Pro Bono Opportunities at CDP
Our work depends on the fine work of volunteer lawyers. We are always eager to know of those who are interested in pro bono opportunities. In partnering with CDP, volunteer lawyers work independently or in collaboration with our attorneys to assist grassroots organizations and their constituents. CDP works with pro bono attorneys from across New York City on issue areas such as:
- tenants’ rights
- workers’ rights
- immigrants' rights
- consumer rights
- business/transactional matters for organizations and small businesses
Pro-Bono Success Stories
Housing: Squashed Suit Saves Tenant from Eviction
In 2007, a group of tenants were living in a New York City building with no heat, no hot water, and water cascading down the walls when it rained. The conditions were so bad that CDP lawyers successfully won a court-appointed receiver to make mandatory repairs. After the building was sold, a new landlord brought an eviction case against a single tenant for nonpayment of rent during the time the repairs were being made. CDP referred the matter to a pro bono law firm to defend the tenant on several legal theories, including laches, warranty of habitability, as well as “rent jamming”—when a landlord applies current rent paid by the tenant to back rent. Pro bono attorneys successfully defended the tenant in the nonpayment case, keeping her housed.
Employment: Court Finds Restaurant Kept Workers’ Tips, Failed to Pay Wages and Overtime
CDP, along with the assistance of two pro bono firms, won a summary judgment decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of 13 workers—members of Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, a community partner—employed at an upscale Greek restaurant in Tribeca. The court held that the restaurant unlawfully retained the waitstaff’s tips when it charged tips to private dining and banquet customers and then failed to distribute significant portions of those tips to the waitstaff. The court also ruled that the restaurant failed to pay the lawfully required minimum wage and overtime rates.
Consumer: Clinics Answer Consumers’ Debt Defense Questions, Provide Representation
CDP partners with pro bono law firms to train attorneys who then staff one of our several consumer justice clinics. At these clinics, clients have questions about defending themselves in New York City Civil Court against abusive debt collecting agencies. In one case, the client was served with court papers simply because his name was similar to another individual. CDP and the pro bono firm defended the client on the grounds that he wasn’t the correct defendant, and were able to get the case dismissed.
Land Use: Community Wins Economic Benefits in Development of Kingsbridge National Ice Center
CDP attorneys co-counseled with a pro bono firm to draft a comprehensive “community benefits agreement”—a private contract between community groups and a developer—where the community agreed not to oppose the development of the historic Kingsbridge National Ice Center in exchange for key economic benefits. The community organizations were able to ensure that the project will include green jobs and building practices, living wage, local hiring, and the use of community space. The agreement created a win-win for both the community and the developers who aim to invest $270 million in the redevelopment, which will generate 2 million visitors per year.