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



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 nearly 40,000 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.


  • Criminal Defense

  • Family Defense

  • Immigration

  • Civil Justice

  • Special Projects


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


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.


BDS opened its doors in 1996 as the first borough-specific public defender office in New York City, with 38 employees working around donated conference room tables out of office space recently vacated by the New York Telephone Co. That first year we lived rent-free, while the building was being renovated around us, and handled 10,000 cases.

Today, BDS is one of the largest defender offices in the country, representing tens of thousands of clients in criminal, family, immigration and civil cases annually. Our staff of 300 includes 180 attorneys and 120 social workers, investigators, paralegals, re-entry specialists, jail liaisons, community organizers and policy specialists as well as dedicated advocates for youth, veterans and parents. Our specialized defense approach allows us to provide targeted services for clients with mental illness or developmental disabilities, adolescent clients, trafficking victims and veterans.



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.


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




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.



Brooklyn Defender Services seeks a highly motivated and energetic litigation support assistant who works well with colleagues, can multi-task and is comfortable in a very fast-paced environment.

See idealist.org for the full job posting. 


Brooklyn Defender Services seeks highly motivated and energetic paralegals who work well in a team, are able to multi- task and are comfortable in a very fast-paced environment.

See idealist.org for the full job posting. 


Brooklyn Defender Services is actively recruiting trial attorneys to join its Criminal Defense Practice.  We are seeking applicants who will graduate from law school in the spring of 2017 as well as those with experience as a practicing attorney.  Strong preference will be given to those applicants who have a demonstrated commitment to criminal defense.

To apply:  Submit resume and statement of interest to attorneypositions@bds.org.

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


We seek both newer and more experienced immigration attorneys with relevant experience to join our Immigration Practice.

See full posting on idealist.org.


BDS seeks an energetic social worker to become an integral part of the criminal defense team to advocate for clients, both in and out of court.

See full posting on idealist.org.


Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) seeks a full-time Haitian Creole-Speaking Paralegal/Legal Assistant to work with our Immigrant Youth and Communities Project.

See full job posting on idealist.org. 


BDS seeks an experienced, qualified human resource professional to guide, manage, and direct the provision of HR services and policies so that they are aligned with overall organizational goals.

See idealist.org for full job posting.


Brooklyn Defender Services seeks to hire a Staff Attorney to join our Family Defense Practice.

See full job posting on Idealist.


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.


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.


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.


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.  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 Brenda Duman (bduman@bds.org) and Sophia Rivero (srivero@bds.org) with the subject “Investigative Assistant Application.” Please specify which cycle you are applying to work for and if you will be working full or part time (e.g., 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.



February 13, 2017

BDS’ Yung-Mi Lee Testifies Before the New York City Council in Support of #FairFares for Low-Income New Yorkers (PDF )

February 9, 2017

Memo of Support of A4880 (Blake), An Act to Amend the Insurance Law, in Relation to Charitable Bail Organizations (PDF )

February 6, 2017

BDS Executive Director Lisa Schreibersdorf Testifies before the State Senate Public Hearing on Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility (PDF )

January 19, 2017

BDS’s Andrea Nieves Testifies before the New York City Council Committee on Courts and Legal Services and Committee on Juvenile Justice On Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility and Calling for the Creation of Specialized Adolescent  Courts (PDF )

January 11, 2017

Joint Letter from Public Defenders and Civil Rights Organizations to NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito calling for a Vote and Passage of the Right to Know Act (PDF )

Read more on the Right to Know Act

December 22, 2016

BDS Letter to Governor Cuomo Provides Concrete Steps that New York Can Take to Protect Immigrants from Mass Deportation (PDF )

December 20, 2016

BDS Family Defense Social Work Supervisor Kaela Economos and Education & Employment Supervising Attorney Keren Farkas Submit Comments to the New York City Department of Education on Proposed Amendments to Chancellor’s Regulations A-210 & A-750 (PDF )

December 19, 2016

BDS’ Jared Chausow Testifies Before MTA Fare Hike Hearing on the Need to End the Criminalization of Poverty in Fare Evasion Enforcement and Reinvest Resources in Fare Assistance (PDF )

December 14, 2016

BDS Family Defense Social Work Supervisor Kaela Economos Testifies Before the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare on Preventive Services (PDF )

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


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.



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.


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.





BDS staff were on the ground at JFK airport all weekend, some going through the night without sleep, to stop the deportation of innocent travelers arriving from seven countries targeted by the recent executive order on immigration. Chaos and heartbreak erupted at the airport as passengers were refused entry after they had landed. Hundreds of people were detained by immigration officials simply because of their country of origin despite the fact that many were Lawful Permanent Residents with green cards and all had proper travel documents.

In an awesome display of organized legal resistance, attorneys, law students and immigration advocates from a dozen organizations and local law schools identified passengers by talking to families in the airport and filing writs of habeas corpus for each passenger. BDS attorneys Talia Peleg, Molly Lauterback, Maria Romani, Andrea Saenz, Nyasa Hickey, Zoey Jones, Bridget Kessler, Ellen Pachnanda, Alexandra Tawfik, Dorothy Hughes, and paralegal Brittany Castle put in long hours at JFK airport on Saturday and Sunday, advising family members and drafting Writs. At the same time, Policy and Advocacy team members Scott Hechinger and Jared Chausow supported our immigration team inside and outside the Eastern District of New York federal courtroom in Brooklyn throughout Saturday evening, keeping the office and public abreast of ongoing developments. Even after Federal Judge Donnelly ordered a stay of the Executive Order on Saturday, many passengers were still being detained. Our staff, already experienced in filing these Writs, wrote up papers, helped volunteer attorneys prepare documents and supported families waiting for news for days.

When all was said and done, BDS was instrumental in assisting three clients, Hamidyah Al Saeedi of Iraq and Zabihollah and Mahmood Zarepisheh of Iran, to finally reunite with their families at JFK Terminal 4 after more than thirty hours in detention. Their harrowing stories are chronicled in the New York Times here.

Dozens of BDS staff attended protests at JFK Airport, at the Cadman Plaza Federal Courthouse where the stay was argued, and in Battery Park the following day, all of which were instrumental in helping the legal advocacy efforts and showing the world that Americans stand for fairness. Thousands of people stood up to show that New Yorkers vehemently oppose this Executive Order. Crowds in airports throughout the country and around the world were critical in pressuring DHS to release the dozens of people detained at JFK’s Terminal 4 and other international terminals across the U.S. BDS is proud to stand with city and state elected officials, organizations and individuals that joined the protests citywide to show support for legal documented immigrants to travel to the United States.

Events of the past week have shown us that the legal landscape we operate within can shift very quickly. BDS has set up an emergency response fund that will enable us to remain available and decisive in these uncertain times to do what we do best: defend our clients’ rights in court. Click here to contribute.

Follow us on Twitter for live updates.



Happy holidays from Brooklyn Defender Services!

Our wish for you this winter is to help us keep our clients detained on Rikers Island warm.

We have created an Amazon Wishlist of the items that our detained clients need the most to make it through the winter. Please click on this link to our Amazon Wishlist to purchase socks, long underwear, and other much-needed essentials that we will deliver directly to our clients in Rikers this holiday season.

Why are we doing this? Thousands of people are detained on Rikers Island, and when temperatures dip they have no heat in their cells, are wearing paper-thin uniforms (often short-sleeved) and have one thin blanket to shield them from the cold.

In this time of giving, please consider helping some of our clients who are most in need.

If you have any questions, please contact Daniel Ball at dball@bds.org or (347) 592-2579.



Please consider calling Governor Cuomo’s office at (518) 474-8390 TODAY to politely urge him to sign the gravity knife reform bill (A9042A).

It only takes a minute and it makes a real difference. You’ll simply say your name, tell them you’re a New Yorker, and urge the Governor to sign the gravity knife reform bill to end the racist criminalization of working New Yorkers for carrying their tools. 




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.