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Davis Wright Tremaine To Be Honored at 2014 Impact Reception

Catholic Migration Services To Honor Davis Wright Tremaine for Pro Bono Impact

June 10, 2024
News Provided by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

JUNE 10, 2024 – Catholic Migration Services, a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services to low-income residents throughout New York City , announced it will honor Davis Wright Tremaine LLP at its upcoming annual Impact Reception for helping the agency advance its mission-critical work.

Davis Wright has supported Catholic Migration Services over the past year in multiple ways, including hosting legal clinics where volunteers screened newly arrived immigrants to assess their eligibility for asylum, temporary protected status, and work authorization, and assisted community members with their citizenship applications. The clinics were held in partnership with seven Davis Wright clients.

“Catholic Migration Services provides crucial support to vulnerable and underrepresented communities, offering them hope, access to justice, and the chance to make invaluable contributions to our country,” said Kaitlyn Fallon, pro bono corporate partnerships attorney at Davis Wright. “We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to help advance their mission-critical work, and being able to do that with our in-house counterparts makes this recognition all the more special.”

The Impact Reception will be held Thursday, September 19, 2024, at 5:30 p.m. at The Malt House in Lower Manhattan. Also being honored this year is Virginia & Ambinder.

About Davis Wright Tremaine
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is an AmLaw 100 law firm with more than 600 lawyers representing clients based throughout the United States and around the world. Learn more at www.dwt.com.

About Catholic Migration Services
Catholic Migration Services, a not-for-profit legal services provider affiliated with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, has been providing quality legal services to low-income individuals in New York City in the areas of immigration, housing, and employment laws. For more information, please visit www.catholicmigration.org. @CMSBQ.


Read the original Press Release via Davis Wright Tremaine LLP: Catholic Migration Services To Honor Davis Wright Tremaine for Pro Bono Impact

Town Hall on Tenant Right to Counsel Bill

Photo: Charlie Finnerty, Queens Ledger

 

In The News – Queens Community Orgs Host Town Hall on Tenant Right to Counsel Bill

A Push for Statewide Right to Counsel Legislation

Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Housing

Catholic Migration Services Testimony on Urgent Need to Fund and Pass Statewide Right to Counsel (S2721)

Catholic Migration Services is a proud member of the Right to Counsel Coalition, which unites tenants, organizers, legal services providers, unions, faith communities and many others who are working to ensure that all New Yorkers across the state have a Right to Counsel when facing eviction. We and members of our Housing Courts Must Change! Campaign collectively represent tens of thousands of tenants across New York State and are honored to work on permanent and transformative solutions to New York’s eviction crisis.

Catholic Migration Services, a not-for-profit legal services provider affiliated with Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, provides free legal services and Know Your Rights education to low-income individuals regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or immigration status. We assist immigrants with immigration legal services, tenants in Queens with housing legal services, and low-wage workers with employment legal services.

The historic passage in 2017 of New York City’s Right to Counsel law made NYC the first place in the nation to establish a Right to Counsel for tenants facing eviction, and inspired a movement across the country, which has now seen over 20 cities, states and counties win a Right to Counsel, including Westchester County in 2023. The statistics speak for themselves: 84% of NYC tenants with a Right to Counsel lawyer have won their case and been able to remain in their homes; and default evictions as well as eviction filings have dropped dramatically. San Francisco saw a 10% drop in eviction filing rates in just one year after passing a universal RTC, and two-thirds of all represented tenants were able to remain in their homes. Cleveland found that within the first six months of having Right to Counsel, 93% of tenants with a Right to Counsel lawyer avoided eviction or an involuntary move.

Right to Counsel works. It’s a solution with a proven track record of success everywhere it’s passed. Yet while New York City led this charge, the majority of New Yorkers still lack this fundamental right. And with landlords suing over 175,000 New Yorkers for eviction, New York State needs Right to Counsel now more than ever. In many localities across the state, only a fraction of tenants facing eviction are represented. In Albany, for example, in 2022, less than 2% of tenants had an attorney, while the vast majority of landlords were represented. This rate of representation is even lower when it comes to affirmative cases to protect against neglect of repairs, harassment or illegal lock out. Most tenants outside of New York City experience housing court as a place that only exists to facilitate eviction–a place where they have little to no recourse to assert their own rights, in particular, their right to a safe, habitable home.

That’s why we are now fighting, with over 100 statewide partners, for a Statewide Right to Counsel. S2721, our Right to Counsel for ALL legislation introduced by Senator Rachel May, guarantees the right to a free attorney for all New Yorkers facing displacement across the state. This year we are also requesting $260 million in funding to begin Right to Counsel’s implementation. $260 million is the necessary first step in empowering a wholesale change in our court system. It’s going to allow for tens of thousands more tenants to be represented. It will equip attorneys to fully litigate their cases and help ensure long-term housing stability for tenants. It will transform workplace conditions for legal providers and help us to compete nationally, attracting the next generation of civil legal talent to New York State. It will support organizers whose work is essential to ensuring tenants know what their rights are and how to use them. And it will establish a new state agency, the Office of Civil Representation, to oversee the Right to Counsel.

We urge you to support the funding and passage of Right to Counsel in the budget this year. As a society, we cannot stand by any longer while New Yorkers are forced into a confusing and traumatizing court system without counsel by their side, and as a result, face devastating consequences that could’ve been avoided. We know that establishing this right will keep New Yorkers in their homes, prevent an array of long-lasting harms to our families and communities, and save our state money in the long-term. New York has every reason to pass and fund S2721 in the budget this year, and we count on your leadership to ensure this happens.


Click here to read the original testimony submitted to the NYS Assembly: Catholic Migration Services Testimony on Urgent Need to Fund and Pass Statewide Right to Counsel (S2721)

Woodside Rallies for Tenants’ Rights

Woodside Rallies for Tenants’ Rights: A Push for Statewide Legal Counsel in Eviction Cases (Photo: BNN)

In the News – Woodside Rallies for Tenants’ Rights: A Push for Statewide Legal Counsel in Eviction Cases

February 25, 2024
By Nimrah Khatoon, BNN Breaking

Discover the transformative power of legal representation highlighted at the ‘Queens United: Town Hall for Right to Counsel’ event in Woodside, Queens, as community leaders rally for increased legal aid for tenants facing eviction.

In the heart of Woodside, Queens, a passionate gathering unfolded on February 21, 2024, marking a pivotal moment in the fight for tenants’ rights. The ‘Queens United: Town Hall for Right to Counsel’ event, orchestrated by local non-profit groups, drew a crowd that included Assembly Members Steven Raga and Juan Ardila, alongside community residents and leaders from Woodside on the Move and Catholic Migration Services. The spotlight was on the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition (RTC NYC), vocalizing a compelling plea for a $300 million budget allocation to fortify legal aid for tenants on the brink of eviction.

A Personal Touch to a Public Issue

Assembly Member Steven Raga, sharing poignant snippets of his own brush with eviction, underscored the transformative power of legal representation. The 2017 law, a legacy of former mayor Bill de Blasio, was hailed for its strides in guaranteeing Housing Court representation for low-income residents. Yet, Raga and the RTC NYC spotlighted a glaring gap — the myriad tenants still in the dark about their rights or ensnared in legal battles without timely counsel.

The Crusade for Comprehensive Coverage

The clarion call at the town hall was not just for awareness but for actionable change. The coalition’s advocacy for legislation to educate tenants, decelerate eviction proceedings, and broaden the right to counsel statewide with additional funding echoed through Woodside. With the Statewide Right to Counsel bill garnering substantial support among New York State senators and assembly members, these community events serve as critical conduits for rallying support and spreading the word.

Parallel Pathways: The Broader Right to Counsel Movement

The quest for legal representation extends beyond housing courts, touching the lives of immigrants facing removal proceedings. Advocates from the CARE for Immigrant Families campaign for a right to counsel in all immigration removal cases, with a proposed $150 million funding for immigration legal services. This movement, akin to the push in Woodside, underscores a broader societal recognition of the right to counsel as fundamental, not just in eviction scenarios but in all legal battles that can profoundly impact lives.

The town hall in Woodside is more than a local affair; it’s a beacon for statewide — and potentially nationwide — reform. As community leaders and residents unite in their call for justice, the echoes of their advocacy resound far beyond the confines of Queens, heralding a future where the right to legal counsel is an unassailable pillar of justice for all.


Read the original article on BNN Breaking: Woodside Rallies for Tenants’ Rights: A Push for Statewide Legal Counsel in Eviction Cases

Woodside Residents Call for Statewide Right to Counsel

Several of the attendees at the townhall held on Feb. 21, 2024. QNS Photo

In the News – Assemblymembers Raga and Ardila join dozens of Woodside residents fighting for statewide right to counsel

Feb. 25, 2024
By Czarinna Andres and QNS Staff

Several non-profit groups held a town hall meeting in Woodside Wednesday evening where they advocated for the statewide right to counsel for tenants facing eviction.

The event, held at the St. Sebastian’s Parish Center and called Queens United: Town Hall for Right to Counsel,” was attended by Assembly Members Steven Raga and Juan Ardila, along with dozens of residents and the leaders of Woodside on the Move and Catholic Migration Services.

The town hall, which was led by the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition (RTC NYC), an advocacy group that wants tenants facing eviction across the state to be provided with free counsel, featured a teach-in explaining the organization’s demands, including $300 million in the New York City budget to fund legal aid for tenants.

Raga, a Woodside native who holds the Assembly District 30 seat, said Wednesday night that he had first-hand experience of the trauma of being evicted, adding that right to counsel can help protect tenants in court.

“I was raised by an immigrant single mother who was evicted multiple times,” Raga said Wednesday.

“I could see how being in such an unstable environment, especially as a child, can really turn your world upside down. Something like this (RTC) can help prevent and deter the moral wrong of a landlord trying to push you out.”

RTC NYC led the campaign to introduce right to counsel legislation in New York City, which was signed into law by former mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017. The law promises legal representation in Housing Court to any resident facing eviction whose income is 200% of the federal poverty level or less.

The group claims the law has had a positive impact on tenants facing eviction, stating that 84% of tenants who accessed legal counsel under the law have won their case in Housing Court.

However, Katy Lassell, campaign organizer with RTC NYC, said many New York City tenants are still facing the court without legal representation because they are unaware of right to counsel. She said RTC seeks legislation that requires courts to make tenants aware of this right before a case is heard.

Furthermore, she added, many cases proceed so fast that tenants do not have time to obtain legal counsel. RTC NYC is calling on the courts to slow down eviction hearings to give tenants time to obtain counsel.

The non-profit is seeking protections for tenants across the Empire State. It seeks right to counsel on a statewide basis and is additionally calling for an extra $300 million in funding to ensure that New York City tenants can avail of legal counsel in Housing Court.

The coalition is pushing for the passage of three bills in the New York State Legislature, including the Statewide Right to Counsel bill, which will guarantee all New Yorkers access to a free attorney when facing eviction. The bill also sets out the need for $172 million in funding for the program.

It is also calling on the legislature to pass the Winter Eviction Moratorium, which would prevent judges from issuing eviction warrants between Oct. 1 and May 31, and the Defend Right to Counsel bill, which mandates that the state court system upholds local right to counsel laws in New York City and Westchester.

Raga said right to counsel legislation has been demonstrably positive for tenants in New York City but said it needed to be expanded to cover the entire state.

“People are better off than we were when it wasn’t there. We’ve seen how it could help and we need to spread this outside the city, but also fund it so that more folks in the city can access and be protected. There’s nothing wrong with protecting our New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable.”

The Statewide Right to Counsel bill has received the support of 32 senators (51%) in the New York State Senate, while 62 assembly members (41%) have endorsed it in the State Assembly.

Meanwhile, Raga said more than 30 assembly members have supported a call for the provision of $172 million in the state budget for right to counsel.

“It’s a good sign that we have 30-plus assembly members signing onto the budget letter. It shows that there’s overwhelming support for it,” Raga said.

He added that community events such as Wednesday’s town hall, which drew around 60 participants, are pivotal to the success of the statewide right to counsel movement.

“These are natural, organic events that help spread the word and show how we can support each other,” Raga said. “That sets the tone and gives guys like me a chance to prove in Albany that this isn’t an abstract, theoretical thing. I can show that people need it, people are organizing for it, and people deserve it.”

Ardila, who holds the Assembly District 37 seat, said Wednesday that statewide right to counsel is “incredibly important,” especially for minority communities.

“This is something that’s very personal for me because we see how many communities of color and undocumented immigrants suffer from this due to a lack of representation navigating the legal system,” Ardila said Wednesday. “They are not the only ones, but they are often time victims of unscrupulous landlords or unscrupulous evictions.”

Representatives from local community groups said Queens tenants are still facing the Housing Court without legal representation.

Bryan Fotino, tenant organizer with Catholic Migration Services, said the group frequently travel to Queens Housing Court to support local tenants who are facing evictions without legal counsel.

Frances Macalimbon Hamed, a policy and advocacy coordinator with Woodside on the Move, said she has also seen Queens tenants face the Housing Court without legal representation and added that some tenants are simply not aware of the Right to Counsel law.

“All New York City residents should be made aware that in NYC if they meet certain eligibility requirements they may be eligible for Right to Counsel. Often, many of the tenants Woodside on the Move encounters at Housing Court are unaware of their Right to Counsel and are forced to defend themselves alone,” Macalimbon Hamed said.

“Evictions are traumatizing. Evictions destabilize families and entire communities. And evictions have both immediate and long-term emotional, social, and economic implications.”


Read the original article in the Queens Post: Assemblymembers Raga and Ardila join dozens of Woodside residents fighting for statewide right to counsel

Rockwood Music Hall Workers Sue Owner for Unpaid Wages

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 16, 2023

Employees of Rockwood Music Hall, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, are suing the venue’s owner, Kenneth Rockwood, for unpaid wages.  The workers state in their complaint that on payday they were often left empty-handed.  Mr. Rockwood often paid them only a portion of their wages or nothing at all.

Rockwood Music Hall, a well-known venue, has featured performances by many artists, including Sara Bareilles, Sting, Norah Jones, Lady Gaga.  The workers, porters who have worked at the performance space since 2011, state that the problem began in 2022, several months before Rockwood Music Hall’s corporate entity, Kenrock Enterprises, filed for bankruptcy and a #PreserveRockwood fundraising campaign was launched.  By then, Mr. Rockwood already owed the workers a significant amount of money for unpaid wages and for years of unpaid overtime.  Yet, Mr. Rockwood did not identify the workers as creditors in bankruptcy filings and did not direct any of the fundraising proceeds toward making them whole.

Meanwhile, in May 2023, Mr. Rockwood opened a new venue, also named Rockwood Music Hall, which is located in Boston.

“It affects us at the end of every week. We need the money to pay gas, electricity, and especially the rent. We cannot plan for anything,” said Roman Moreno Martinez.

“When I found out that he had money to open a new club in Boston but not to pay the workers, it offended me. It showed a lack of respect.  It wasn’t right,” added Felipe Vargas.

“After the workers came to our office with concerns about their unpaid wages, they realized that Mr. Rockwood had also failed to pay them overtime premiums, despite the fact that they nearly always worked over 40 hours per week,” said Alice Davis, their attorney.

The lawsuit, Moreno Martinez, et al. v. Rockwood, S.D.N.Y. (23-cv-10058) was filed November 15, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  The suit alleges multiple violations under the Federal Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law.

The lawsuit was filed on the workers’ behalf by attorneys at Catholic Migration Services.  The Workers’ Rights Program offers advice and representation to low-wage workers on issues such as wage theft and workplace discrimination.

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About Catholic Migration Services: For over 50 years, Catholic Migration Services, a not-for-profit legal services provider affiliated with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, has been providing quality legal services to low-income individuals in New York City in the areas of immigration, housing, and employment. For more information, please visit www.catholicmigration.org and connect with us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram @CMSBQ.