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Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project Reports Uptick in Civil Rights Cases

by Dylan Lee July 14, 2017

The Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project of the City Bar Justice Center assists low to moderate income litigants who cannot obtain counsel and need help litigating their federal civil cases in the Eastern District of New York. The Project provides free, brief legal services, including: assessing the values and strengths of various legal claims, explaining the litigation process, answering clients’ substantive and procedural questions, drafting letters, reviewing briefs, and conducting legal research. Pro bono attorneys volunteer with the Project twice a week, providing much needed assistance to clients.

During the First Quarter of Fiscal Year 2017-2018 (March 16 – June 15, 2017), the Project assisted 120 individuals with 137 legal matters. Thirty two percent (32%) of these matters involved civil rights issues such as disability rights, race discrimination, and federal constitutional violations by state and city actors. This is an uptick from the previous year in which 23% of matters were civil rights cases. Another third concerned employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, and/or age. Other legal areas with which the Project provided assistance included matters involving public benefits, torts, and foreclosure.

The Project prioritizes assisting low and moderate income individuals who cannot afford to retain a lawyer. Almost 60% of clients who received help this past quarter identified as male, and 43% of clients identified as Black. Nine percent (9%) of clients identified as Latino(a)/Hispanic, 12% identified as Asian, and 17% identified as white. A majority of the cases for which the project provided assistance (62%) were in the initial stages of litigation.

Clients of the Project appreciate the help. A plaintiff in an employment discrimination suit said, “[The Project’s] works and dedication are of utmost importance, particularly in the current environment of uncertainties, in making a more fair and just society.” Most of the Project’s clients are plaintiffs, but a growing number are defendants. One such client – a defendant in a diversity-based contract dispute – said, “It was . . . such an honor to be in court and know that people like you are helping people like me. I’m really grateful.”

View the Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project’s First Quarter Snapshot here: First Quarter, Year 3 Snapshot

Dylan Lee is the Project Coordinator of the Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project.

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