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Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP played a pivotal role in achieving a resounding court victory for impoverished elderly and disabled immigrant New Yorkers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

  • By: Marlene Halpern
  • Organization: Legal Aid Society

Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP played a pivotal role in achieving a resounding court victory for impoverished elderly and disabled immigrant New Yorkers. The victorious plaintiffs are legal immigrants who are subjected to harsh federal laws which limit their Social Security Disability benefits to seven years. Due to long delays and onerous naturalization requirements, thousands of immigrants were unable to obtain citizenship within this seven year window, and faced precipitous loss of these funds.

In Khrapunskiy v. Doar, the Appellate Division, First Department ruled that New York State must meet this vulnerable population's basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter even if the federal government will not. The appellate court ruled that New York State may not deny benefits to elderly or disabled immigrants whom the State "continues to classify as the needy aged, blind and disabled" … "merely because the federal government, in 1996, chose to deny SSI benefits to [that] particular subgroup." The decision will affect over 7,000 individuals who had lost their federal SSI benefits and who now will regain indispensable subsistence benefits.

The Weil team, led by Richard W. Slack and Idit Froim, worked closely as co-counsel with Jennifer Baum of The Legal Aid Society, New York Legal Assistance Group, and the Empire Justice Center. In a New York Law Journal article dated February 1, 2008 Mr. Slack said of his nonprofit legal services colleagues, "They convinced me that we were dealing with real people who had real issues, and that we could make a difference. So much of what we do is dealing with large corporations. That's important, and I enjoy doing that. Occasionally, though, you like to get down to the human side of litigation." And Ms. Froim, herself a permanent resident from Israel, said she was drawn to the pro bono case due to her personal interest in immigrant issues, in particular refugees who "struggle here in the United States for a better future."

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