Our Mission and Values

The National Center for Law and Economic Justice is a group of advocates and lawyers committed to advancing economic, racial, and disability justice for low-income families, individuals, and communities across the country. Founded in 1965 by Edward V. Sparer at Columbia University, we’ve fought for over five decades to ensure our country meets the fundamental needs of all its residents.

Everyone deserves to thrive, not just survive. That means living and working with full health, safety, and promising futures. There are countless barriers to economic access and equity for the most marginalized communities in our nation, which is why our lawyers use high-impact litigation, policy advocacy, and support for grassroots organizing to create structural change for a better future. As a nonprofit legal services organization, we provide free legal representation for the people who need it most.

We have achieved significant court victories leading to reforms benefiting thousands of low-income people nationwide, demonstrating that the law can be a powerful instrument for improving the lives of the most disadvantaged members of our society. Our work to define individuals’ legal rights to welfare included landmark Supreme Court cases like Goldberg v. Kelly, which established the right to due process for benefits recipients. Since then, NCLEJ has guaranteed access to benefits for hundreds of thousands of people—providing a baseline of economic security to stabilize low-income families and individuals, holding agencies accountable to comply with the law, and safeguarding necessary legal and constitutional rights. In recent years, NCLEJ has achieved landmark victories such as ending debt-based driver’s license suspension in New York, forcing the New York State Housing Authority to clean up toxic mold that sickened residents, and launching a groundbreaking partnership with the coalition of Immokalee Workers in 2023 to expand the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) model and advance human rights protections in modern global supply chains.

Our work includes: