Friday Afternoon Workshops

1:30pm - 3:00pm

D. Defending and Assisting Consumers in Debt Collection Lawsuits
Date/Time: Friday, 09/12/14- 1:30pm-3:00pm
1.5 MCLE Credits: 1.5 Skills

Over the last decade, New York courts have seen an epidemic of consumer debt lawsuits brought against low and middle-income people.  Often filed in bulk and with scant evidence, debt collection firms count on unrepresented litigants either not responding or not being able to defend themselves.  The results are frozen bank accounts, earnings lost to garnishment, and often improper seizures of government benefits or imprudent settlements that put consumers in even more perilous positions.  Because the creditors and "debt buyers" bringing these suits often possess scant, no, or inauthentic evidence, many consumers have defenses, and many judgments are entered without proper notice, attorney assistance can make a profound impact, enabling consumers to eliminate judgments or defeat lawsuits, thus improving their credit and finances.

This panel will provide an introduction to the most common litigation tasks with which consumer defendants may request assistance from legal services practitioners:  vacating default judgments and answering a consumer credit transaction summons.  We will also discuss innovative programs and strategies for helping pro se consumer litigants with these tasks through unbundled legal services models such as CLARO and Volunteer-Attorney-for-the-Day, combined with document assembly tools and online resources available through LawHelp/NY.    

Carolyn E. Coffey, Esq.,
Supervising Attorney, MFY Legal Services Inc.
Evan Denerstein, Esq., Staff Attorney, MFY Legal Services Inc.
Adam Friedl, Esq., Program and Special Initiatives Manager, Pro Bono Net 
Matthew Parham, Esq., Staff Attorney, Western New York Law Center    


K. Breaking Down the Barriers to Language Access
Date/Time: Friday, 09/12/14- 1:30pm-3:00pm
1.5 MCLE Credits: 1.5 Professional Practice

Legal service providers frequently encounter immigrant clients, who, due to language and cultural barriers, have not been provided with meaningful access to programs and services such as health care, housing, social services, police protection, education and the courts. This workshop will provide an overview of the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13166, the recently enacted NY State Language Access Order No.26, the Fair Housing Act, the Affordable Care Act, as well as local county executive orders. We will discuss the specific settings where national origin discrimination and language barriers are encountered, cite the relevant regulations and emphasize the profound impact language access has had on our communities. Presenters will provide an array of strategies to address language access barriers including litigation, administrative advocacy, coalition building, community organizing and legislative initiatives, citing successful advocacy efforts and best practices. Attendees will be encouraged to examine creative methods for addressing language access challenges and to develop new partnerships and alliances which will strengthen their effectiveness and connectedness beyond the legal services community.    

Cheryl Keshner
, Senior Paralegal/Community Advocate, Empire Justice Center
Amy S. Taylor, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney and Coordinator, Equal Rights Initiative, Legal Services NYC
Linda Hassberg, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Empire Justice Center
Robin Marable, Esq., Staff Attorney, Legal Assistance of Western New York 
Shena Elrington, Esq., Director, Health Justice Program, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest


V. It Will Happen to Us All: An Essential Guide to Delivering Disaster Legal Aid
Date/Time: Friday, 09/12/14- 1:30pm-3:00pm
1.5 MCLE Credits: 1.0 Skills; 0.5 Ethics

A new legal specialty has emerged, and one that is arguably around for good. A growing number of New York State legal services programs have disaster aid units or have had a “disaster docket” develop in recent years. Irene, Ike, Sandy—whether natural disasters or other large events, disaster preparedness is important for both program infrastructure and attorney professional development. This roundtable will focus on the lessons learned by attorneys who provided frontline legal services post-Superstorm Sandy, and whose work now encompasses a range of issues that low-income communities continue to confront in the post-disaster context. Did New York do better than New Orleans? Were New York advocates “disaster prepared”? What can you do to better prepare yourself and your legal services program in the event a disaster strikes in your community?     

Christine N. Appah, Esq.,
Staff Attorney, Disaster Relief Unit, The Legal Aid Society
Sunny Noh, Esq., Supervising Attorney, Storm Response Unit, New York Legal Assistance Group
Fazeela Siddiqui, Esq., Staff Attorney, Disaster Relief Unit, Legal Aid Society
Anne Stephenson, Esq., Staff Attorney, Homeowner & Consumer Rights, Queens Legal Services/Legal Services NYC

Moderator: Jennifer Ching, Esq., Director, Queens Legal Services/Legal Services NYC


AB. Implementing Federal Rights: The American Private Enforcement Model
Date/Time: Friday, 09/12/14- 1:30pm-3:00pm
1.5 MCLE Credits: 1.5 Professional Practice

In his book, The Litigation State (2010), Professor Sean Farhang maintains that in the United States, a “profoundly important instrument” of “policy implementation” is the private enforcement of civil rights, labor protective and consumer laws, primarily achieved through fee-shifting statutes such as Section 1988. Farhang contends that the American regulatory state is largely comprised of “radically decentralized intervention” by private parties bringing statutory and regulatory enforcement actions in federal court; cases that “span the waterfront of federal policy”. This workshop will explore: (1) the theory and practice of private rights enforcement as a policy tool; (2) Examine several different federal statutory enforcement mechanisms: (FLSA, Title VII, IDEA, ADA, FDCPA, §1988); (3) Discuss the role and importance of legal services programs in context of policy enforcement; (4) Highlight problems and issues arising in private policy enforcement litigation, e.g. Buckhannon, arbitration, Arbor Hill, Jeff D and waiver of fees, and others.    

Peter Dellinger, Esq.,
Senior Attorney, Empire Justice Center
Jonathan Feldman, Esq., Senior Attorney, Empire Justice Center  


T. Effective Legislative Advocacy for Lawyers and Advocates
Date/Time: Friday, 09/12/14- 1:30pm-3:00pm
MCLE Credits: NONE

As legal services providers, our responsibilities to clients go far beyond the courts. Legislation, budget advocacy, and administrative reform—pursued in partnership with the communities we serve—are crucial tools for securing policy victories and sustaining our own programs. This workshop will include an overview of the New York State legislature and legislative process; tips for selecting campaign issues, building coalitions, and developing strategy; and an introduction to legal issues including lobbying rules for non-profit organizations and considerations for bill drafting and negotiation. The workshop will include lecture, discussion, and case studies.     

Harvey Epstein, Esq.,
Associate Director, Urban Justice Center
Kate Rubin, Managing Director, Civil Action Practice, The Bronx Defenders    
John Wright, Principal, The Wright Group NY