Contact: Rosanne M. Van Heertum
Director of Development, The New YorkBar Foundation
rvanh@tnybf.org
518/487-5650

Contact: Nicholas Parrella
Manager of Media Services
nparrella@nysba.org
518/487-5532

January 15, 2010

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION RECEIVES $67,250 GRANT FROM THE NEW YORK BAR FOUNDATION TO FUND PROGRAMS TO EDUCATE LAWYERS AND THE PUBLIC ON TENANT BACKGROUND SCREENING ISSUES

Programs Will Train Attorneys on Tenant Law and Raise Awareness of Tenant Rights

The New York Bar Foundation has awarded the New York State Bar Association a $67,250 grant to fund a series of initiatives to educate lawyers and the public about tenant rights. The funds were distributed as part of a $1.2 million cy pres class action settlement fund in the case of White v. First Advantage SafeRent, Inc. (04 CV 01611) and will be used for education and awareness projects to be conducted by the State Bar. Cy pres, defined as the next best use, is the term used by the courts to describe another appropriate use for unclaimed funds that remain after the proceeds from a class action settlement have been distributed among the members of the class.

The award was presented by Cristine Cioffi, a New York Bar Foundation Director, and Foundation Director of Development Rosanne M. Van Heertum to State Bar President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City) during a ceremony held at the State Bar Center in Albany.

The grant will enable the State Bar Association to conduct attorney and public training programs on tenant screening issues including correcting records or expunging bad records; conduct outreach to community groups, tenants, and small property landlords in the New York City area through a series of radio Non-Commercial Sustaining Announcements (NCSA) in Spanish and English; and create and distribute educational and training materials about tenant screening issues. The President's Committee on Access to Justice of the New York State Bar played a pivotal role in providing information about the beneficial use of cy pres funds as a means to provide additional revenue to support the delivery of needed civil legal services.

Getnick said, "The awarding of these cy pres funds provides an excellent opportunity to educate the public and to raise the awareness of those who will most be affected by the tenant screening process. I want to thank the members of The New York Bar Foundation for their outstanding efforts in support of access to justice and for securing this important funding that will afford tenants with additional avenues where they can turn to for legal assistance."

"It is an exciting time for The New York Bar Foundation to be able to award grants for programs that will assist tenants and landlords with the pressing issues surrounding the tenant screening process. We are pleased that the New York State Bar Association along with four outstanding organizations in New York City are collectively providing significant programs to those affected by this problem," said Foundation President M. Catherine Richardson (Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, Syracuse).

This grant is one of five totaling nearly $600,000 from the fund distributed by The New York Bar Foundation recently to the State Bar Association and four New York City legal services organizations. A second round of similar grants to the same entities will be made in early 2011. The funds will be used to further the goal of increasing awareness of tenant screening and the duties and obligations under fair credit laws.

The White v. First Advantage SafeRent, Inc. case was first brought in 2004 as a class action that alleged the defendant had issued thousands of tenant screening reports to prospective landlords that violated the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, the New York Fair Credit Reporting Act and the New York Deceptive Practices Act by failing to accurately, completely and clearly disclose information about Housing Court cases brought against New York City tenants. Part of the settlement of the case, which was approved by Southern District of New York Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, included the payment of damages that will fund these training and education programs. The company denied any wrongdoing when making the settlement.

Founded in 1950, The New York Bar Foundation provides funding through its grant making program to increase public understanding of the law; improve the justice system and the law; facilitate the delivery of legal services; and enhance professional competence and ethics. To learn more about The New York Bar Foundation and how you can support its charitable programs, go to ://www.tnybf.org/">www.tnybf.org, phone 518-487-5651 or email foundation@tnybf.org.

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Founded in 1876, the 77,000-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. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years. For more information, visit us at our Web site at www.nysba.org.