Fordham Law

Feerick Center Recognizes Manhattan and Bronx CLARO Volunteers

April 23, 2013

The Feerick Center for Social Justice hosted a special recognition and appreciation reception at Fordham Law School on April 23, 2013, for all the attorneys and law student volunteers who served clients during 2012 through the New York State Access to Justice Program, better known by its acronym CLARO (Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office).

The principal speakers at the ceremony were Fordham Law Dean Michael M. Martin, Feerick Center Founder John D. Feerick, and the Honorable Fern A. Fisher, the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts. Among the volunteers recognized were the following:

55 volunteer lawyers in Manhattan
40 volunteer lawyers in the Bronx
20 volunteer lawyer consumer law experts
32 volunteer Fordham Law students
14 volunteer NYU Law students
20 vounteer Feerick Center staff and fellows

CLARO offers legal advice on a limited basis to New Yorkers who are representing themselves in consumer debt cases in the New York State Courts. Open sessions are held every Thursday afternoon in the Bronx and evening in Manhattan to provide assistance to those who cannot afford counsel. Lawyers volunteer their time and expertise to advise litigants in answering questions and in preparing those who request assistance about how to best represent themselves. Consumer law experts are available to provide onsite consultation, and volunteer law students provide administrative and programmatic support.

The Feerick Center helps support the operation of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island CLARO Programs. In Manhattan, along with the Feerick Center, the other partners are the New York County Lawyers Association and Manhattan Legal Services. Fordham Law students also volunteer through a student group that was fostered by the Feerick Center called the Consumer Law Advocates. In the Bronx, in addition to the Feerick Center, the partners include the Bronx County Bar Association, the New York City Bar, Legal Services NYC–Bronx, and the NYU Law School Debtors Rights Project.

Since the launch of the CLARO Programs, volunteers have assisted a remarkable number of consumers. In 2011, Bronx CLARO served 777 unique individuals, Manhattan CLARO served 357 unique individuals, and Staten Island CLARO served 89 unique individuals. Bronx CLARO has served 1,581 unique individuals since its launch in July 2009. Manhattan CLARO has served 1,055 unique individuals since its launch in February 2008. Staten Island CLARO has served 89 unique individuals since its launch in February 2011.

Significant numbers of CLARO visitors return for assistance over multiple sessions. Volunteer attorneys at Bronx CLARO, Manhattan CLARO, and Staten Island CLARO had conducted a total of 3,957 consultations regarding 2,200 consumer debt lawsuits by the end of 2011.

Most CLARO visitors have very low incomes, and a significant number have income exempt from collection. In 2011, just half of visitors who provided information about their source of income were employed, and 24% of visitors received income exempt from debt collection. In 2011, almost half (46%) of visitors reported earning less than $22,000 per year.