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Fighting for fairness for people in need

NCLEJ serves low-income families, individuals, and communities by advancing the cause of economic justice through ground-breaking, successful litigation and policy work around the country. We have provided legal representation, support, and advice to people living in poverty and their advocates since 1965, including securing the landmark Supreme Court decision in Goldberg v. Kelly.

50th Anniversary Celebration Video

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New and Noteworthy

Article by Margarita Rosa is the Featured Story in BoardSource’s E-Newsletter

-Posted July 2015

Executive Director Margarita Rosa’s article, “Call Your Board To Arms” appeared as the featured story in BoardSource’s electronic newsletter, The Spark!, on July 21, 2015. Margarita wrote the article while she was Executive Director of the Grand Street Settlement. It was first published in the New York Nonprofit Press (NYNP) and has appeared several times in NYNP’s electronic newsletter. The article addresses the role of nonprofit Boards as advocates for their organizations and for the causes their organizations represent. Read more


Federal Appeals Court Affirms that Food Stamp Applicants Can Sue For Timely Benefits

-Posted July 2015

Litigants in Briggs v Bremby

NCLEJ and Greater Hartford Legal Aid staff and friends

In a major victory for food stamp applicants, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed on July 6th that applicants can hold a state agency accountable for failing to provide food stamps in a timely manner. (The federal law requires states to decide applications and issue benefits within 30 days of application, and seven days for those with emergency needs.) The decision came in Briggs v. Bremby, which challenged Connecticut’s widespread delays in processing applications and issuing benefits, leaving families to go hungry while awaiting food stamps. The federal District Court in Connecticut had ruled for the food stamp applicants and ordered the state to comply with federal law, but the Commissioner of the state agency appealed. The victorious food stamp applicants are represented by NCLEJ and Greater Hartford Legal Aid. Read more


Congratulations, Kevin McCarthy and Camille Holmes!

-Posted June 2015

Gerald Hassell, Kevin McCarthy, Camille Holmes and Henry Freedma
Gerald Hassell and Kevin McCarthy Camille Holmes and Henry Freedman

On June 3rd, BNY Mellon Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Kevin McCarthy and NLADA Director of Leadership and Racial Equity Camille Holmes were honored at NCLEJ’s 50th Anniversary Awards Dinner at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. Thanks to emcee Jeffrey Toobin and to all who made the dinner such a great success—nearly $800,000 was raised to support NCLEJ’s work to promote fairness and dignity for those in need!


Class Action Settlement Requires Public Benefits Information to be Accessible to Persons Who Are Visually Impaired

-Posted May 2015

As a result of a federal class action settlement in Rafferty v. Doar, New York City and State agencies will begin providing information about food stamps and Medicaid in a variety of alternate formats that are accessible to low-income persons who are blind or visually impaired. The case was brought by NCLEJ and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and related civil rights laws. The City and State agencies have typically provided information about public benefits in standard written documents that those who are visually impaired could not read, which has imposed significant hardships upon some of New York City’s most vulnerable citizens. The settlement will ensure that all low-income New York City residents who are blind or visually impaired will have independent and meaningful access to critically important information about these vital public benefits. The parties have submitted the proposed settlement (pdf and Word) to the court and will seek its approval. Support to NCLEJ for this class action was provided by New York Community Trust. Read more


NCLEJ Announces Margarita Rosa as Its New Executive Director

-Posted March 2015

Margarita RosaNCLEJ is pleased to announce the hiring of Margarita Rosa as its new Executive Director. Margarita brings significant nonprofit and governmental experience to NCLEJ, having headed the Grand Street Settlement, located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, for the past two decades and having previously served as the New York State Commissioner of Human Rights from 1990-1994, among other roles. Margarita will assume responsibilities as Executive Director in April 2015 from Mary R. (Gina) Mannix, who has served as Interim Executive Director of NCLEJ since August 2014 when she took over that position upon the retirement of Henry Freedman. Please join us in welcoming Margarita to NCLEJ! Read more


NCLEJ's June 3rd Awards Dinner to Honor Kevin McCarthy and Camille Holmes

-Posted March 2015

Save the Date Awards Dinner

Read more


NCLEJ Releases Report: “Empty Judgments: The Wage Collection Crisis in New York”

-Posted February 2015

Empty Judgments: The Wage Collection Crisis in New YorkNCLEJ, together with the Legal Aid Society and the Urban Justice Center, released a report on February 25, 2015, showing the difficulties low-wage workers face in collecting their stolen wages. “Empty Judgments: The Wage Collection Crisis in New York” details how unscrupulous employers often evade paying wage judgments, even when a court or the Department of Labor has ordered an employer to pay back wages to workers. The report advocates for the passage of the SWEAT bill (A5501) to create a wage lien in New York State. The New York Times outlined the report’s findings here. Read the full report


NCLEJ and Empire Justice Center Enforcement Actions Extend Relief for Needy Residents of Nassau County, NY

-Posted January 2015

Under a federal court order entered in January 2015 approving a revised settlement agreement, the Nassau County Department of Social Services must demonstrate compliance with its obligations to process applications for food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance in a timely manner, execute new case sampling procedures, and disclose updates regarding implementation of a corrective action plan. Plaintiffs retain the right to enforce the defendant’s compliance. The agreement was reached following months of negotiations under the supervision of a Special Master appointed by the Court following NCLEJ and Empire Justice Center’s filing of a motion for enforcement in 2014. Read more


NCLEJ is Accepting Applications for Summer 2015 Internships

-Posted December 2014

NCLEJ is currently accepting applications for Summer 2015 internships. Please submit applications to student@nclej.org. For additional details, please see: Summer Internships.


Ulster County (NY) Sheriff Stops Unlawful Warrant Checks at DSS

-Posted December 2014

link to articleThe Ulster County, NY Sheriff’s Office began running criminal warrant checks on all visitors to the County Department of Social Services in October 2014. NCLEJ, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, wrote to county officials demanding that they rescind their misguided and unlawful policy, which deters and discourages people from seeking assistance from DSS in violation of state and federal law. On November 18, 2014, the Sheriff agreed to suspend the unlawful warrant check practice in response to our demands. Read more


NCLEJ Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Protect the Ability of Low-Income Patients to Pursue Medical Malpractice Claims

-Posted November 2014

On November 11, NCLEJ filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the ability of low-income patients of federally-funded health centers to pursue medical malpractice claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act by continuing the longstanding rule allowing exceptions to time limits for bringing claims. The amicus was filed in U.S. v. June and NCLEJ was joined by the Sargent Shriver National Center for Poverty Law. NCLEJ Board member Edward Krugman and his colleagues at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP represented NCLEJ and the Shriver Center.


Workers, Represented by NCLEJ, Demand that the NYS Department of Labor Enforce Labor Law

-Posted November 2014

Workers protesting wage theft

Dodyk Fellow Leah Lotto (far left) speaks at the press conference.

On behalf of its client the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS), NCLEJ sent a demand letter to the New York State Department of Labor to thoroughly and promptly investigate its unacceptable backlog of cases. At a press conference outside the DOL office on November 12, workers shared how the DOL has mishandled their wage theft complaints. “The Department of Labor is failing workers in New York State. We are demanding that the Department of Labor fulfill its duties to enforce New York’s labor law,” said Dodyk Fellow Leah Lotto. Click here for the full press release.


Dodyk Fellow Trains Low-Wage Workers on Fighting Wage Theft

-Posted October 2014

On October 10th, NCLEJ's Dodyk Fellow Leah Lotto presented a Know Your Rights training to members of the Sweatshop Free Upper West Side Campaign (NYC). Members work in industries with high levels of wage theft, where employers fail to pay minimum wage or overtime. Leah outlined how to file a wage complaint with the NYS Department of Labor, with tips for how to best work with the agency. The SFUWS Campaign is a neighborhood-based coalition led by residents, students, faith-based groups, local organizations, workers, and local small businesses to build a community with decent jobs and fair labor practices.


NCLEJ’s Greg Bass Presented at the ABA National Aging & the Law Conference in Washington, DC

-Posted October 2014

In October, Senior Attorney Greg Bass presented at a workshop he organized for the American Bar Association’s National Aging & the Law Conference in Washington, DC. Along with attorneys from Greater Boston Legal Services and AARP Foundation Litigation, Greg presented on using the Americans with Disabilities Act on behalf of public assistance clients. He also participated in a panel on hunger issues and the elderly at the conference, where he discussed NCLEJ’s ongoing efforts to combat hunger through food stamp advocacy in Hawaii, Connecticut, Colorado, and Georgia.


NCLEJ’s Laura Redman in the New York Law Journal

-Posted September 2014

Laura RedmanNCLEJ Senior Attorney Laura Redman’s article “Perspectives from Europe: Balancing Same-Sex and Religious Rights” was published September 8, 2014 in the New York Law Journal. From the article: “[T]he [cases] stand for the principle that religious belief alone in the employment context does not allow one to ignore anti-discrimination law.” Read more




NCLEJ’s Food Stamp Litigation Highlighted

-Posted September 2014

Sign saying We accept food stampsThinkProgress, an independent, progressive, non-partisan news blog from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, highlights NCLEJ’s work to ensure timely food stamp access for low-income families across the country. The article cites Indiana’s improved timely processing of food stamps applications after NCLEJ’s lawsuit and our current cases against Nebraska and Georgia. Read more



Nebraska Appleseed and NCLEJ Challenge Unlawful Delay of Food Assistance in Nebraska

-Posted August 2014

Applications for food stamps must be processed quickly by law because food is not something that can wait for people who do not always know where their next meal is coming from. The suit, brought by NCLEJ and Nebraska Appleseed, alleges that thousands of needy Nebraska residents have waited longer than the legal timeframes for receiving food stamps, and requests that the state comply with federal law. Read more


Gina Mannix Tapped as NCLEJ Interim Executive Director

-Posted August 2014

Mary R. (Gina) Mannix has been elected by the Board of Directors as Interim Executive Director of NCLEJ. She will serve in this position until a new Executive Director is on board. Gina began her career at NCLEJ as an intern and has served as Program Director/Senior Attorney for many years. In announcing her appointment, Henry Freedman said that hiring Gina was “one of my first and best decisions as Executive Director. I am confident that she will provide exemplary leadership to NCLEJ during its transition.” Read more


NCLEJ’s Greg Bass and Marc Cohan Presented at the NLADA Litigation and Advocacy Directors’ Conference in Austin, TX

-Posted July 2014

Greg BassEarlier this month, NCLEJ’s Greg Bass, along with attorneys from Greater Boston Legal Services and the Northwest Justice Project, presented on advocacy with state welfare agencies under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Marc Cohan, along with colleagues from the National Health Law Program and AARP, presented on protecting wins achieved in consent decrees. The National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s Litigation and Advocacy Directors’ Conference is a national gathering of experienced advocacy leaders designed to foster peer interaction and learning on the most important issues affecting legal aid programs and the communities they serve.

Greg Bass


NCLEJ Successfully Fought Improper Barriers for NYS Family Day Care Providers

-Posted July 2014

For low-income families, state-regulated family day care provides affordable child care options so that parents are able to earn a living. NCLEJ successfully argued before a New York State appeals court that local zoning laws that would have effectively barred state-approved family day care are unenforceable. Following the victory, NCLEJ continued to advocate for family day care providers and won a commitment from the town board to refund fees to our client and all other day care providers who paid to get a local permit. Read more


NCLEJ and EJC Lawsuit Helps Thousands; New Order Imposes New Requirements on Suffolk County (NY)

-Posted July 2014

Under a revised settlement agreement signed by the federal court in July 2014, the Suffolk County (NY) Department of Social Services must meet strict time requirements for processing food stamp and Medicaid applications that are in combination with an application for cash public assistance. The revised settlement recognizes processing times for food stamps and Medicaid stand-alone applications have improved significantly since plaintiffs filed a Motion for Contempt in 2012, but that more is required before the case will be dismissed. NCLEJ and Empire Justice Center reached the revised settlement in a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of thousands of needy Suffolk County residents in 2008. Read more


Hot Off the Presses: NCLEJ's Summer Newsletter
-Posted June 2014

NCLEJ's Summer Newsletter


Federal Court Approves Class Action Settlement Requiring Niagara County (NY) to Provide Benefits Faster

-Posted June 2014

Jenny Pelaez and WNYLC counselOn June 17th, 2014, Judge Arcara of Western District of New York entered an order approving the settlement in McCoy v. Restaino, a case filed by NCLEJ and the Western New York Law Center in July 2013 on behalf of residents of Niagara County who have applied, or are applying, for food stamps and/or cash public assistance. The settlement requires the County to provide benefits to eligible families within the required time limits. NCLEJ’s Jenny Pelaez and Joe Kelemen, Director, WNYLC and Katherine Ellis, WNYLC intern (pictured here) appeared before Judge Richard J. Arcara on June 17, 2014. The Court found the settlement fair, adequate, and reasonable and approved it the same day. Read more


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Poverty in the United States: A Snapshot

Census figures released in September 2013 confirm that record-high numbers of Americans are living in poverty. more »