We defend the Bronx.

Civil Action Practice

The Issue

A sweeping array of civil punishments are triggered the moment someone faces arrest, deportation, or the removal of their children. Our clients risk losing their jobs, homes, income, property, and basic civil rights — hardships that can be more devastating and long-lasting than the charges themselves. This civil fallout, sometimes referred to as “collateral consequences,” effectively traps individuals in a cycle of poverty and justice involvement. In New York City, over 40% of people arrested are never are convicted of any crime, yet they suffer drastic civil punishments in virtually every aspect their lives. We know it does not have to be this way.

Our Approach

At The Bronx Defenders, we have the unique opportunity to intervene early and break this cycle by integrating transformative civil action with our criminal, family, and immigration defense. Our experts work collaboratively on teams to represent our clients in civil courts and tribunals throughout the city and to create access to basic civil needs. In addition, we work to facilitate the reentry of our clients into the community and towards the restoration of their rights.

In 2017, we helped over 17,000 people and their family members to maintain their jobs, homes, income, property and rights.

Accomplishments and Initiatives

  • Housing Justice and Reform. We are proud collaborators in the movement to establish a Right to Counsel in NYC for tenants facing evictions. As members of the NYCHA permanent exclusion working group, we press for reform to permanent exclusions and other troubling practices in public housing that punish people with justice-involvement.
  • Forfeiture on the Frontlines. Every year, we help thousands of low-income Bronx residents get their seized cash, cars, and other property back from police and prosecutors and fight for systemic changes to civil forfeiture.
  • Correcting and Sealing Criminal Court Records. Currently, there is no expungement law in New York State, so we fight to uphold sealings laws and challenge the use and dissemination of sealed criminal records in civil courts. See our latest win at the Appellate Division, People v. F.B. Where having a criminal record can be a life sentence and over 30% of all records have life affecting errors, we have assisted over 300 people through our Records Accuracy Project and to access applicable sealing laws, including the newest law under Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59.
  • Monthly Community Clinics for Accountability. Our monthly community clinic provides comprehensive information about rights related to holding police and other government agents accountable for misconduct and help to file a notice of claim. It is held every first Wednesday of the month at 2:30 pm at our office.
  • End Stop and Frisk. Through successfully challenging unconstitutional stop and frisk practices and unlawful loitering statutes that target our community based on poverty and race, we have helped tens of thousands of New Yorkers reclaim their streets.

Resources

  • Reentry.Net: The first-ever statewide clearinghouse of practical advocate materials on the consequences of criminal proceedings, which are screened, selected, and organized by experts.
  • The Consequences of Criminal Proceedings in New York State: a guide for criminal defense attorneys, civil legal services attorneys, and other reentry advocates.