Firm’s Pro Bono Program Honored by New York Legal Service Organizations and Brooklyn Bar Association

June 15, 2015

On Wednesday, June 10, MFY Legal Services, Inc. recognized the Firm’s outstanding contributions to securing access to justice for adult home residents with mental illness at their 2015 Dinner-Theatre Benefit. In addition to the Firm’s work on adult home litigation reform, the Firm has, for the past five years, worked as co-counsel with MFY in litigating a class action lawsuit in Brooklyn against certain “three-quarter houses”—a term coined for residential buildings that have been leased by private companies and illegally converted to boarding houses. The primary defendant in that class action, Yury Baumblit, was the focus of an extensive New York Times investigative piece on three-quarter houses that was published on Saturday, May 30. The Times article detailed Mr. Baumblit’s operation, which relies on recruiting vulnerable tenants from inpatient programs, rehabilitation centers, homeless shelters, and hospitals. The article explained how, after these tenants move in, Mr. Baumblit exploits them by forcing them to live in overcrowded and decrepit conditions and by requiring them to attend daily outpatient treatment programs that allegedly pay kickbacks to Mr. Baumblit. Once tenants complete a treatment program, Mr. Baumblit evicts them without court process and in some instances even encourages tenants to relapse so they can enter a new treatment program. Within days of the publication of the Times article, Mayor De Blasio formed an emergency task force to investigate three-quarter house operations throughout the city.

The class action lawsuit currently being litigated by Patterson Belknap and MFY, brought on behalf of all former and current tenants of Mr. Baumblit’s houses, seeks relief for class members based on the misconduct detailed in the Times article. The lawsuit asserts claims against Mr. Baumblit and his operation for, among other things, deceptive business practice and unlawful eviction. The Times article discusses the class action and explains how Mr. Baumblit formed new shell corporations to shelter his operation soon after the lawsuit was filed. Several Firm attorneys, legal assistants and staff have contributed to the efforts to seek relief for three-quarter house tenants.

On Thursday, June 4, Legal Services NYC (LSNYC) recognized the Firm with its “Pro Bono Leadership Award” at their annual Jazz for Justice event. This award was given to the organization’s top 25 pro bono partners over the past year. LSNYC thanked the Firm for its efforts on the State Central Registry project, which provides pro bono representation to individuals wrongly placed on the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. They also recognized the firm’s contributions to their work regarding student debt work helping low-income veterans to mitigate longstanding student loan obligations.

On Wednesday, May 20, the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project awarded Patterson Belknap associate Muhammad Faridi the TD Bank Champion of Justice Award at its 25th Anniversary Gala, for his contributions in the capital punishment area and to the runaway and homeless youth class action litigation. Established in 1990, the Volunteer Lawyers Project has worked to make the legal system accessible to low-income Brooklyn residents through the pro bono involvement of the private bar.