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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. Our current focus areas include:

Litigation Policy Advocacy Health Care/Reform
Disability Rights Fair Administration Child Care/Work Supports
SNAP (Food Stamps) Privatization/Modernization Meeting Basic Needs
Civil Rights FEMA: Disaster Assistance Workers' Compensation
New and Noteworthy

NCLEJ Lawsuit Challenges Failure to Provide Food Stamps to Low-Income Georgians in a Timely Manner

-Posted April 2014

Thousands of eligible low-income Georgia households face administrative hurdles in the food stamp application process and do not get food stamps when they should. This case, filed in March 2014, challenges the State’s failure to process initial and renewal applications and provide benefits to eligible households in a timely fashion as required by federal food stamp law. The case also challenges the State’s denial notices for failing to meet constitutional due process standards. Read more


NCLEJ and WNYLC Achieve Revised Settlement Imposing New Requirements on Erie County

-Posted April 2014

Under a revised settlement agreement approved by the federal court in March 2014, the Erie County (NY) Department of Social Services must, within six months, meet strict time requirements for processing food stamp and cash assistance applications for needy families. The revised settlement was reached in a class action lawsuit filed by NCLEJ and the Western New York Law Center in 2006 on behalf of thousands of applicants and originally settled in 2008. The revised settlement recognizes processing times have improved significantly since the case was filed but that more is required before the case will be dismissed. Read more


NCLEJ Launches Search for Executive Director

-Posted March 2014

The NCLEJ Board of Directors is conducting a national search for a new leader. Reporting to NCLEJ’s Board of Directors, the Executive Director will be based in New York and will lead an experienced and mission-driven staff. The successful candidate will have the great privilege and opportunity to build upon a powerful legacy of legal advocacy on behalf of low income individuals and families, and the exciting challenge of enhancing and evolving the NCLEJ ’s programs to address most effectively the causes of deepening poverty in communities across the country. Read more


NCLEJ's May 22nd Awards Dinner to Honor Stephen Cutler and Henry Freedman

-Posted February 2014

Save the Date- NCLEJ Benefit Dinner

Freedman Fund for Due Process Established at NCLEJ

-Posted February 2014

The Freedman Fund for Due ProcessHenry Freedman has devoted his career to fighting for fairness and dignity for low-income people dealing with government agencies. To make sure this work can continues after he retires, he has established the Freedman Fund for Due Process at NCLEJ to preserve the legacy of Goldberg v. Kelly. Donations to the Freedman Fund will honor the legacy of Henry Freedman and support NCLEJ's efforts to ensure that that low-income people are treated fairly and with dignity. You can make a tax deductible donation to the Freedman Fund here and see more information on the Fund here.


Henry Freedman to Step Down as NCLEJ Executive Director

-Posted January 2014

Henry FreedmanAfter more than four decades of extraordinary leadership as Executive Director of NCLEJ, Henry Freedman has announced that he will retire this summer. Henry is fully committed to helping find a successor who can ensure that NCLEJ will carry on the great work that he has begun. NCLEJ's Board of Directors is implementing a transition plan and will commence a national search for a new Executive Director. Henry will remain the dedicated leader of NCLEJ during the transition. NCLEJ’s Board and staff look forward to joining with Henry’s friends and colleagues to celebrate Henry and his wonderful leadership at NCLEJ’s annual dinner on May 22, 2014, through the launch of the Freedman Fund for Due Process, and at events throughout the year. Read more


Observations on Legal Services, NCLEJ, and the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

-Posted January 2014

On the 50th Anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty (January 8, 1964), we celebrate the fantastic work of the legal services lawyers, paralegals, and advocates working in programs, created at that time, who are making a difference in so many lives today. If it were not for their efforts, poverty currently would be far worse than it is. NCLEJ is proud to be a part of that creation a half century ago, and to be doing all we can to make life better for those we serve. See further thoughts from NCLEJ Executive Director Henry Freedman here.


Faced by a Suit by NCLEJ and NRDC, NYC Housing Authority Agrees to Fix Rampant Mold and Moisture Problems

-Posted December 2013

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will address mold and excessive moisture in its apartments more quickly and thoroughly as a result of an agreement in a federal lawsuit filed by NCLEJ and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on behalf of people with asthma living in public housing. Excessive moisture in NYCHA housing, home to 400,000 New Yorkers, has led to a rampant and severe mold problem. Residents with asthma are particularly vulnerable to the ill health effects of mold and moisture, which exacerbates their symptoms. Under the terms of the agreement, for the first time, NYCHA will be required to respond to mold and moisture complaints within strict time frames depending on the severity of the condition. Read more


Welcome New Staff Members!

-Posted December 2013

Greg Bass Greg Bass, currently the Litigation Director at Greater Hartford Legal Aid, will start work next month as our new Senior Attorney focused on disability rights.  Greg has served as Litigation Director in Hartford for over 16 years.  He litigated, with help from NCLEJ staff, Raymond v. Rowland, a major class action under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  After several years of litigation and negotiation, a $25 million settlement was achieved, which restructured welfare agency policies, regulations, notices, and staff hiring and training to comply with the ADA.  Greg’s legal career of 33 years has been devoted to serving as an attorney and managing attorney with legal services programs in Alabama, Washington, California, and Connecticut.  He is a graduate of the American University Washington College of Law.


Emerie Snyder Emerie Snyder joined NCLEJ as Financial and Administrative Manager earlier this month.  She has served as administrator, office manager, and bookkeeper at a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations, including Context America, Pomegranate Arts, EMpower: The Emerging Markets Foundation, and 37 Arts.  She received a BFA from New York University, and is also a professional theatre director.



NCLEJ’s Challenge to Indiana’s Food Stamp Processing Times Yields Dramatic Improvements

-Posted December 2013

Indiana provided on-time food stamps to a just over two-thirds of all applicants when we and co-counsel went to court four years ago. On-time performance is now over 95%. The USDA Food and Nutrition Services credits our case with much of the State’s improvement. On December 5, 2013, the court approved the final settlement in the case. We are gratified that fewer hungry Indiana families face delays in getting the benefits they so desperately need. Read more


New Mexico Loses Appeal — Exclusion of Farm and Ranch Workers from Workers' Compensation is Unconstitutional

-Posted December 2013

On November 25, 2013, the New Mexico Court of Appeals denied the State’s appeal from the trial court’s ruling that farm and ranch workers (“the poorest of the working poor”) could not be excluded from the Workers’ Compensation program. The workers who had been injured, as well as Sin Fronteras Organizing Project and HELP-New Mexico, were represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the law offices of Nancy L. Simmons, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and NCLEJ. Read more


$80 Million Class Action Settlement Helps Offset Food Stamps Cuts Just in Time for Thanksgiving

-Posted November 2013

Because of a lawsuit litigated by the New York Legal Aid Society, the Empire Justice Center, and NCLEJ, more than 100,000 low-income families across New York State who were improperly cut off or denied food stamps are now receiving back benefits totaling $80 million. These payments will help, temporarily, to offset the November 1st federal cut in food stamp benefits for these households. We are gratified that so many families will have much needed help buying food just in time for Thanksgiving. Read more


NCLEJ Examines Racial Stereotyping in TANF and Urges Advocacy to Improve TANF and Promote Racial Justice

-Posted November 2013

Clearinghouse Review


In the latest issue of the Clearinghouse Review focused on racial justice, NCLEJ’s Gina Mannix and Henry Freedman discuss recent social science research showing how subtle race-based factors and stereotypes continue to infect policy and administration in TANF, the cash assistance program for families. In light of these findings, they suggest that advocacy to address the utter inadequacy of TANF and to strengthen income security for poor families will further the cause of racial justice. Read the article here



Farewell, Cary LaCheen!

-Posted October 2013

Cary LaCheen

NCLEJ bids a fond farewell to inimitable Senior Attorney Cary LaCheen. After 13 years at NCLEJ fighting for fairness, justice, and dignity for our clients, especially those with disabilities, Cary has left NCLEJ to join the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. In announcing her departure, Executive Director Henry Freedman said, “As you can imagine, we are greatly saddened by Cary’s leaving, even as we know she will do all she can – which is so much – at HHS to make the world a better place for so many of our clients. The energy, devotion, and expertise she has brought to her position here have been one of my greatest joys over the past 13 years.” Read more about Cary’s disability work


NCLEJ and Colleagues Achieve Even Speedier Payment of SNAP Benefits to Low-Income Hawaiians

-Posted October 2013

Low-income Hawaii SNAP (food stamp) recipients will get their crucial benefits even faster as the result of the final settlement in Booth v. McManaman, a federal class action. This case has already achieved a substantial improvement in agency performance, with thousands more low-income households receiving SNAP benefits promptly. The settlement now requires further improvement in benefit processing times. Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice and Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing joined NCLEJ as counsel in this case. Read more


NCLEJ Wins Appeal: Towns Cannot Interfere with Low-Income Family Day Care

-Posted September 2013

On September 27, 2013, the New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department affirmed a decision that local zoning laws regulating family day care are unenforceable because state law preempts local regulation of family day care homes. Family day care helps low-income parents support their families by providing affordable child care while also giving day care providers the chance to earn a living from home. Read more


Oswego County (NY) Department of Social Services Adopts Comprehensive Disability Rights Policy

-Posted September 2013

Following advocacy by NCLEJ and Legal Services of Central New York, the County agency has adopted a detailed policy that will enable people with disabilities to get the benefits and accommodations they need. This is the most recent of many counties in New York which have vastly improved policies in response to our efforts. Read more


Moorthy and Villarreal Elected to NCLEJ’s Board

-Posted September 2013

Malini Moorthy and Elpidio VillarrealMalini Moorthy and Elpidio (PD) Villarreal were elected on September 13th to NCLEJ’s Board of Directors. Malini is Vice President and Assistant General Counsel and heads the Civil Litigation Group at Pfizer. PD is Senior Vice President, Global Litigation, at GlaxoSmithKline and was an honoree at our 2011 awards dinner. Both have extensive corporate experience, as well as experience working with nonprofit organizations. "We are thrilled to have such talented and committed attorneys as Malini and PD join our Board of Directors," said Executive Director Henry Freedman in announcing their election.


Special Master Appointed to Speed Application Processing in Nassau County

-Posted September 2013

In response to the contempt motion filed by NCLEJ and the Empire Justice Center challenging Nassau County’s persistent delays in processing food stamp and Medicaid applications, the federal court has appointed Grace Moran as a special master to oversee the County’s formulation and implementation of a corrective action plan. Read more


NCLEJ Executive Director Reflects on 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

-Posted August 2013

button from March on Washington 1963


Henry Freedman recalls being at the 1963 March, ensuing efforts of the Poor People’s Campaign and NCLEJ to develop better policies to combat poverty, the progress we’ve made, and today’s challenges. Read more




NCLEJ and WNYLC Sue Niagara County over Extensive Delays in Providing Public Benefits

-Posted July 2013

Every month, Niagara County (NY) delays providing food stamps and/or cash public assistance to hundreds of its impoverished residents. NCLEJ and the Western New York Law Center recently filed a class action on behalf of Niagara residents to challenge the County’s persistent delays in processing applications for food stamps and cash public assistance. We asked the Court to order Niagara County to process applications and provide benefits within the time required by law, and to provide adequate notice to applicants regarding the delays. Read more


NCLEJ Helps People Navigate a Post-DOMA World

-Posted July 2013

Article on DOMA and Federal benefits



NCLEJ Senior Attorney Laura Redman has been helping low-income LGBT communities to access federal programs following the Supreme Court's reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Working with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Laura lent a hand on a series of fact sheets explaining the impact of relationship recognition on Medicaid and TANF access. To view the fact sheets, click here.



Hot Off the Presses: NCLEJ's Summer Newsletter

-Posted July 2013

NCLEJ Summer Newsletter link




Read more about our recent cases and other exciting NCLEJ news, made possible by the support of our donors.





Settlement Ends Illegal Food Stamp Terminations and Appeal Delays in NY State

-Posted July 2013

The Southern District of New York recently approved a settlement in Richard C. v. Proud, which challenged New York State's practice of cutting off food stamps without telling people that they can take steps to avoid the loss of benefits. Richard C. also challenged statewide delays in deciding appeals of agency food stamps decisions. As a result of the settlement, as many as 200,000 improperly issued sanctions will be erased, and an estimated $80 million in back benefits will be provided to low income New Yorkers. The case was litigated by NCLEJ, Empire Justice Center, Legal Aid Society, and Cooley LLP. Read more


Older Adults Sue New York City for Unlawfully Cutting Cash Benefits

-Posted June 2013

The Urban Justice Center and NCLEJ have filed a class action in the Southern District of New York on behalf of New York City cash benefits recipients, aged 60 or older, who are legally exempt from the work requirements that are tied to cash benefits. The case challenges the City’s policy of scheduling such recipients for WeCARE and similar employment programs and then cutting their benefits if they fail to keep the appointments. Read more


Shining a Light on Those in Need and on Three Outstanding Honorees

-Posted June 2013

Honoree Neal Katyal addressing the dinner guests




Honoree Neal Katyal addressing the dinner guests





On May 29th, NCLEJ’s staff, Board, and 300 guests celebrated the accomplishments of three outstanding individuals – Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum, Nan Aron, and Neal Katyal – at our annual benefit awards dinner at Chelsea Piers in New York City. The event raised more than $550,000 to support our efforts to fight for fairness for people in need. It was a great evening – led by NCLEJ’s Board Chair Jennifer Selendy and Board Dinner Committee Chair Doug Curtis. Honeywell’s Katherine Adams and Steve Witzel from Fried Frank contributed to the evening as award presenters. View the dinner journal or a photo album on our Facebook page.


NCLEJ Joins Women’s Rights Groups Across the Country in Launching the Equal Pay Today! Campaign

-Posted June 2013

On the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, NCLEJ joined fifteen national and state women’s rights organizations in launching the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, which calls for action to close to the gender wage gap that persists in nearly every occupation in the country. Read more


Federal Court Again Says Connecticut Must Speed Processing of SNAP (Food Stamp) Benefits

-Posted May 2013

Thousands of low-income Connecticut families have had to wait months before getting the food stamps they urgently needed to feed themselves and their families. On December 4, 2012, the federal District Court said this persistent systemic delay "undeniably constitutes irreparable
harm" and granted plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The State appealed and the Second Circuit dismissed the appeal. On May 13, 2013, the District Court entered a more detailed preliminary injunction. NCLEJ and Greater Hartford Legal Aid are co-counsel in this case. Read more


Benefits Expedited for More than 9,000 Maryland Medicaid Applicants

-Posted May 2013

Over 9,000 people with disabilities who have been waiting far too long to hear whether they will get Medicaid should now get a prompt decision as the result of an agreement signed on April 25, 2013. Maryland also agreed to process all other applications for Medicaid on the basis of disability as promptly as required by federal law and regulations. NCLEJ, the Public Justice Center, and the Homeless Persons Representation Project sued the State of Maryland over these extreme delays in January 2013. Read Baltimore Sun article and press release.


NCLEJ's May 29th Awards Dinner to Honor Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum, Nan Aron and Neal Katyal

-Posted April 2013

Image of Dinner invitation and link to PDF of Invitation

Click image for full invitation


Settlement Secures Continuing Benefits for Thousands of New York City Recipients Awaiting Hearing Decisions

-Posted April 2013

Thousands of low-income New York City families had been going without desperately needed assistance while they waited for fair hearings to challenge unlawful terminations of cash assistance and food stamps. After this case was filed, the United States District Court in New York signed a preliminary injunction that assured that aid would be uninterrupted. On April 2, 2013, the Court approved final settlement requiring the State to timely and electronically communicate aid continuing directives to the City and for the City to timely implement the directives. NCLEJ, Legal Aid Society, and New York Legal Assistance Group were co-counsel. Read more


New Yorkers Living with HIV/AIDS Secure Critical Class Action Settlement

-Posted April 2013

On April 3, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York approved the class action settlement between recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) living in New York City who are HIV-positive or living with AIDS and the City of New York. The case specifically challenged the City’s unlawful recovery of federal housing benefits provided to class members via the federal Housing Opportunities for People Living With AIDS (HOPWA) program. Prior to the settlement, the City mailed payments of nearly $800,000 to 264 class members. NCLEJ, the HIV Law Project, and African Services Committee are co-counsel. Read more


Child Care Settlement Approved in Suffolk County, New York

-Posted March 2013

On March 18, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York approved the class action settlement entered into between low-income working parents, represented by the NCLEJ and Empire Justice Center, and the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. The settlement followed the Court's July 26, 2012 decision holding that the County's June 2012 child care termination notices, stating only that the county had insufficient funds and that the parent's income exceeded the new eligibility standard, violated the recipients’ due process right to adequate notice. Read more


NY City and State Agencies Sued for Failing to Provide Accessible Information

-Posted March 2013

NCLEJ and Drinker, Biddle & Reath filed a lawsuit on behalf of 4,000 blind and seriously visually impaired New Yorkers who cannot read the standard print applications, notices and other materials provided to them about their food stamp and Medicaid benefits. We asked the court to order the City and State agencies to provide information in alternative formats appropriate to each person (including Braille, large print, audio cassette or CD, and email or CD that can be read on a computer with screen reader software), develop a system to identify people who may need materials in alternative formats, and inform them of their right to such materials.

Read more


Judge Ciparick Elected to NCLEJ’s Board

-Posted March 2013

photo of Judge Carmen Ciparick

At its March 8th meeting, NCLEJ’s Board of Directors elected Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick to serve as a Board member. Judge Ciparick, now of counsel to Greenberg Traurig, LLP, recently retired after serving for 19 years as an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York. In announcing her appointment, Executive Director Henry Freedman called her "a thoughtful and inspiring jurist [and] a proponent of effective civil legal services." Read more



Persistent Nassau County (NY) Delays Lead to Motion for Contempt

-Posted March 2013

NCLEJ and the Empire Justice Center have moved in federal court for contempt, enforcement of the Court's Order, and appointment of a special master to address the persistent delays in processing applications for vitally necessary food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance. These problems have continued despite Nassau County’s agreement to a consent decree requiring compliance with federal and state time limits. Read more


Maryland Sued for Delaying Medical Benefits to Impoverished Adults with Disabilities

-Posted January 2013

NCLEJ, the Public Justice Center, and the Homeless Persons Representation Project have filed a state court lawsuit, Magee-Kern v. Dallas, on behalf of a class of the thousands of adult applicants each month who apply for Medicaid benefits on the basis of their very low income and severe disability and who face serious and often life-threatening health risks because of the unlawful delays in processing those applications. Read More


NCLEJ Participates in Ford Foundation Roundtable

-Posted January 2013

Gina Mannix participated in a two-day Women's Rights Legal Roundtable convened by the Ford Foundation in mid-January. The Roundtable brought together a small group of leading scholars, activists and legal practitioners to discuss innovative and compelling ways to use legal strategies to advance economic justice opportunities for low-income women and women of color. We were pleased to participate in this provocative and timely conversation and look forward to continuing the dialogue started at the Roundtable.


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