Free legal aid from the New York City Office of Civil Justice.

The non-profit Office of Civil Justice uses a combination of government grants and volunteer lawyers to provide advice and assistance to low income families across New York City. The firm works with the Human Resources Administration (HRA) to ensure that people of all income levels have some form of access to legal representation when needed. In some cases, an elderly resident or immigrant in NYC can get help no matter what their household income is.

The Office of Civil Justice public benefits department, and the staff and attorneys from that group, work with the Human Resources Administration to secure access to critical safety net benefits and government aid. This is done so that clients are able to obtain the governmental assistance and benefits to which they are legally entitled to, such as disability or low income energy bill assistance.

The firm will also provide direct client representation in litigation, administrative appeals and agency advocacy in matters that are important in New York City, including Queens and Staten Island. The non-profit will address a broad range of public benefits including TANF, SNAP food stamps, unemployment insurance, SSI, or public health care, among others.

There are often free clinics held across Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and NYC. These are held by public benefits lawyers. Both volunteers and the staff from the Office of Civil Justice will go into the community to help low-income beneficiaries and those facing poverty navigate various benefits, such as the Medicare Part D drug benefit program.




A core function is keeping people and families housed. The law practice works to prevent evictions or to help homeowners that are facing a foreclosure. Attorneys from the non-profit understand the importance of getting income qualified client’s timely and effective relief in matters such as the termination of housing subsidies, eviction assistance, and addressing housing code violations with landlords in New York City, including Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and other areas.

Office of Civil Justice will represent qualified clients in eviction cases, as resources allow. They may also participate in hearings with government authorities in an effort to challenge unlawful rent increases and preserve subsidies for very low income or disabled individuals. The firm’s housing law attorneys also assist clients living with deplorable or unsafe housing conditions by representing them in affirmative suits to obtain repairs. More on Anti-Eviction Legal Services in New York City.





In addition to helping tenants with their emergency, the Office of Civil Justice housing law unit works to identify those civil cases that could have a broad-based impact in the larger New York City community. One component is the Anti-Harassment Tenant Protection Program, and it will focus on harassment of NYC residents of all income levels. If immigrants, the elderly, or refugees are harassed by a landlord, the Office of Civil Justice can provide free legal aid and representation to them.

The various staff will also advocate on issues that affect a group of tenants, such as those in public housing. Lawyers from Office of Civil Justice have been able to provide much-needed, often free legal services to hundreds of families or seniors with regard to housing issues and eviction-related matters every year.

Consumer law attorneys are focused on income and asset protection. Some of the focus is on offering income qualified residents free consumer debt collection litigation and also foreclosure prevention services. The lawyers from the firm offer representation to qualified low income individuals threatened with imminent foreclosure from their bank. Or it will help those from New York City get harassed from their creditors or debt collectors.

There are a large number of debt collection cases, mostly due to the weak economy. Lawyers from Office of Civil Justice work to protect clients from unfavorable settlements or judgments that can have a devastating impact on those living in poverty or that are living patch to paycheck.

Public health care and access to insurance is always encouraged. Projects from Office of Civil Justice include referrals, education, and legal aid to help people access benefits. This particular focus will be on Medicaid or Medicare. Other outreach is available to ensure rights of patients in New York City are protected.

Domestic violence or family law lawyers represent clients in a wide range of matters in the New York City boroughs. The non-profit will represent domestic violence survivors seeking to obtain civil protective orders against their abusers. In addition to that, case managers also provide extensive safety planning to help survivors, including their children.




While not as common, some volunteers from Office of Civil Justice will represent clients in custody and divorce matters as well. This is done to help them seek and also achieve outcomes that improve the lives of families and children living in poverty. The firm will offer this type of assistance, but it is limited and may often come with fees or minimal expenses.

The lawyers that work on domestic violence issues also work with non-profits as well as HRA to collaborate. They will also advocate to improve services to children and women who are domestic violence survivors. So while this is not necessarily a client facing service. It can still make a difference in New York City.

For more information on the Office of Civil Justice, as well as where the offices are located and how to apply, dial 311 or HRA at 718-557-1399.


By Jon McNamara

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