Brooklyn Defenders' Pro Bono Unit: Spring Update

Brooklyn Defenders’ Pro Bono unit has had a successful start to Spring 2024. In March 2024, BDS partnered with Simpson Thacher & Barlett LLP to provide imperative SCR support to Family Defense clients impacted by the family regulation system. Volunteers from Simpson Thacher were educated on the harmful implications of system involvement for parents, children, and caregivers, and were then trained to best support our clients in navigating their SCR cases. Simpson’s incredible volunteers successfully assisted 6 Family Defense clients in their effort to remove their names from the State Central Register. We could not be more grateful for their dedication and support.

In addition to their work with our Family Defense practice, Simpson Thacher & Barlett LLP continues to be a valuable partner to our New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (“NYIFUP”) and our Immigrant Community Action Project (“ICAP”) Immigration teams. People seeking asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (CAT) protection are responsible for demonstrating that they have an objectively reasonable fear of future persecution if returned to their country of origin through a document known as a “country conditions report.” These reports are essential to securing our immigration client’s security in the United States. Volunteers from Simpson Thacher have completed over 8 country conditions reports since the start of 2024.

On April 3rd, 2024, BDS partnered with Start Small Think Big and Cleary Gottlieb to host Session One of the Small Business Academy. The Small Business Academy is a joint pro bono effort that seeks to provide aspiring entrepreneurs and current small business owners with legal tools and resources to best support their business' growth and advancement in the community. In Session One, presenters from Cleary provided attendees with a high-level informational overview on the nuts and bolts of small business ownership and development. Session Two of the Small Business Academy will be held virtually on May 23rd, 2024. Volunteers from Cleary will present on the legalities of commercial leasing and real estate, followed by a Q&A, and time reserved for individual consultations between attendees and volunteers. The Small Business Academy is an important first step in addressing the resource gap our clients and their communities face while developing small businesses, and we look forward to seeing what we can all accomplish together.

On April 15th, 2024, Brooklyn Defender Services, Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of incarcerated New Yorkers against the New York City Department of Correction (“DOC”) seeking to end its unlawful mass surveillance. This lawsuit is a result of the DOC’s unlawful recording of thousands of privileged telephone conversations between people in DOC custody and their defense attorneys. After illegally recording these telephone calls, DOC then disseminated the illicit recordings to prosecutors and law enforcement. “What DOC is doing is wrong. DOC has violated its own rules, New York and federal law, and the constitutional rights of New Yorkers,” said Rishi Zutshi, a Litigation Partner at Cleary Gottlieb. “Through this lawsuit, our clients are asking the court to order DOC to stop its illegal recording practices, to end New York City’s relationship with Securus, and to appoint a monitor to ensure that DOC follows the law.” For more information on the lawsuit, read the complaint here.

There are many opportunities to collaborate with our staff on pro bono projects ranging from research to complex litigation to short-term projects. We rely on these partnerships to advance the mission of Brooklyn Defender Services. If your law firm is interested in collaborating with Brooklyn Defenders Pro Bono Unit, please contact Molly Meltzer, Director of Pro Bono, at

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