177 Livingston Street 7th Floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 254-0700 info@bds.org

ABOUT

BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES

The mission of Brooklyn Defender Services is to provide high quality legal representation and related services to people who cannot afford to retain an attorney.

Brooklyn Defender Services is a public defender organization that represents 45,000 people each year who are too poor to afford an attorney. Our staff consists of specialized attorneys, social workers, investigators, paralegals and administrative staff who are experts in their individual fields.

Our staff are highly qualified and specially trained to provide excellent legal representation to people charged with a crime or facing child welfare proceedings. Every client receives the services needed to defend his or her case, including an investigator to track down witnesses or recover evidence, a social worker to improve the life circumstances of our client and an excellent attorney who will analyze the legal issues in the case, try to negotiate a fair resolution of the matter and will represent the client at a trial.

BDS has many services for our clients on-site, including civil legal advocacy, such as assistance with educational needs of our clients or their children, housing and benefits advocacy and immigration advice and representation.

People who are arrested face many obstacles, even if their case was resolved in their favor. Some examples are loss of employment, suspension from school, eviction from public or private housing, deportation, forfeiture of property and loss of licenses. Our goal is to help clients with these issues as they arise. We also work to change these systems by challenging their legality and advocating for changes in the law.

Each year, there are 100,000 arrests in Brooklyn. Eighty-five percent of these arrests are for misdemeanors or a non-criminal offense. Ninety percent of the people arrested cannot afford an attorney. Brooklyn Defender Services staffs the court so that every person has an attorney as soon as they see the judge.

One thousand families each year get a similar benefit—they too have an attorney waiting in the courtroom to help them on the very day that proceedings are filed for removal of their children.

Many of our clients are people with a mental illness. Many of our clients are under the age of 18. A growing number are veterans facing difficulties in returning home. A large portion are suffering with drug addiction or alcoholism. It is only through a zealous voice advocating for those unable to speak for themselves that justice is done. BDS is that voice.

PRACTICE AREAS

  • Criminal Defense

  • Family Defense

  • Immigration

  • Civil Justice

  • Special Projects

PARTNERS

Our primary mission at BDS is to represent people facing serious accusations from the government. We recognize that our clients face many additional challenges and obstacles related to their poverty. As the largest Brooklyn-based legal services provider, BDS’s interdisciplinary staff provides supplemental legal and social services on site to our clients, including immigration attorneys, housing attorneys, an education attorney and social workers who specialize in areas such as mental health and youth advocacy.

826NYC

Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer’s Project

Brooklyn Justice Corps

Brooklyn Justice Initiatives

Brownsville Community Justice Center

Center for Community Alternatives

Good Shepherd Services

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Pinkerton Fellows at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

 

HISTORY AND ACHIEVEMENTS

In 1996, Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) was selected by the City of New York to become the first borough-specific indigent defense office to handle the cases of poor people arrested in Brooklyn. At that time, BDS represented 10,000 clients each year. In the ensuing years, BDS has established itself as a nationally known public defender office that provides extensive services to the poor community in Brooklyn. BDS employs a large staff of highly dedicated and vibrant attorneys, social workers, investigators and support personnel who work on matters of utmost urgency for the clients we represent—our core public defense practice consists of criminal, family and immigration defense for people facing the dire consequences of imprisonment, loss of their children or deportation.

Originally, BDS represented 10% of the people charged with crimes in Brooklyn. It has since grown to 45%. Our family defense practice handles approximately 80% of the cases of parents facing allegations of abuse or neglect. With the addition of immigration, housing, education and other legal services, BDS has become the largest one-stop legal office for poor people in Brooklyn.

  • 1996 Awarded New Indigent Defense Contract; 10,000 cases funded by Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office (first time a new institutional defender added to Brooklyn criminal courts)
  • 2001 Adds specialized mental health practice — funded by the Open Society Institute and Van Ameringen Foundation
  • 2002 Works with the Fortune Society to provide Family Court services to court-involved people
  • 2003 Adds crossover criminal/family practice with funding from New York City Council
  • 2006 Grows from handling 10% of indigent defense case to 20%.
  • 2008 Begins immigration practice
  • 2010 Creates Haitian Immigration Legal Assistance Program in collaboration with local bar associations, a pro bono project later funded by New York Community Trust
  • 2011 Creates and chairs Brooklyn’s multi-agency Racial Justice Task Force — funded by the American Bar Association and the United States Bureau of Justice Assistance
  • 2012 Incorporates Family Defense contract from Legal Services of New York City
  • 2013 Brooklyn Defender Services creates first-in-nation public defense program for detained immigrants
  • 2014 Adds Housing, Benefits and Education Units to Civil Justice Practice
  • 2014 Begins Jail-Based Services Project

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Kevin Snover, Chairman of the Board
Gregory Cerchione, Secretary
Cindi Elibott Giglio, Treasurer
Suprotik Basu, Board Member
Andrea Bonina, Board Member
Robert J. Gunther, Jr., Board Member
Jean Hegler, Board Member
Jeffrey Rona, Board Member
Lisa Schreibersdorf, Board Member and Executive Director

PRO BONO AT BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES

Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is committed to high-quality and zealous representation on behalf of Brooklyn residents facing the criminal, family and immigration justice systems.   As part of this mission, BDS strives to ensure pro bono partnerships leverage resources and provide critical support for our clients in and out of the courtroom to ensure our clients obtain the best result possible in court and, hopefully, a better outcome in their lives.

BDS regularly partners with New York City’s major law firms, corporations and other members of the private bar on numerous cases from all of our practice areas.  Our pro bono partners have worked on individual cases, filed complaints in federal courts, co-authored amicus briefs, co-counseled hearings, filed and argued appeals and conducted research on novel areas of law.  BDS offers pro bono opportunities that not only present ideal opportunities for pro bono attorneys to get real courtroom experience and work with clients in need, but that result in just and better outcomes for our clients.  BDS offers both short- and long-term projects and has flexible co-counseling arrangements. Additionally, we offer comprehensive training programs, mentorship and supervision that will provide a meaningful experience for the pro bono attorney and the client.

Law firms, corporations, law-firm attorneys, and in-house counsel who are interested in joining Brooklyn Defender Services’ pro bono practice, please contact our Pro Bono Counsel Molly Meltzer at mmeltzer@bds.org.

Retired or Transitioning Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities are welcomed at Brooklyn Defender Services.  Our organization is one of the host organizations of the Attorney Emeritus Program (AEP) established by ex-Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in 2010.  Please visit this website to register for the program http://nycourts.gov/attorneys/volunteer/emeritus/about.shtml and contact Pro Bono Counsel Molly Meltzer at mmeltzer@bds.org.

Individual Volunteers are incorporated into our practices on an as-needed basis.  Please send a resume, particular skills you have that would lend itself to our work and your specific availability to mmeltzer@bds.org.

 

CLIENT EXPERIENCES WITH BDS

September 2014

A BDS investigator was recently out on an investigation on the street in Crown Heights talking to a likely witness/friend of a client who wasn’t really warming up to him.   The witness/friend wasn’t hostile, but he wasn’t very forthcoming either.  As the investigator was trying to finesse some more information out of the witness, he noticed someone approach the house from behind him.  The investigator turned toward the person and they made eye contact.

It was “Mr. Johnson,” a former client, and he broke out into the biggest smile and acted like the investigator was an old friend.  The guy he had been talking to immediately started telling the investigator more, interrupted by the two of them talking about how good Brooklyn Defender Services is, how many people they know whom we’ve helped.  “Mr. Johnson” told the other guy that BDS had helped him beat all four counts he faced [he was acquitted of the charges against him].  As a result of this encounter, our current client’s friend/witness gave the investigator his full name and number, said of course he’d try to help us out, since we had helped his friend, and asked for a few more cards to give to anyone who might be able to share more information.

It was a great moment, and now a current client of ours will be better served because of the work we did for “Mr. Johnson” and others.

INFORMATION

NEED HELP?

If you are a Brooklyn resident and cannot afford an attorney, BDS will provide free advice.

In fear of being arrested? Call 718-254-0700 and ask for the operator.

In fear of having your children removed? Call 347-592-2500.

OPPORTUNITIES

LITIGATION SUPPORT ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT – CIVIL JUSTICE PRACTICE

Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) seeks a full-time Administrative/Legal Assistant to work with our attorneys and other professional staff to advocate on behalf of BDS clients in the fields of housing, public benefits, consumer, civil forfeiture and other economic justice topics.

See full job posting on idealist.org.

SOCIAL WORKER – FAMILY DEFENSE PRACTICE

BDS seeks a social worker to become part of its Family Defense Practice’s out of court advocate team of social workers and parent advocates. BDS’ Family Defense Practice (FDP) represents parents in child welfare cases in Brooklyn Family Court. FDP advocates for clients who have diverse, complex and multi-faceted needs in a high volume and very face-paced setting.

See the full job posting on idealist.org.

TRIAL ATTORNEYS – CRIMINAL DEFENSE PRACTICE

Brooklyn Defender Services is actively seeking trial attorneys for its Criminal Defense Practice. Applicants must have 3 years experience as a practicing attorney with a strong preference given to criminal defense practitioners.

To apply: Submit Resume and a Statement of Interest by October 24, 2016 to attorneypositions@bds.org.

Please direct any specific inquiries to Richard LaFontaine, Esq., Director of Recruiting via email at rlafontaine@bds.org.

JAIL SERVICES ADVOCATE

BDS seeks a passionate individual to advocate for our incarcerated clients in New York City. The ideal candidate will have a social justice background, excellent written advocacy skills, experience working with people who are currently or formerly incarcerated, and a demonstrated commitment to working on behalf of this population. A strong candidate for Jail Services Advocate is comfortable working with a broad range of people including clients and their families, attorneys, agency officials, law enforcement agents, social workers and other advocates.

See full job posting on idealist.org.

STAFF ATTORNEY – FAMILY DEFENSE PRACTICE

BDS seeks a staff attorney for its Family Defense Practice (FDP). FDP represents low-income parents in child welfare and related family court cases in Brooklyn Family Court. Through holistic representation in an interdisciplinary setting, FDP helps families obtain the benefits and services they need to keep their families safe and stable.

See full job posting on Idealist.org.

JUNIOR INVESTIGATOR – CRIMINAL DEFENSE PRACTICE

BDS requires excellent Junior Investigators to assist our attorneys in providing high-quality representation to our clients. The Junior Investigator position is perfect for inquisitive and empathetic people that are dedicated to social and criminal justice issues. Applicants with prior experience may be considered for a position as Investigator.

See full job posting on idealist.org.

ATTORNEY TRAINING PROGRAM FOR NEW BDS EMPLOYEES

Criminal Defense Practice Brooklyn Defender Services’ intensive training program is designed for recent law graduates and attorneys who are new to the practice of criminal law in New York. Attorneys spend the first few weeks of their employment at BDS attending in-house lectures on various aspects of criminal defense, shadowing experienced attorneys and practicing their skills through simulations of various aspects of criminal practice.

The Appellate Division has granted us a student practice order which gives us the right to have law students and law graduates working for BDS to appear in court even though they are not yet admitted to practice law. This allows our interns, fellows and recent law graduates to handle cases with supervision.

INTERNSHIPS

Law Student Summer Internships

BDS has many relationships with local educational institutions, including clinical study programs from New York University Law School (the Offender Re-Entry Clinic, the Family Defense Clinic and the Community Defender Clinic), the Youth Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law School, the Criminal Defense Clinic of St. John’s School of Law and the CUNY Law School Family Law Concentration Clinic.

Brooklyn Defender Services also offers full-time summer internships to law students who have completed their second year of law school and have a commitment to public defense. The internship program lasts ten weeks. Intern duties may include legal research and writing, representation of clients in arraignments (under supervision), court appearances, client and witness interviews, trial preparation and investigation assistance.

Our law student summer internship program is extremely competitive and positions are limited. To apply for a criminal position, please send a cover letter and a resume to Jillian Modzeleski at jmodzeleski@bds.org. If you are interested in a family defense internship contact Chas Budnick at cbudnick@bfdp.bds.org. If you are interested in an immigration internship contact Nyasa Hickey at nhickey@bds.org. We will accept applications until January 15, 2017.  Selected applicants will be interviewed and decisions made by March 2017.

All internships are volunteer positions. However, BDS will work with students to secure funding from outside sources or class credits where available.

Postgraduate Law Fellowships

Brooklyn Defender Services hosts fellows to work in our office on special projects. Each year, we aim to identify law student fellowship applications that meet our mission of serving underprivileged clients in Brooklyn through innovative proposals. These include Equal Justice Works fellowships, Skadden fellows, and Soros fellowships among others. We additionally welcome law students from around the country whose law schools have fellowship placement options, particularly post-graduate fellowships. Those interested in applying for fellowships hosted at BDS should send an email of introduction explaining their proposal to Molly Meltzer at mmeltzer@bds.org.

Investigative Assistant Internships

BDS seeks undergraduates and recent college graduates with an interest in and a commitment to social and criminal justice issues for our Investigative Assistant Internship. Investigators locate, interview and take detailed statements from the witnesses, run background checks on witnesses and police officers, review video surveillance footage, draft and serve subpoenas, photograph and diagram crime scenes, and transcribe audio recordings. Investigative assistants additionally provide administrative assistance to the investigator team.

While some of the investigative assistant’s work will take place in the office, much of it will be out in the field—in private homes, in local businesses, on the street and in the greater community. Ideal applicants should be comfortable working all over Brooklyn and should possess characteristics necessary to approach and interact with strangers about sensitive subjects. Candidates must be able to work in a collaborative setting and be able to produce high-quality written work.

The internship has a rolling admission deadline, and start and end dates can accommodate academic schedules. The internship will start with an intensive, multi-disciplinary two-week training where the interns will rotate shadowing some of our staff investigators. Investigative assistants will learn about our progressive approach to representation, our different practice areas and the laws and ethics involved in investigation. Following the initial training period, investigative assistants will continue to receive ongoing training and supervision from an experienced staff investigator who will serve as a mentor and will be responsible for assigning cases.

Required qualifications and abilities:
– Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
– Interest in criminal justice, especially the fields of criminal defense and the rights of the accused
– Strong writing ability
– Fluency in another language is highly desired, but not required

This internship is unpaid. We strongly encourage interns to apply to grants, fellowships or any other funding available through school or third-party organizations. Interns will be provided with unlimited monthly metro cards for the duration of their internship.

To apply, submit a resume and cover letter to Joy Chen at jchen@bds.org with the subject “Investigative Assistant Application.” Please specify which cycle you will be applying to work for and if you will be working full or part time (ex: Summer 2016, full time). Resumes and cover letters will only be accepted by email; no phone calls, please. If selected for an interview, applicants will be notified on a rolling basis.

BDS IMMIGRATION PRACTICE SUMMER 2017 INTERNSHIP

Description and Responsibilities:

The Immigration Practice of Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) seeks summer 2017 law student interns. BDS is one of the largest public defense providers in the United States.  We represent more than 45,000 clients per year in a variety of legal proceedings in New York City, primarily indigent criminal, family, and immigration defense.

The Immigration Practice has three primary focus areas: Padilla, Youth and Communities, and NYIFUP.

First, Padilla attorneys work in close collaboration with BDS criminal defenders to avoid or minimize the negative immigration consequences of their noncitizen clients’ criminal cases, and to ensure clients are fully advised of those consequences pursuant to our obligations under the Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla v. Kentucky. In some cases, Padilla attorneys continue to advocate for BDS clients after the criminal case is disposed. We advocate against our clients’ immigration detention, defend them in immigration removal proceedings, and provide assistance applying for immigration benefits.

Second, the Youth and Communities Project provides a full range of immigration legal services to BDS clients and Brooklyn residents, including removal defense and affirmative immigration benefits such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), permanent residence, and victim and trafficking visas. We both identify clients in-house through our criminal and family defense practice and also participate in external clinics in close partnership with numerous community-based organizations.

Third, BDS serves as assigned counsel under the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project—a first-in-the-nation program that provides legal representation for indigent New Yorkers in detained removal proceedings at the Varick Street Immigration Court and in non-detained removal proceedings if our efforts result in the clients’ release. NYIFUP attorneys provide ongoing representation to clients facing immigration detention and deportation on a wide array of defenses, applications, and other creative advocacy efforts.

Initially, Immigration Practice interns will be assigned to one of these three practice areas with the opportunity to work with multiple attorneys.  Based on interest, previous experience and capacity, the intern may also be able to be work in other practice areas.

Qualifications:

We seek dynamic students currently enrolled in law school with a demonstrated commitment to defending immigrants accused and/or convicted of crimes. Applicants should have a strong substantive background in immigrant rights, criminal justice, and/or social justice issues. Applicants should also possess the ability to perform nuanced legal research and writing, to communicate clearly and effectively with clients, and to be a team player.

All internships are volunteer positions. However, BDS will work with students to secure funding from outside sources or class credits where available. Most summer interns work full-time for 10-12 weeks, although we will consider split summers on a case by case basis.

Languages:

Spanish, Haitian Creole, Mandarin, or other second-language fluency is preferred but not required.

Application Instructions:

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and at least two references to Andrea Saenz at asaenz@bds.org with the subject line “Summer 2017 Internship.”  We will accept applications on a rolling basis, but encourage applying by January 1, 2017.

POLICY

LETTERS AND TESTIMONY

December 1, 2016

Andrea Sáenz and Nyasa Hickey, Supervising Attorneys in BDS’ Immigration Practice, Spearhead Letter from Immigration Legal Service Providers & Advocates to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Supporting Urgent Reform of New York’s High-Arrest Policies to Prevent Detention and Deportation of Immigrant New Yorkers (PDF )

November 30, 2016

BDS Education Unit Supervising Attorney Keren Farkas Testifies Before the New York City Council on Educational Services for Detained and Placed Youth (PDF )

November 2, 2016

BDS Civil Justice Supervising Attorney Bill Bryan Testifies Before the New York City Council on the Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act (PDF )

October 31, 2016

BDS Family Defense Director Lauren Shapiro Submits Testimony with The Bronx Defenders’ Family Defense Managing Director Emma Ketteringham to the New York City Council on Vulnerable Families’ Interactions with City Agencies Before, During, and After Child Welfare Proceedings (PDF )

October 26, 2016

BDS Criminal Defense Practice Supervising Attorney Yung-Mi Lee Testifies before the New York City Council on Evaluating the Progression of Justice Reboot (PDF )

October 21, 2016

BDS Community Advocacy Coordinator Nick Malinowski Testifies before the New York City Council on Police Accountability and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (PDF )

October 21, 2016

BDS NYIFUP Supervising Attorney Andrea Sáenz Testifies before the New York City Council on Multi-Agency Support for Immigrant Families (PDF )

September 26, 2016

BDS Jail Services Social Worker Kelsey DeAvila Testifies before the New York City Council on Jail Bills (PDF )

September 23, 2016

BDS Supervising Attorney Yung-Mi Lee Testifies before the New York City Council on Wrongful Convictions (PDF )

September 21, 2016

BDS Adolescent Social Worker Rebecca Kinsella Testifies before the New York City Council on Family Engagement for New York City’s Detained Youth (PDF )

September 15, 2016

BDS Civil Justice Practice Staff Attorney Anca Grigore Testifies before the New York City Council on Civil Forfeiture as Extortion of the Poor  (PDF )

September 14, 2016

BDS Joins 340+ Civil & Human Rights Organizations in Telling DHS: Stop Detaining Immigrants in Private Prisons (PDF )

August 29, 2016

BDS Joins Nine Other Organizations in Opposing DOC’s Plan to End the Transgender Housing Unit in City Jails  (PDF )

June 28, 2016

BDS Sends Letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo Requesting His Signature on Gravity Knife Reform Legislation (PDF )

Check out our infographic on gravity knives, “Why Are Carpenters Being arrested for Carrying Their Tools?”  here.

June 23, 2016

Improving Access to Criminal Courts, Compliance with the ADA — Riley Doyle Evans Testifies at City Council (PDF )

June 2, 2016

Andrea Nieves Testifies Before the New York City Council Committee on Women’s Issues in Support of Legislation Requiring DOC to Provide Free Feminine Hygiene Products in City Jails (PDF )

May 26, 2016

BDS Reentry Specialist Wesley Caines testifies on RAP sheet errors and court record accuracy at oversight hearing of the New York City Council Committee on Courts and Legal Services (PDF )

May 26, 2016

Jail Services Coordinator Riley Doyle Evans testifies on correctional healthcare before the New York City Council Committees on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, Health, and Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services (PDF )

May 3, 2016

BDS Reentry Specialist Wesley Caines testifies before the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety and the Committee on Oversight and Investigations (PDF )

April 6, 2016

BDS Memos in Support of Two Bills to Decriminalize Possession of Common Workers’ Utility Knives (A4821/S3675 PDF) (A9042/S6483 PDF )

Check out our infographic on gravity knives, “Why Are Carpenters Being arrested for Carrying Their Tools?”  here.

April 5, 2016

BDS Immigration Staff Attorney Nyasa Hickey Testifies at NY City Council Committee on Immigration Hearing on Resolution 928A-2015 (PDF )

March 28, 2016

BDS Immigration Staff Attorney Nyasa Hickey at NY City Council Committee on Immigration Budget Hearing (PDF )

BDS immigration client Samuel David Flores Murillo testifies at NY City Council Immigration Committee Budget and NYIFUP Hearing (English) (PDF )

Testimonio de David Flores Murillo – NY City Council Immigration Committee Budget and NYIFUP Hearing (Spanish) (PDF )

March 23, 2016

BDS Executive Director Lisa Schreibersdorf Testifies at NY City Council Committee on Courts and Legal Services  Preliminary Budget Hearing (PDF )

March 21, 2016

BDS Supervising Attorney Keren Farkas Testifies at City Human Rights Commission Hearing on Proposed Rules Changes (PDF )

March 1, 2016

BDS Releases Statement in Support of Kalief’s Law (S5988A/A8296A) (PDF )

February 29, 2016

BDS Testifies at New York City Council Courts and Legal Services Hearing Examining Speedy Trial in New York City Courts (PDF )

February 4, 2016

BDS Supervising Attorney Keren Farkas Testifies before New York City Council on DOE’s Support for Students who are Homeless or in Temporary Housing (PDF )

January 25, 2016

BDS Testifies Before Council on Proposed Changes to Enforcement of Quality of Life Offenses (PDF )

January 12, 2016

BDS Testifies Before NYPD on Proposed Rules for U Visa Certification Requests (PDF )

December 15, 2015

BDS Testifies Before Council on Need to Reform NYCHA’s Permanent Exclusion Policy (PDF )

BDS Testifies Before Council Hearing on Abuse and Mistreatment of Women in City Jails (PDF )

December 9, 2015
BDS’ Katherine Russell, Esq. and Amy Albert, Esq. Testify on the Need for More Resources for Unaccompanied Minors (PDF )

December 4, 2015
BDS Testifies Before NYC Council Hearing on Intro 958 – Client Satisfaction Survey (PDF )

November 6, 2015
Supplemental BDS Testimony before NYC Board of Corrections Opposing Jail Visiting Restrictions and Rollback of Solitary Confinement Reforms (PDF )

October 19, 2015
BDS Testifies Before NYC Council Hearing on the Impacts of Court Obstacles and Overcriminalization on Immigrants (PDF )

Clarence Threlkeld, BDS Immigration Client, Testifies Before City Council About His Courthouse Arrest by ICE (PDF )

October 16, 2015
BDS Response to Discriminatory Department of Correction Plan to Restrict Visiting and Packages and to Rollback Solitary Confinement Reforms

October 13, 2015
BDS Testifies at NYC Board of Correction Hearing on the Department of Correction’s New Policy on Uniforms for People in City Jails (PDF )

October 1, 2015
BDS Testifies at NYC Council Committee on Juvenile Justice Oversight Hearing on Examining ACS’s Juvenile Offender Population (PDF )

September 18, 2015
BDS Testifies at NYC Council Oversight Hearing on the Effectiveness of Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (PDF )

BDS Testifies before the NYC Council Committee on Veterans on Int. 793 – In relation to creating a taskforce to study veterans in the criminal justice system (PDF )

August 18, 2015
BDS Expresses Strong Support for Kalief’s Law (S. 5988/A. 7841) to Ensure Swifter Resolution for Defendants (PDF )

June 17, 2015
BDS Testifies at NYC Council Oversight Hearing on New York’s Bail System and the Need for Reform (PDF )

June 12, 2015
Memo of Support for A2699/ S5593 & A2990/S2029 to Seal Certain Criminal Convictions and “Ban the Box” on Job Applications (PDF )

May 7, 2015
BDS Testifies before NYS Assembly on Criminal Justice Reform (PDF )

May 6, 2015
BDS Testifies at NYC Council Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services Hearing on DOC Reporting Bills (PDF )

Riley Doyle Evans, BDS’ Jail Services Coordinator, Testifies before the New York City Council on the Need for Behavioral Health Screening in City Jails (PDF )

BDS Calls for Provision of “Connections” guidebook to All DOC Detainees Upon Intake at NYC Council Committee on Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Hearing (PDF )

April 23, 2015
Memo of Support for S.3675/A.4821 to End the Criminalization of So-Called “Gravity Knives” (PDF )

April 14, 2015
Keren Farkas, Director of BDS’ Education Unit, Testifies at NYC Council Hearing on School Discipline Reform (PDF )

March 27, 2015
Testimony Before the New York City Council Committee on Courts & Legal Services Preliminary Budget Hearing (PDF )

March 20, 2015
Memo to Legislators: Raise the Age Reform Will Cause Additional Delays in Resolving Child Welfare Cases in Family Court (PDF )

March 17, 2015
Testimony before New York City Council on ACS & DHS Preliminary FY2016 Budget (PDF )

March 3, 2015
BDS’s Jail Services Coordinator Riley Doyle Evans Testifies at the NYC Council Hearing on Healthcare in City Jails

Letter to NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Legislation Expanding Unconstitutional, Counterproductive Sex Offender Exclusions (PDF )

February 25, 2015
BDS’s Veterans Advocacy Specialist Cameron Mease Testifies at the NYC Council Hearing on Veterans Treatment Courts

February 23, 2015
Sergio Jimenez, Housing Unit Director at BDS, joins NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Advocates to Call for Improved Language Access in Housing Courts

February 10, 2015
BDS Calls for Board of Correction Scrutiny of DOC’s Implementation of New Solitary Rules

December 30, 2014
BDS Sends Open Letter to City, State, & Federal Elected Officials Urging Intervention to Stop DOC’s Expansion of Solitary Confinement through “Enhance Supervision Housing Unit” program

December 19, 2014
BDS testifies at Board of Corrections hearing on Enhanced Supervision Housing

December 9, 2014
Sergio Jimenez, Director of BDS’ Civil Justice Practice, Testifies before the NYS Assembly Hearing on Civil Forfeiture (PDF )

November 13, 2014
BDS’s Lisa Schreibersdorf Speaks to the NYS Assembly on the Fundamental Inappropriateness of Prisons and Jails as Mental Health Treatment

October 8, 2014
BDS Testifies before the NYC Council on (Mis)Treatment of Adolescents in New York City Jails

June 12, 2014
BDS’s Lisa Schreibersdorf Speaks in Support of NYC Council Bill Requiring Public Reporting on DOC’s Use of Solitary Confinement

DATA AND REPORTS

Brooklyn Defender Services handles approximately 40 percent of the overall criminal cases for the Borough of Brooklyn, making our client profile indicative, if not entirely representational, of the wider law enforcement trends across the city, as they pertain to arrests, custody and court adjudication.

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STRATEGIC LITIGATION

BDS’s Special Litigation Counsel works with BDS defenders and clients, outside counsel and activists, to identify systemic criminal justice deficiencies and constitutional violations that unjustly affect criminal justice outcomes for our clients. Once identified, special litigation lawyers strategically litigate those issues in State and Federal courts to improve both process and outcomes for all accused New Yorkers. From challenging unreasonable bail conditions when a case starts to overbroad barriers to re-entry when it’s over, BDS is striving to make the criminal justice system accountable to those it intends to serve through its growing impact litigation practice.

ADVOCACY

Brooklyn Defender Services has amassed a wealth of experience and expertise on the complexities that inform our client’s lives and their involvement in the justice system. BDS works with each of the courts and other stakeholders to improve procedures and policies that affect our clients in each of the courts where we are the institutional provider.

As zealous advocates for our clients and the communities we serve, it is also our duty to contribute to the larger conversations taking place within the criminal, family and immigration justice systems in order to facilitate meaningful changes. Through our presence on working groups and coalitions, the use of our external communications, position papers, blog, and other forums we seek to educate system players, legislators and community members about the critical issues facing our clients and give voice to some of New York’s most vulnerable populations.

COURT INVOLVED YOUTH

NEWS

News

BDS, LAS, VOCAL-NY & OTHERS URGE GOVERNOR TO SIGN GRAVITY KNIFE REFORM BILL

Andrea Saenz, Supervising Attorney of BDS' Immigration Practice, sharing a client's story at the rally.

On Monday, November 28, BDS attorneys joined the Legal Aid Society of New York, VOCAL-NY, U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Assembly Member Dan Quart, State Senator Diane Savino, and many others in a rally on the steps of City Hall to urge the Governor to sign a gravity knife reform bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature in June.

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News

PROLONGED DETENTION: A SHORT DOCUMENTARY ON OUR LANDMARK ‘LORA’ CASE

Lora is a famous name in New York immigration courts. Thanks to a case Alex Lora and his legal team at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) and New York University School of Law (NYU) brought to challenge his immigration detention, since 2015, all immigrants detained for six months in the Second Circuit now have the right to a day in court where a judge can determine if their continued detention is justified.

Next Wednesday, on November 30, 2016 the Supreme Court will hear Jennings v. Rodriguez, a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that could provide nationwide access to bond hearings to immigrants like Mr. Lora who are held in long-term detention.

Across the country, thousands of people languish in immigration jails as they await their court hearings. For Mr. Lora, mandatory detention cost him his job, his ability to provide for his family, and his two-year-old son, who was placed in foster care after Mr. Lora was taken from his home. Since his release, he has been able to rebuild his life and regain custody of his son. For Mr. Lora and others in the Second Circuit, bond hearings have provided a critical procedural protection to prevent harmful and needless long-term detention.

In this new video, hear from Mr. Lora himself about his life and his experience in detention, which illustrates what is at stake in Jennings:

For more information about this case and the people and communities impacted by immigration detention, see prolongeddetentionstories.org, a project of the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).

News

BDS & DPA OP-ED: NEW YORK’S BROKEN APPROACH TO DRUG ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS

Today, Gotham Gazette published an op-ed by BDS’ Community Advocacy Coordinator Nick Malinowski and Melissa Moore, deputy state director of the New York policy office of the Drug Policy Alliance, on New York’s fundamentally unfair and misguided approach to drug possession.

Moore and Malinowski write:

“At a time when public opinion nationwide favors treating drug use as a public health issue, we must stop and ask why these problematic [drug] arrests and incarcerations, which do not improve public safety, are happening in the first place. In some of these cases, people are arrested and incarcerated even when they do not actually possess illegal drugs. In cases when a person possesses drugs in an amount so small that it can’t be identified properly, should we really be sending them to Rikers Island — interrupting their life and introducing collateral consequences that can haunt them for years after?”

Read the whole op-ed here or below.

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BDS ATTORNEYS FEATURED IN VILLAGE VOICE COVER STORY ON POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY IN COURT

Today’s Village Voice features a cover story on “The Incredibles” –  Brooklyn police officers who judges have found to be not credible yet continue to be utilized by the District Attorney to prosecute cases. The story centers on officers whose misdeeds only came to light through investigations by BDS attorneys Deborah Silberman, Renee Seman and Scott Hechinger. You can read the entire article here or below.

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News

BDS BENEFIT GALA TO CELEBRATE 20TH ANNIVERSARY ON NOVEMBER 17, 2016

Please join us for our 20th Anniversary Benefit Gala at the landmark Williamsburgh Savings Bank building (Weylin B. Seymour Event Space) located at 175 Broadway in Brooklyn.

Details about our honorees and special guests will be forthcoming. 

Buy tickets online here.

Learn more about sponsorship options here.

For purchases by check, please send payment along with the ticket and sponsorship purchase form to:

Brooklyn Defender Services
Attn: Daniel Ball
180 Livingston Street, Suite 300
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Questions about Brooklyn Defender Services’s Benefit Gala 2016?

Email events@bds.org or call Daniel Ball, BDS Development Associate, at (347) 592-2579.