Brookyn Treatment Court
Supportive Services: Civil Legal Needs Initiative

A partnership with South Brooklyn Legal Services and the Brooklyn Law School

An Introduction

Many clients who enter the Brooklyn Treatment Court have civil legal issues that potentially impact their stability in recovery. To address this issue, the Brooklyn Treatment Court has established a community partnership to address client’s civil legal problems. The Brooklyn Treatment Court Civil Legal Needs Initiative (CLNI) built a partnership between the Brooklyn Treatment Court (BTC), The Brooklyn Law School (BLS) and South Brooklyn Legal Services (SBLS), in a groundbreaking cross-disciplinary approach to recovery. This initiative utilizes a Brooklyn Law School Civil Practice Clinic Intern to screen active BTC clients for civil legal problems. Those BTC clients who have civil legal issues frequently present problems in the areas of public assistance, consumer, housing and family law. Clients presenting with a clear civil legal issue are identified to a supervising attorney at SBLS who provides direction to the intern to accumulate additional information or to research legal issues. The supervising attorney at SBLS provides legal advice, suggests a service referral or requests the assignment of specialized counsel to pursue identified legal issues. The CLNI provides a convenient place for clients to voice their concerns and get them resolved.

Why Civil Legal Needs?

The CLNI increases a client’s accountability to the treatment program, removes obstacles to recovery, and increases the likelihood for a lasting, healthy and clean life after the close of treatment. In the initial stages of treatment, the CLNI also provides the client with a reason to persevere through the difficulties of recovery. New clients profit an opportunity to exercise the skills they are learning to achieve real results. Frequently, clients present problems affecting family members. Working with partners in the CLNI gives the clients the opportunity to make amends, rebuild bonds and prove to family and friends that they are making positive steps.

The CLNI removes obstacles to recovery even after exiting the program. Because treatment plans are court-mandated, they contain a discrete end point at which the programs offered under BTC are no longer available to the client. During this period, when the client is rebuilding his or her life without court supervision, civil legal problems that have remained dormant for many years may surface and threaten the sustainability of recovery. Homelessness, substantial debt and/or legal problems within the family can weaken the resolve of even the most successful and strong clients.

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New York State Unified Court System Lady Justice