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NY State Bar Association creates task force to oversee COVID-19 pro bono attorneys

April 20, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The New York court system and the NYS Bar Association helped to establish a pro bono network of lawyers that will provide free attorneys for New Yorkers dealing with coronavirus-related legal issues that arise as a result of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the NYSBA announced that it has created a COVID-19 recovery task force to oversee that network.

The initial duty of the pro bono network is to assist unemployed people who are struggling to sign up for benefits, but it will extend beyond that aim as other issues arise. Right now, the network is monitoring issues such as evictions, domestic violence, and job and housing discrimination.

“The blue-ribbon panel we have assembled includes some of the best minds the New York legal community has to offer,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. “I have the utmost confidence that this panel will ensure that those who are in desperate need of legal help will get the assistance they need.”

Hon. Edwina Mendelson. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

NYSBA President Hank Greenberg said that the task force is also evaluating what its priorities should be, recruiting as many lawyers as possible, and coordinating the resources they have to connect lawyers to clients.

“I’m so grateful that at this difficult time in their own lives, the members of this task force are giving of themselves to help those who are less fortunate,” Greenberg said. “We can always count on the generosity of New York’s lawyers and I’m proud to be part of this effort. I know that this esteemed panel will act quickly to ease the anguish of fellow New Yorkers.”

Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who retired from being the state’s top judge at the end of 2015, is the coordinator of the pro bono network.

Hon. A. Gail Prudenti. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

“This esteemed panel brings a depth of experience and perspectives to the task we have at hand — making sure that those who need a lawyer get help as quickly as humanly possible,” Lippman said. “We will work tirelessly because we realize that New Yorkers need us now.”

The NYSBA also announced that it will publish a second edition of the, “New York State Public Health Legal Manual: A Guide for Judges, Attorneys and Public Health Professionals.” The manual, which clarifies the rules, laws and statutes involved with health issues, is available for free on the NYSBA’s website.

The task force is made up of 16 people including Fordham Law School Dean Matthew Diller, Seymour James, former attorney-in-chief of the NYC Legal Aid Society, Hon. Edwina Mendelson, Hon. Edwina Mendelson, deputy chief administrative judge for justice initiatives, and Hon. A. Gail Prudenti, dean of Hofstra Law School and former presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn.

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