2023 Annual Report

Defending, Advocating, and Changing in 2023

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A message from our Founder and Executive Director, Lisa Schreibersdorf

2023 marked the 60th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark decision establishing the legal right to counsel for people charged with a crime who cannot afford to hire an attorney. This decision is foundational to our mission of providing meaningful access to representation and advocacy to people facing loss of freedom, family separation and other serious legal harms.

We are thrilled to share the many highlights from the past year that show the incredible impact of our interdisciplinary team of over 500 attorneys, social workers, investigators, and administrative staff.

We continue our fight to not only ensure the best possible legal outcomes for the people we serve, but we also change the systems and laws that contribute to injustice and racial inequity.

As we look ahead in this new year, we know with absolute certainty that our zealous advocacy is far from over. Pre-trial detention continues to disproportionately impact low-income, Black and Brown New Yorkers. The number of people with mental health needs detained in our city jails has increased year after year. Despite these devastating realities, New York State has continued to prioritize incarceration over investments in community-based resources.

We’re demanding meaningful legislative change and calling on Albany to pass critical reforms that would reduce mass incarceration, enhance community safety, and disrupt cycles of destabilization.

While we are grateful for the progress we’ve achieved thus far, each day that we stand beside our clients and bear witness to injustice, we are reminded that our work is not done. Thank you for your steady partnership and commitment to furthering our mission. Your support helps us defend, advocate, and create impactful change for the people we represent. We look forward to doing so much more with you in 2024.

Our Mission

Brooklyn Defender Services is a public defense office whose mission is to provide outstanding representation and advocacy free of cost to people facing loss of freedom, family separation and other serious legal harms by the government. We believe in a client-centered approach and work, in and out of court, to uphold the rights, freedom and dignity of people threatened by unjust, racist and harmful legal systems.

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A message from John Yates, Managing Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

2023 was an important year in BDS’ long-standing effort to embed diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) into the organization and in all the work we do. Since our inception, DEIB values have been at the core of our practice. BDS was founded to fight against structural oppression that disproportionately impacts Black, Brown, and low-income residents of Brooklyn. To do so effectively, diversity in our workforce and a work culture that fosters inclusion and belonging have been integral to our organization’s identity.

DEIB continues to be central to BDS’ work as we expand our capacity to engage and include these principles across our ever-growing organization, internally and externally.

In 2023, I was hired as BDS’ Managing Director of DEIB. I spent my first several weeks meeting with staff from across the organization to inform the development of the 2024-2027 DEIB Strategic Plan. The plan promotes the continued diversity of our workforce, optimizes workplace policies with a DEIB lens, and fosters inclusion and belonging to increase retention.

These goals were created in collaboration with the BDS DEIB Committee, Senior Leadership Team, and various staff members who I met with and serves as a roadmap to follow as we continue to serve and uplift all members of the BDS community.

A Snapshot of 2023

We handled


legal matters in 2023


attorneys, social workers, investigators, advocates, and support staff made up our interdisciplinary staff

Criminal Defense

We defend people accused of crimes in need of an attorney and fight for the best outcome for them. Our staff meet with every client to understand who they are and the charges brought against them. We explore all opportunities to reduce collateral consequences, and advise our clients of their options and we will defend them at trial when needed. To address the unique needs of many of our clients, our criminal defense practice has specialized units that provide targeted services to adolescents, clients with mental illness, victims of trafficking, veterans and clients with overlapping criminal, family court, and immigration issues.

We represented people in


criminal cases


of all criminal defense cases resulted in a violation, Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, or dismissal

Family Defense

We represent parents and caregivers in Brooklyn who are investigated and/or prosecuted by NYC’s Administration for Children's Services (ACS). Our goal is to keep families safely together or reunify families as soon as possible when separation occurs. Our attorneys, social workers and other staff work together to advise, assist and represent parents every step of the way.

We represented


parents and caregivers in ACS investigations and family court proceedings

We assisted


people seeking to seal their record in the New York State Central Register and eliminate obstacles to future employment


We protect the rights of immigrant New Yorkers by defending against ICE detention and deportation, minimizing the negative immigration consequences of criminal and family court charges for non-citizens, and representing immigrants in applications for immigration benefits. We are one of three New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) providers, which specializes in representing people who are detained and facing deportation.

We assessed and advised


people on immigration relief and consequences

We represented


people in deportation defense and affirmative immigration relief matters

Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for connecting me with the greatest immigration lawyer and the whole staff at Brooklyn Defenders who helped me out during my hard times. Today, I received my green card. I am eternally grateful for everything you did for me and my son.
Ms. R.E., Represented by our Criminal Defense and Immigration Units

Civil Justice

We reduce the civil collateral consequences for clients who have had interaction with the criminal legal, family policing or immigration systems. Through legal advocacy in court and with government agencies, we assist people in remaining in their homes, maintaining their public benefits, staying in school, and keeping their job. In 2023, our Civil Justice Practice handled 3,728 cases.

We handled


cases to ensure clients and their children were able to access needed education services

We handled


cases advocating for clients facing barriers to employment due to their legal case

We handled


housing cases fighting for our clients' right to safe, stable housing

We provided


formerly incarcerated people with the resources and support needed to successfully reintegrate into their community

Policy & Advocacy

We work to eliminate and reduce the harmful impacts of the criminal legal, family policing and immigration systems and to expand access to housing, and employment for those impacted by these systems. Working with our practices, we harness the expertise within Brooklyn Defenders and the direct experiences of the people we represent to effect systemic change. Through participation in local, state and national coalitions, legislative advocacy, litigation, community education, and communications strategies, we work to amplify the voices of impacted communities and to change laws that threaten the rights of the people we represent.

  • We called for federal receivership over NYC jails as a step to remedy the violence, neglect, and suffering inflicted on people held in our city jails.
  • Testified at dozens of city and state hearings on issues that directly impact the people we represent.
  • Governor Hochul signed the Parental Equity Act, a bill BDS helped draft and advocate for, into law. By eliminating discriminatory requirements for fathers to protect their legal rights, this law provides fathers whose children were placed into the foster system the opportunity to contest the adoption of their children.
  • The Preserving Family Bonds Act, which would allow a judge to order continued contact between a child and their parent after the termination of parental rights when it is in the best interests of the child, passed the state legislature for the third time.

Civil Rights & Law Reform

The Civil Rights & Law Reform Unit works across practice areas to identify, target, and reform barriers that impede access to justice for the people we represent. Through systemic federal and state litigation on behalf of both individuals and classes of people, we challenge government policies and practices that systematically harm the people we serve.

  • Continued as co-counsel in Agnew v. New York City Department of Correction litigation filed in October 2021 along with The Legal Aid Society and Milbank LLP to ensure those in city jails are provided access to medical care.

  • Filed an amicus brief in Nunez v. City of New York–the federal Southern District of New York litigation opposing the use of force and systemic dysfunction in DOC jails–along with other NYC defender offices and New York University (NYU).

  • Filed an amicus brief in the Second Circuit in Rodriguez v. Mayorkas advocating for the judicial review of denials of visas for victims along with The Legal Aid Society.
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We sued ACS on behalf of Brooklyn mother for violating her constitutional rights

For decades, ACS has targeted, surveilled, and investigated families without any recognition of their rights. In 2023, our Civil Rights & Law Reform team and Family Defense Practice teamed with pro bono law firm Crowell & Moring LLP to sue ACS on behalf of a Brooklyn mother and her young son over the agency's numerous violations of their constitutional rights in its repeated, traumatizing investigations of baseless allegations stemming from anonymous reports.

Pro Bono

Our Pro Bono Unit elevates resources for clients through an expansive network of strategic partnerships with some of New York’s best private law firms. We partner with firms to partner on individual cases, advise our staff or help think through strategic litigation. We also work to educate the private bar to raise awareness of the systemic injustices our clients and communities face every day.

We partnered with 24 firms in 2023.

Arnold & Porter LLP

Cooley LLP

Covington & Burling LLP

Crowell & Moring LLP

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP


Fenwick & West LLP

Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Goodwin Procter LLP

Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP

King & Spalding LLP

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

Linklaters LLP

O'Melveny & Myers LLP

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

Sidley Austin LLP

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP

Vinson & Elkins LLP

Virginia & Ambinder, LLP

Surely the best thing I have been able to do as a lawyer so far.
Pro Bono Associate from Linklaters

Client Services

Our Client Services Program supports clients who visit our Client Services Center and manages the distribution of direct relief items and other material support for clients funded through our Critical Items Fund. Our team provides clients with groceries, household items, clothing, hygiene kits, as well as phones and data plans and other technology needed to remain engaged with their families and attorneys.

Your generous support provided thousands of items to hundreds of clients in crisis in 2023.

Coat Drive

We provided over


essential items to people in 2023.

Board of Directors

Chairman of the Board

Kevin G. Snover, Esq., Law Offices of Kevin Snover


Gregory Cerchione, Esq., Subin Associates, LLP


Cindi Giglio, Esq., Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

Board Members

Andrea Bonina, Esq., Bonina & Bonina, P.C.

Robert J. Gunther, Jr., Esq., WilmerHale

Jeffrey Rona, Ovid Therapeutics

Lisa Schreibersdorf, Esq., Executive Director, Brooklyn Defenders

Jason Starr, Esq., Human Rights Campaign


For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023


Government: $74,640,360

Contributions: $770,222

Special Events: $117,175

Other Income: $455

Net Assets released from restriction: $95,946

Total Revenue: $75,624,158



We rely on the generosity of individuals, foundations, and corporations to fund our critically important civil legal services, social work, and policy and advocacy programs. We are grateful for those who have invested in our mission and our clients in 2023. We look forward to doing so much more in partnership with new and long-standing supporters in 2024.

Show Your Support in 2024


Luckless Philanthropies

Seth Sprague Educational & Charitable Foundation

Jill Siegal Chalsty


Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Carolyn Kubitschek and David Lansner

Sills Family Foundation


Fenwick & West LLP

Robert J. Gunther, Jr., Esq.

The New York Bar Foundation

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP


Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Peggy Farber

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

John N. Blackman, Sr. Foundation

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

O'Melveny & Myers LLP

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

Signature Bank

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Thomson Reuters

The Treeline Companies

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

The Windhover Foundation


Karessa Cain

August Public Inc.


Covington & Burling LLP

Joseph Deasy

DLA Piper

Grace J. Fippinger Foundation

Annette Marcus

The Morrison & Foerster Foundation

Neighbors for Refugees

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation

Winston & Strawn LLP


Sarika Arya

Crowell & Moring LLP

Purva and Samuel B. Cullman

Laurel Durst

Jessica Hu and Jonathan Eddy

Caryn Ganeles

Timothy Howell

Shawn Liu

Metzger-Price Fund, Inc.

Noah Nattell and Katie Schoendorf

Mike Pfeffer

Samuel Raper

Jennavieve and Kent Ratzlaff

Benjamin Silver

Geoffrey Thomas

Marc Waldor and Nancy Long


Alexis Allen

Anonymous (2)

Heather Beaudry

Ryan Birchmeier

Andrew Carlon

Kent Cherny

Cecilia Clarke

Caitlin Coslett and Liz Kukura

Lynn Freedman and David Frankel

Todd Gordon

Monique and Gary Marton

Ryan McClead

Andrew Meyer

Dorothy Roberts

Vivek Sankaran

Mark Schwartz

Christina and Matthew Shenoda

Vanessa Shiu

Bruce Steinberg

Indraneel Sur

David Weinraub

Michael Whang

Michael Wilson


Ellie Abrams

Jody Adams

Grace Adee

Gabriela Alves

Kelsey Antle

Michael Aparicio

Amelia Aretz

Cynthia Assanah

Julie Ball

Jacquelyn Barth

Isabella Basile

Shelley Berken

Eloise Blondiau

Sabrina Bohn

Rebecca Borison

Amitabha Bose

Alexis Boutsikoudis

Daniel and Susan Bronson

Matthew Brown

Kelsey Brown

Eboni Brown

Lorraine Budnick

Kelsey Burke

Chell Burke

Alexandra Cardia

Kai Cash

Ben Cashin

Roomaline Chemaly

Madonna Chernesky

Kelly Cheverko

Maya Chhabra

Eileen Choi

Annie Cleaver

Sam Clegg

Elizabeth Cooper

Talya Cooper

David Cooper Jr.

Christie Cox

Jazmin Cruz

Meghna Das

Sonika Data

Irene Delaney

Bria Delaney

Claudia DeMegret

Olivia Dewey

Isabel Doonan

Kendra Doychak

Richard Duff

Kathleen Duncan

Deb Dworman

Roy R. Eddey

Riley Edwards

Hope Fa-Kaji

Rose Farley

John Feerick

Laura Ferguson

Amelia Field

Allison Fijolek

Fern J. Finkel

Zoe Fleishaker

Jeannine Foran

Sarah Fowler

Nicholas Franklin

Jessica Freedman

Joan Freiman

Ellen Fusco

Philip Genty

Allison Gillingham

Givinga Foundation

Dariya Golubkova

Ana Gonzalez

Barbara Gonzo

Danielle Goodman-Levy

Alice Goodwin-Brown

Samantha Gorelick

Coby Gould

Stephanie Greer

Josh Haggarty

Patricia Halling

Ciara Harper

Amanda Harrington

Darcy Harris

Hadriane Hatfield

Heimbinder Family Foundation

Jonathan Herrera

Anna Hezel

Rita Houlihan

Ian Howland

Ndidika Ignacio

Nafisa Iqbal

Phillip Jackson

Amara Jaeger

Lauren Javaly

Samantha Jeppsen

Carmer Jones

Cat Jordan

Matthew Joyal

Jen Jude

Melanie Kane

Erika Kapin

Alex Karambelas

Susan Kath

Lauren Katzen

Gale Kaufman and Michael Van Biema

Meghan Kaye

Eve Kelley

Cheyenne Kerekes

Whitney Knowlton

Leah Koenig

Kevin Konen

Faran Krentcil

Connor Laudani

Michael Laughlin

Richard Lawrence

Alannah Lejeune

Emily Leopold

Jed Levine

Kara Lewis

Nadine Lieberman

Kait Lynes

Margaret Maguire

Hannah Maka

Mina Makarious

Harsha Marti

Carlen May-Mann

Kierra McBeth

Allison McCarthy

Aurora McGuckin

Amanda McMillon

K. Heather McRay

Mandana Mehrabi

Tyler Melwani

Annette L. Mercer

Lucinda Mercer

Feven Merid

Hazal Mestci

Mercedes Miller

Amy Miller

Laura Mitterman

Victor Modesto

Joshua Multer

Raymond Naughton

Rubaia Neha

Network for Good

James and Elizabeth O'Gara

Gillian Ortiz

Martin O'Toole

Swadesh Pachnanda

Steven Padnick

Rashmi Panday

Christine Parker

Emma Patch

Sabrina Paul

Jose Uri Perez Fernandez

Jules Picuri

Molly Pines

Joel Poch

David Popkin

Aiyana Porter

Marjorie Prophete

Thomas Quick

Raquel Quinones

Wendy and Paul Rapisarda

Aviv Regev

Meredith Rich

Rebecca Robison-Miller

Olivia Russin

Diane Russini

Daniele Sahr

Scott Sakaguchi

Emily Saltman

Michael Sapiro

Sonia Saraiya

Jenny Sawyer

Elena Schaef

Steven Schrader

Kiana Shahidi

Najia Shareef

Melanie Sheehan

Marian Shelley

Meagan Shepherd

Amna Siddiqui

Hannah Siegel

Lucy Silberman

Julia Sloane

Julian Smith

Lucy Solomon

Bailey Sonner

Loretta K. Soules

Jill Stanzler-Katz

Jesse Sternberg

Josephine Stevens

Alice Stevenson

Melinda Suelflow

Mintz Susan

Michael Swain

Robert Sweeney

Ronald J. Tabak

Tracey Thomas

Eric Tondreau

Teline Tran

Shelby Vaculin

Madison Van Buren

Katia Vannoy

Julie Vasady-Kovacs

Tatiana Villa

Michael Wachala

Hilary Ware

Lillian Wege

Sigrid Wendel

Kelli Wessinger

Rachel Wilson

Grace Witherell

Amanda Wong

Charlie J. Wynn

Courtney Yoshimura

Molly Young

Masha Zilberman

Jill Zimmerman

In-kind Contributions


NYC Mammas Give Back

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

Please contact Sabrina Paul, Associate Director of Development, at spaul@bds.org with any questions. Thank you again for supporting our mission!