The Help Center exists to assist those persons who have received a summons or violation to appear at OATH and do not have a lawyer or representative and will represent themselves.
The Help Center can and will provide legal information but cannot provide legal advice. To put it more simply, the Help Center can tell someone how to do something (legal information) but not what to do (legal advice).
OATH has facilitated the work of five organizations that wanted to do pro bono work at OATH’s Hearings Division. These organizations provide free legal representation on a wide range of cases heard in all parts of the New York State Unified Court System and NYC Civil and Housing Courts. *These organizations are independent and separate from OATH. OATH does not screen the volunteer lawyers from these organizations and OATH does not give these lawyers any special certification or preferential treatment when they appear on cases at the OATH Hearings Division.* Download a flyer about Pro Bono volunteers appearing at OATH.
In 2018, the Volunteer Lawyers Project at the Brooklyn Bar Association approached OATH about wanting to help private homeowners in Brooklyn. A pilot project was launched in late 2018 and involves volunteer lawyers and law students who will represent respondents who have received a Department of Buildings (DOB) summons for alleged violations of DOB rules at their properties. To use this service a respondent needs to own and live in the property where the alleged violations occurred, and the property must be a 1-3 family home. The Volunteer Lawyers Project is making its services available on summonses filed by the DOB that are scheduled to be heard at OATH’s Brooklyn Hearing Office located at 9 Bond Street, 7th Floor.
In 2020, Staten Island Legal Services approached OATH about wanting to assist private homeowners in Staten Island. Certain eligible homeowners without legal assistance in Staten Island who have DOB summonses for one, two, or three-family owner-occupied buildings may request from the Help Center to be considered for pro bono assistance through Staten Island Legal Services. Only certain DOB violations are eligible so respondents should contact OATH’s Help Center to go through an eligibility checklist to determine if the summons they received from the DOB is one that qualifies for free legal representation at the OATH hearing.
In 2021, two additional legal assistance organizations took on pro bono work at OATH handling DOB summonses. NYLAG (New York Legal Assistance Group) now represents eligible homeowners with DOB summonses issued in Queens and in the Bronx. Most recently, the organization VOLS (Volunteers of Legal Service) assumed the role of representing eligible residents with DOB violations issued in Manhattan. With these additions, eligible New Yorkers in all five boroughs with DOB violations can now have access to pro bono services at OATH.
For the last three years the legal organization Mobilization for Justice (MFJ) has handled at OATH’s Hearings Division violations issued citywide by the Taxi & Limousine Commission on behalf of eligible vehicle-for-hire drivers and owners. The services MFJ provides those eligible include not just reduction or dismissal of monetary penalties but also the mitigation or dismissal of points that can affect an operating license.
In 2019, OATH launched its second pro bono pilot program at its Hearings Division. This program involves volunteer lawyers from Mobilization for Justice (MFJ) who will represent certain respondents who have received a TLC summons for alleged violations of TLC rules and regulations. In order to use this service a driver needs to fill out a MFJ questionnaire to see if they qualify. MFJ Lawyers are at the OATH Hearings Office in Long Island City on Thursdays.
For those persons that would like to seek legal advice but may not have the funds to hire a lawyer or representative, please take a look at the websites below. This list is not exhaustive and is provided as an aid.
We expect this list to change over time as we learn of new resources and as others cease to exist.
Law Help NY
Free Legal Answers
NY Legal Assistance Group
Legal Aid Society
City Bar Justice Center
NY County Lawyers Association
Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Program
Bronx County Bar Association
Queens County Bar Association
Urban Justice Center
Mobilization for Justice