On April 4, 2023, Proskauer submitted an amicus brief in the California Supreme Court in In re NR, a case in which a child was removed from his father’s custody based on a finding of “substance abuse.” The lower court found that the father had a “substance abuse” problem — based solely on its subjective judgments about substance use, rather than applying any objective, evidence-based standard — and separated the father and child on that basis. This case highlights the danger of allowing courts to diagnose parents with “substance abuse” problems based on their own subjective and standardless opinions. Unfounded assumptions, judgments, and stigma against substance use and substance use disorders can cause significant harm, particularly when they are used as a basis to deprive parents of their fundamental rights and separate families.
The Pro Bono Project is a New Orleans-based non-profit providing free civil legal services to underserved members of six South Louisiana parishes. Managed by The Pro Bono Project and staffed with volunteers — including attorneys, paralegals, and law students — the Self-Help Resource Centers (SHRCs) provide assistance to pro se plaintiffs with various family law-related matters.
Unrepresented litigants who visit the SHRC receive assistance with petitions relating to custody, divorce, and name changes, as well as a variety of other pleadings, such as answers and orders to show cause. Pro se plaintiffs who come in person can access court-approved forms, including free notarization, and are advised of next steps. While the SHRCs do not provide legal counsel, they provide information — especially to those with more complicated legal issues — about organizations providing low- or no-cost representation.
Last week, Proskauer filed an Article 78 petition on behalf of The Legal Aid Society, Lawyers For Children, and the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo — three organizations that represent children in foster care proceedings — against the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)…
Due to COVID-19 court restrictions, there have been no adoption proceedings over the past 14 months in New York City, culminating in a backlog of children in need. Although these proceedings are not considered to be “emergencies,” the failure to facilitate permanency on such a wide scale, in fact, poses a threat to the health and safety of children. As courts are beginning to hear these matters again, and given the tremendous unmet need for legal services, Proskauer is partnering with Mobilization for Justice’s Kinship Caregiver Law Project to provide the pro bono legal support needed to help stabilize families.
Proskauer was privileged to host a panel presentation with Her Justice this month to raise awareness of economic and legal obstacles facing women who are living in poverty in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel was moderated by Proskauer associate Elizabeth Siegel, a member of the Her Justice Junior Advisory Board, and featured Her Justice attorneys Hamra Ahmad, Anna Maria Diamanti, and Prathiba Desai. With support from pro bono lawyers at Proskauer and other law firms, Her Justice provides family law and immigration representation to women of limited means, most of whom are mothers and survivors of intimate partner violence.
Among other obstacles, the panelists highlighted the many hurdles the public health crisis has caused for low-income women seeking legal relief in family court. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, accessing family court was challenging for Her Justice’s clients because the court required them to appear in person. Clients often had to wait several hours even for a brief appearance, which was particularly difficult and financially burdensome for those who needed to arrange for child care or time off from work. At the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, the New York City Family Court closed except for “essential services” such as emergency proceedings for orders of protection, which are being heard virtually. While the ability to obtain orders of protection during the pandemic is critical for vulnerable women, participating in virtual hearings has created yet another set of challenges for women living in poverty who may not be able to access the technology needed for remote hearings. The lack of access to a stable internet connection and a confidential location to safely discuss sensitive legal issues has proven to be especially difficult.
Delays in New York City Family Court proceedings too often result from an inadequate number of judges combined with a court structure that makes it difficult to allocate judges where they are most needed. Although these structural faults require legislative and constitutional changes, there are certain steps, according to a…
As a member of the professional services team, the non-legal side of the Firm, I have few reasons to ever enter a courthouse. Unlike my colleagues in our Litigation Department, my role at the Firm does not require me to observe hearings, converse with judges, or discuss the legal and administrative challenges that are pervasive in our court system. Yet, last week I found myself doing just that. Through a program called “Judge for a Day” organized by Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), I had the unique opportunity to join the LIFT staff at the Kings County Family Court in downtown Brooklyn for a fully immersive court experience.