April 7, 2009


Albany organization provides services for domestic violence victims and children

ALBANY--The New York State Bar Association presented the Capital District Women's Bar Association Legal Project, Inc. ("The Legal Project") with the 2009 Angelo T. Cometa Award. The Legal Project, a private, non-profit organization, provides legal information and representation for battered woman and their children in family court, and also provides civil legal services for the working poor. They received the award at the House of Delegates dinner on April 3.

The award is sponsored by the State Bar's Committee on Lawyer Referral Service and recognizes individuals or groups in New York demonstrating an extraordinary commitment toward advancing the goals of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS). The Association's service assists members of the public in obtaining information about the availability of legal services and other agencies, increasing access to attorneys, and/or providing legal services to clients.

"Since its inception in 1995, The Legal Project has provided critical and creative resources for our working poor to obtain civil legal services so that domestic violence victims can live a better life," said Committee on Lawyer Referral Service Chair Rajpattie Persaud-Billette. "I am pleased to honor its continued excellence in helping vulnerable citizens receive the quality legal services they richly deserve."
Founded by the Capital District Women's Bar Association, The Legal Project began as a grassroots effort for a small group of women attorneys who recognized the need for legal information and representation for battered women seeking orders of protection, custody and support in Family Court. The Legal Project has grown to a staff of 12 and currently has a panel of more than 80 volunteer attorneys providing pro bono services for battered women and their children in Family Court and matrimonial proceedings. Currently, the Project serves more than 1,600 low-income residents of the Capital District, including those who earn too much money to qualify for indigent legal services programs, but do not earn enough to pay the fees of a private attorney.

The Legal Project addresses the need for non-criminal legal services by providing innovative, cost-effective services that are collaborative in nature and focus on well-defined, but unmet needs in the community. Examples include its Bankruptcy & Credit program providing free legal consultations and free and low-cost legal representation to individuals and families struggling with financial problems and debt, and its Uncontested Divorce Clinics, providing document assistance to low-income individuals who are representing themselves in a divorce matter.
Past winners include Allen J. Charne of New York (New York City Bar) and past State Bar President Angelo T. Cometa of New York. Cometa chaired the Committee on Lawyer Referral Services during the first year of LRIS operation. As committee chair, Cometa was instrumental in establishing the LRIS and increasing public access to attorneys. The award was created in 2007 in recognition of his extraordinary service efforts.

The LRIS is a public service of the State Bar. Its goals include administering a coordinated lawyer referral and information system throughout New York and providing the public with information about community and legal services, such as local bar referral services, legal aid societies, legal service programs and public interest law organizations.

The 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.