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Civil Justice

The Civil Justice Practice serves Brooklyn Defenders’ clients who have needs in essential areas of their lives, such as housing, benefits, employment or education. We defend people against eviction, school suspension, loss of employment, employment discrimination, property seizure and denials of benefits such as SNAP and public assistance. We also fight for the fundamental right to a home, for children to access an education and services they require and for people to have a fair opportunity to work and earn a sustainable living.

Whether through pressing a landlord to make essential repairs, advocating for disability-related education accommodations, or helping a terminated employee obtain unemployment benefits, we provide legal and social work services to ensure that people can meet the needs of their families and achieve the best possible outcome on their legal case.

Need assistance with housing, public benefits, education or employment?Get Help

Units & Projects

Education

Our Education Team works with parents and students to obtain the educational services and disability supports that they need to thrive in school. We defend students facing suspension and other disciplinary actions in school settings, and we help students get transfers or solve other problems that are interfering with their education. Our education unit also works to change New York City Department of Education policies that disproportionately impact people in Brooklyn due to their race, identity or economic status.

Employment

Arrests, involvement with ACS, potential deportation, and the court cases that come with them, make it difficult for people to keep or find a job. Our Employment Team helps people at risk of losing their employment due to their legal case and assists people facing employment discrimination and other illegal employment practices.

Housing, Benefits & More

Our team works with clients and their families to prevent a loss of housing, benefits, or property due to a legal case or investigation. We provide representation to defend people from eviction in both housing court and administrative proceedings related to NYCHA. We fight for our client’s right to live in safe housing conditions and receive benefits for disability, public assistance and SNAP and for everyone to have the basic essentials of life.

Reentry

Our Reentry Team advocates provide services for people who have been incarcerated in New York’s jails and prisons. After release from incarceration or completing an alternative to incarceration program, BDS’ Reentry Team will help formerly incarcerated people find housing, gainful employment, continuing education, therapeutic programming and achieve a successful reintegration into their family and community.

Sealing and Expungement

BDS helps people obtain sealing of their arrest record when they are legally entitled to that relief. People who are able to seal their record get a real second chance to obtain housing, employment and pursue life objectives after they have not been arrested for a period of time.

Civil Justice Staff

Our team of attorneys, paralegals and other specialists provide a broad range of legal advocacy and support, so that you never have to choose between your freedom and your housing, education, or other needs.

A civil justice attorney in a Brooklyn Defenders office, smiling and looking across her desk.
I've worked in this country legally for 21 years. When COVID-19 came and shut down the company I worked for, I had to turn to unemployment to survive. However, I was denied my benefits and charged with an overpayment. My attorney helped me prepare for my hearing and because of her help, I was awarded full benefits, was able to pay rent, and was able to keep my car so I could work again when my company opened back up.
— Mr. T, BDS Client


29.4%

of Brooklyn renters are severely rent burdened, spending more than 50% of their household income on rent.

The unemployment rate in Kings County is

12.5%

which is 2.5% higher than the New York State average.