Patterson Belknap Awarded The Legal Aid Society’s Pro Bono Publico Award

October 26, 2009

The Legal Aid Society's 2009 Pro Bono Publico Awards symbolize the outstanding commitment of major New York City law firms to provide access to justice to low-income children, families and individuals. Nowhere in the world is the commitment as strong as it is in New York City. For 133 years, these law firms have served, as partners with the Society in delivering life-changing legal assistance to the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including children, senior citizens, disabled children and adults, survivors of domestic violence, immigrants, unemployed and low-wage workers, persons living with HIV/AIDS, and homeless and imminently homeless children and adults, and to the most forgotten New Yorkers, including inmates in the jails on Rikers Island and prisoners in correctional facilities throughout the State of New York.


Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP is honored for its exceptional pro bono commitment to The Legal Aid Society and its clients. The firm has expanded its pro bono commitment by serving as co-counsel on four major class action reform cases in the areas of subsidized housing for low-income tenants, public assistance benefits for low-income families, health and safety' concerns of children in residential treatment centers and mental health issues of children in foster care. The firm has also handled a large number of individual cases in a variety of civil legal matters and participated in community outreach and education efforts in the Civil Practice. In a major lawsuit affecting low-income tenants living in subsidized housing, Clay J. Pierce, Joseph Abraham, Christopher Y. Miller, and David Slarskey worked with the Civil Law Reform Unit to stave off massive evictions from a 1,000 unit former federally and state subsidized housing complex. As co-counsel with staff from the Civil Practice, Patterson Belknap also helped design litigation intended to ensure that low-income families and individuals who are subject to durational sanctions of their public assistance benefits receive legally sufficient notice and a meaningful opportunity to challenge the duration of their sanction. In individual cases, Claude Platton and Nicholas Suplina provided outstanding representation to existing tenants with Section 8 vouchers who were being harmed and threatened with eviction by their landlords' illegal practice in refusing the vouchers. Their advocacy compelled the landlords to comply with a local law that prohibits discrimination against tenants with governmental subsidies. Russell Wohl and Karen Berry developed and led community education workshops and counseled low-income nonprofits and micro entrepreneurs challenged by the economic downturn. Patterson Belknap has also provided invaluable law reform assistance to the Juvenile Rights Practice addressing health and safety concerns of children who are placed in residential treatment centers, the rights of children with mental health issues, and the improper removal of kinship foster children from their families.

The firm's support of The Legal Aid Society dates back to the early 1930s and several partners have served on the Society's Board of Directors and as officers. Rochelle Korman, a partner, currently serves on the Board of Directors.