debate team and active with Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-educational service fraternity. She then graduated with Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, where she was an active member of the Moot Court and President of the Trial Law Academy. Laurie worked for Jackson Lewis’ Atlanta, Georgia office, representing employers in labor law and employment litigation matters, before taking an in-house position with Medical Doctor Associates. Laurie spent several years as a disability advocate with Attorney Michael P Daly in Manlius, NY, focusing primarily on Workers Compensation and Social Security matters. She started with VLP in 2016 as a volunteer interim director of the Reentry Program and joined the staff in 2017. Laurie has held several positions within VLP, including work with the Reentry and Homeless Advocacy and Prevention Programs. She has been full time with VLP’s Eviction Defense Program since January 2018, and her goal is to promote safe and stable housing in the community. Laurie enjoys a wide variety of volunteer and recreational activities. Most recently, she has been an Academy member for the Syracuse Area Live Theater Awards.
Laurie is so thankful to Sally and Deb for the opportunity to be with the eviction defense program, and wants to especially thank Bethanie, Luz Marina, Tre’Coy, and the entire VLP family for their hard work and support. Special thanks to Alan, Rebecca, Jacob, Sky, and my mom and Dad. None of this work would be possible without you!
Eviction Defense and Tenant Rights Program Description:
The Volunteer Lawyers Project of Central New York Eviction Defense Program assists tenants facing the loss of their home through eviction. Every year we represent 800-1200 tenants at court. This can only be done with the help of a wonderful and talented group of volunteer attorneys, and our amazing Housing Team members Luz Marina Zender and Tre’Coy Boyd. The program was started by the wonderful Deborah O’Shea when VLP was with the Onondaga County Bar Association. She recruited local law firms to provide volunteer attorneys at court for these important, yet summary proceedings.
Our goal is always to promote safe and stable housing in the City of Syracuse and surrounding areas. We see community education and outreach as some of the most important work we do. We work to address underlying systemic factors that have led to injustice in our community housing situation. When Covid-19 closed the courts, we wanted to continue to provide assistance to those most in need, as well as continue to engage volunteers. We started a daily virtual Tenant Rights Clinic, which has helped provide much needed advice and counsel to hundreds of tenants during these turbulent times.
Winner of the Denison Ray Legal Services Director Award:
Cindy Kanusher, Esq.
Executive Director, Pace Women’s Justice Center
Cindy Kanusher, Executive Director of the Pace Women’s Justice Center (PWJC), has focused her career on domestic violence and legal services for the underrepresented. Twenty-three years ago, she joined PWJC, a legal services provider for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse, serving Westchester and Putnam Counties.
During her tenure, PWJC has grown into a highly respected, multi-faceted legal services and training center serving over 3500 victims and survivors of interpersonal violence annually. After becoming Executive Director in 2015, she identified a need for a flexible legal service model for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse. In response, she developed a walk-in clinic concept to provide free, bilingual legal services in a safe and accessible location; the new clinic and office space was inaugurated in June 2018. Since its opening, the clinic has been serving 70-80 victims of abuse monthly, increasing services by 20%.
Prior to becoming Executive Director, Cindy was responsible for oversight of PWJC’s Legal Helpline, Moderate Means Panel of lawyers, Elder Justice Unit, and PWJC’s rural sexual assault and domestic violence training programs, through which she has trained lawyers, judges, advocates, and law enforcement agents.
Before PWJC, she worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the N.Y. County District Attorney’s office for 10 years, specializing in the prosecution of child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence cases. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and received her Law Degree from Brooklyn Law School.
Cindy has strong relationships with partner agencies and community members at large, serving on various boards and councils. She was appointed to serve on Westchester County’s Women’s Advisory Board in 2018, is on the Board of the Westchester
Women’s Agenda, and serves on the Westchester County Domestic Violence Council, Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force, and Westchester County Families Task Force.
Winner of the Nonprofit Organization
Pace Women’s Justice Center
The Pace Women’s Justice Center (PWJC) is a civil legal services center within the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Founded in 1991, we were the first academic legal center in the country devoted to training attorneys and others on domestic violence (DV) issues and have since grown to be the largest civil legal services provider dedicated to serving victims and survivors of DV, sexual assault, and elder abuse in Westchester and Putnam counties.
PWJC’s mission is to pursue justice for victims, and prevent abuse through quality legal services, community partnerships, education, and awareness. PWJC provides direct legal representation for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse, training, community education and outreach, service coordination, and referrals. With a staff of 29 and the contribution of pro bono attorneys, paralegals, and law students, PWJC provides legal services to almost 3,000 victims and survivors, and conducts over 140 training, community education and outreach events each year. PWJC serves clients in both Westchester and Putnam Counties, with a small percentage of clients coming from other parts of the NY metro area. 70% of clients served live in Westchester County.
PWJC has a long history of innovation in the provision of legal services to victims. Here are some of our key milestones:
- In 1998, we created a courthouse-based service for DV victims to receive same-day, walk-in services at two family courthouses (Family Court Legal Program), which focuses on obtaining emergency orders of protections and other legal safeguards. The program utilizes pro bono attorneys and staff attorneys and serves nearly 1000 clients annually. Clients who need ongoing representation after emergency protections are in place are referred to our Family Law Unit.
- PWJC has developed a dedicated group of volunteers in our Pro Bono Program, who enable us to serve many more clients than we could with paid staff alone. Our pro bono attorneys, law students, paralegals and court volunteers assist in our Family Court Legal Program, work in the Walk-In Legal Clinic, operate our Legal Helpline, and accompany clients to court (when safety protocols allow). The pro bono attorneys work exclusively in-house, where they are trained and supervised by PWJC’s staff attorneys. The Pro Bono Program has expanded significantly in the past 3 years with the addition of the Walk-In Legal Clinic in 2018. We now have 65 active volunteers who provide an estimated value of more than $2 million in work hours annually.
- In 2005, we were one of the first legal service providers in our area to recognize the issue of elder abuse, and to provide services to elderly victims. PWJC conducts training to professionals on this issue (police officers, healthcare providers, nurses, aides, and social workers) and conducts outreach to seniors to help them recognize abuse and educate them on how to seek help. We serve approximately 160 seniors in our Elder Justice Unit annually.
- PWJC’s Family Law Unit, originally founded in 2005 by the federal Office on Violence Against Women (part of the US Department of Justice) was innovative in its formal collaboration with community partners, recognizing that victims require a holistic community response. The Family Law Unit provides the full spectrum of legal service and representation to Community partners complement our legal services and provide victims with shelter, counseling, health care, benefits, and immigration assistance. The Family Law Unit serves over 400 clients each year.
- In 2018, we moved our offices, opened a new Walk-In Legal Clinic, and experienced a significant increase in funding, staff and client volume, much of this driven by the success of the A high-volume program that provides limited scope legal services, the Clinic provides a safe, private, welcoming space for victims of abuse to speak to an attorney, with or without an appointment.
The most significant change for PWJC in 2021 has been continuing to accommodate to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center has remained fully operational during the Covid-19 Health Crisis, with all of our attorneys and staff working remotely from home as of mid-March 2020. We made the following accommodations to continue serving our clients without interruption during this challenging time:
- Phones: Our general office phone number remains fully staffed during normal business So that critical legal services can be delivered to clients immediately, and when they are needed, we created a new phone number for our court-based Family Court Legal Program for clients seeking help with ex-parte orders of protection. Our Legal Helpline remains fully staffed during normal business hours, and partially staffed after hours and on weekends.
- Video Chat: We have implemented 2 new web-based video platforms – Gruveo, which enables us to meet with and represent our clients remotely, and Microsoft Teams, which enables us to represent clients during remote court appearances. We upgraded our Zoom platform for more confidentiality. We have also secured software, Eversign, to enable clients to sign legal documents remotely.
- Walk-In-Clinic: Our staff and volunteers continue to meet both by appointment and on a “walk-in” basis with clients remotely. Our partner organizations also continued to keep remote “office hours” at the Walk-in-Clinic, to be available for any clients who need safety planning, counseling, and referrals for other social
- Community education and training: We are delivering our community education and training programs via audio and webinar
- Community outreach: Our dedicated staff is actively communicating with our community partners, supporters, clients, media, and the public to update them on our services and how we can continue to be a resource during this difficult
More recently, now that the courts have slowly begun to re-open, our Family Court Legal Program staff are once again serving clients on-site at the Yonkers and White Plains Family Court houses. In addition, when possible, our Training Outreach, and Education Director is engaging in in-person legal trainings, such as for police officers, and also in outreach opportunities such as National Night Out and community fairs.
We will continue to use the remote, web-based platforms to connect with clients who cannot reach us for reasons other than social distancing into the future, such as lack of transportation, or physical impairment or disability.
Winner of the Phil Dailey Award
Kelly Perine, Paralegal
Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.
Kelly Perine is a paralegal/advocate with Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. who works in LawNY’s Bath office in the domestic violence unit. Prior to joining LawNY in 2004 as an AmeriCorps paralegal, Kelly worked at Arbor Housing and Development’s Domestic Violence Program and Shelter. Kelly is a domestic violence survivor and brings that experience to her work. She also continues to work on a per-diem basis at the shelter and was a volunteer for the Sexual Assault Resource Center for 15 years.
When she became a LawNY staff paralegal in 2006, Kelly began working closely with Attorney David Pels on both domestic violence and public benefit cases. They worked together as a team to make a difference in the lives of clients who are often in desperate situations. Their model of trauma-informed representation of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is still used by the domestic violence team. Kelly is often the first contact when a client is referred to LawNY, and from there she continues to build the relationship through on-going safety planning, court accompaniment and regular check-ins just to see how the client is doing. Kelly also participates in case strategy sessions and client meetings, drafts pleadings and correspondence, and provides whatever other support is needed by the attorneys and clients.
Kelly also works on public benefits issues, negotiating with the Department of Social Services to help clients obtain public assistance and other critical public benefits. When cases do not resolve through negotiation, she represents clients in administrative fair hearings. She has earned the respect of several hearing officers who have made direct referrals of clients to her for representation. Kelly has focused particular attention on assisting clients who face barriers to employment due to an indicated report from Child Protective Services.
In addition to her direct work with clients, Kelly coordinates and facilitates the Steuben County Domestic Abuse Review Team. DART is a multi-disciplinary team focused on victim safety, offender accountability and community education on best practices for responding to domestic violence and sexual assault. In this role, she has helped promote best practices, such as use of the Danger Assessment tool in identifying high-risk domestic violence cases. Within LawNY, she facilitates a workgroup for attorneys and paralegals working on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as other victims of crime. More recently, Kelly took over facilitation of the agency Public Benefits workgroup. She has also been instrumental in assisting with grant applications and reporting for federal, state and local grants that help support LawNY’s work on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Kelly was born and raised in Steuben County and spent most of her life in the area. She raised four children and is married to Paul Perine. When Kelly is not at work, she spends her time with her family including their 12 grandchildren. Kelly and Paul are involved in many local organizations and volunteer their time. Also, they share a love of history and spend time re-enacting both the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War time periods, along with doing school programs about the Revolutionary War.
Past Award Winners
Civil Legal Services Staff Attorney Award Winners
2018 Mary Beth Conway, Esq. and Jennifer Metzger Kimura, Esq.
2016 Josh Cotter, Esq. and David Kagle, Esq.
2014 Susan C. Antos, Esq. and Lori M. O’Brien, Esq.
2012 Michael Hanley, Esq. and Ian F. Feldman, Esq.
2010 Pamela J. Bayer, Esq. and Jeff Hogue, Esq.
2008 Jason D. Hoge, Esq. and James T. Murphy, Esq.
2006 David E. Ralph, Esq.
2004 Sarah Betsy Fuller, Esq. and Judith Studebaker, Esq.
2001 Carole Boccumini, Esq. and Joshua Zinner, Esq.
2000 Marc Cohan, Esq. and Peter O’Brien Dellinger, Esq.
1998 Michael Hampden, Esq. and Mary M. Withington, Esq.
1997 Leslie D’Cora Holmes, Esq. and Barry Strom, Esq.
1995 Margaret H. McDowell, Esq., Douglas Roy Ruff, Esq. and Wendy H. Wahlberg, Esq.
1994 Sheryl Randy Karp, Esq., Jerrold M. Levy, Esq., and William F. Mastroleo, Esq.
Legal Services Program Director Award Winners
2018 Barbara Finkelstein, Esq.
2016 Karen Nicolson, Esq.
2014 Alan S. Harris, Esq.
2012 Michael Rothenberg*, Esq.
2010 Steven B. Telzak*, Esq.
2008 Lillian M. Moy, Esq.
Pro Bono Program Director Award Winners
2012 Richard S. Hobish, Esq.
2006 Lisa A. Frisch, Esq.
Nonprofit Organization Award Winners
2016 Community Service Society of New York Next Door Project
2014 Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York
2012 New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
2010 Legal Health, a Division of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
2008 The Worker’s Rights Law Center of New York, Inc.
2006 Western New York Law Center of Buffalo and its Executive Director, Joseph Kelemen, Esq.
2004 inMotion Inc.
2001 Greater Upstate Law Project (GULP), Inc.
Phil Dailey Award Winners
2018 Deborah O’Shea, Pro Bono Coordinator Onondaga County Bar Association
2016 Phil Dailey*
Empire State Counsel
The Empire State Counsel® Program recognizes NYSBA members who, during the prior year, performed 50 hours or more of pro bono legal services either through direct legal representation of a low-income/vulnerable individual, donating free legal services to an organization whose services are designed primarily to address the legal and other basic needs of persons of limited financial means, or providing free legal services to an organization dedicated to increasing the availability of legal services to vulnerable and/or low-income populations.
All Empire State Counsel® honorees receive a certificate suitable for framing and may use this honorific designation as a credential on their resume.
Albany Afghan Legal Triage Clinic – Thank you to those who have volunteered!
Read about what we accomplished: https://nysba.org/thank-you-to-the-afghan-legal-triage-clinic-pro-bono-volunteers/
Together, USCRI, I-ARC and Albany Law School were able to screen 94 individuals in 3 days, but we’re not done yet.
USCRI has resettled over 300 Afghan parolees in the Capital District thus far, and there are even more parolees that have yet to connect with USCRI’s Case Management services.
The May clinic dates are:
- May 21 (Saturday) 11am-3pm
- May 23 (Monday) 11am – 3pm
- May 24 (Tuesday) 11am – 3pm
We need immigration lawyers to conduct screenings, compassionate lawyers and law students to help with intakes, and people who can speak Dari or Pashto to interpret.
This Clinic cannot succeed without your help. If you can’t help, please share this message with others who might be able to.
Please sign up here: https://forms.gle/Xb2SKep511GHgmRc7
We need people with immigration experience to conduct screenings, compassionate people to help with the intakes, and some fun people to assist with child care.
If you have language skills in Dari or Pashto that is a plus, but not necessary. USCRI will have access to professional phone interpretation for the screenings and in-person interpreters to help with the general intakes. If you can devote a few hours on any of these days, please reach out to I-ARC’s Legal Projects Coordinator, Kristen Wagner, at [email protected].
2022 Partnership Conference
The Partnership Conference is the premier civil legal services educational and networking conference attended by leaders of civil legal service organizations and private law firms from across New York State.
Individuals and groups from all corners of the state travel to Albany, NY every other year to attend the conference, earn continuing legal education credits, and attend the Denison Ray Civil Awards dinner to honor attorneys’, directors’, and nonprofits’ extraordinary leadership and commitment to access to justice.
The theme for the 2022 Partnership Conference is Partnership is our Strength and will be held from October 19th through October 20th at the Capital Center in downtown Albany.
The conference will provide over 20 workshops, covering a diverse range of subjects, including program innovation and management, technology, and substantive legal topics (immigration and Temporary Protected Status, domestic violence, consumer bankruptcy and student loan debt, and housing, among others).
Please see the following hotels in the immediate vicinity of the Albany Capital Center.
**Please note that due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID pandemic there is no hotel block booked in advance.**
The following hotels are all close to the venue and have parking available.