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.

Achievements & Initiatives

  • In 2014, we provided civil legal services to 4,212 clients on 4,830 matters benefiting more than 7,720 family members. Through our groundbreaking advocacy model we continue to challenge the full range of civil consequences of arrest and conviction, including housing, employment, education, and financial legal issues.
  • Our Civil Action Practice attorneys have successfully challenged the use and dissemination of sealed criminal records in housing court; the role of prosecutors in eviction proceedings; the right to a jury trial in drug holdover proceedings; and the definition of illegal business in a home.
  • We maintain a comprehensive manual on “The Consequences of Criminal Proceedings in New York State,” which serves as a valuable guide for criminal defense attorneys, civil legal services attorneys, and other reentry advocates who can access it freely on Reentry Net/NY.
  • In January of 2013, we won a significant victory alongside other civil rights organizations in a federal class action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s unconstitutional trespass affidavit “Clean Halls” program.
  • We filed a class action lawsuit against the NYPD for charging thousands of people under unconstitutional statutes and for targeting them based on poverty, race and sexual orientation, and won a $15 million settlement on behalf of 20,000 people.
  • As a Single Stop site and FEPS provider, we have helped hundreds of families each year to enroll in crucial benefits to keep them stably housed, maintain access to healthcare, and put food on the table.
  • Advocates in our Civil Action Practice assist hundreds of low-income Bronx residents every year who are struggling to get their money and property back from the NYPD after an arrest. Together with our Impact Litigation Practice and Policy & Community Organizing Project, our Civil Action Practice is also fighting for systemic changes to unlawful civil forfeiture and other NYPD property seizure policies and practices.