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Non-Profit Report: The Empire Justice Center

The Empire Justice Center is a statewide law firm that has protected and strengthened the legal rights of those who are poor, disabled or disenfranchised for more than 30 years. The center accomplishes this through systemic change advocacy, training and support to other advocates and organizations locally and across the state, and high-quality direct civil legal representation.

The center’s work—direct representation and litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy, policy analysis, and technical assistance and training—takes a comprehensive approach to solving the issues that affect low-income families on a daily basis. Last year, this work benefited tens of thousands of New Yorkers, returning to them more than $25.7 million in back awards and settlements. 

Empire Justice Center assists legal services attorneys and other community-based advocates who may be handling heavy caseloads with limited resources. The center provides technical assistance, advice and backup in representation of clients. It is an accredited provider of continuing legal education in New York, using both a live classroom format and online training.

The center also analyzes government policies that affect the access of low-income and disabled people to food, housing, child care, employment, health care, education and full participation in society. It advocates for systemic changes before legislative and administrative bodies—offering testimony before legislative committees, for example.

Its 2013 report, “Don’t Lien on Me: How New York’s Public Assistance Mortgages Undermine Homeownership and Financial Stability,” included a toolkit to help advocates understand how to review lien documents, recognize which benefits should be exempt from the calculations and ensure the local social services district complied with proper accounting prior to imposing the lien. As a result of the report, new provisions were included in the 2014 state budget that will provide notice to homeowners when they sign a lien and an accounting of their debt every two years with instructions on how they can make payments on that debt.

The Creating Assets, Savings & Hope program, a community coalition led by Empire Justice Center and the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc., helps families earning up to $50,000 annually make the most of their money and improve their financial prospects. CASH increases incomes through greater use of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, offers alternatives to predatory lending, and provides financial education, help in repairing credit histories, matched savings and guidance on home ownership. During the 2013 tax season, CASH trained and certified more than 500 volunteers who assisted nearly 13,000 low-income, working families prepare and file their tax returns free of charge.

Empire Justice has offices in Rochester, Albany, Long Island and White Plains. The administrative office is in the Telesca Center for Justice at 1 W. Main St. Anne Erickson, the president and CEO, is based out of the Albany office. The center employs 68 staff members: five management staff, 37 attorneys, nine paralegals, 12 professional staff and five support staff. There are 37 staff members at the Rochester office. The website is empirejustice.org.

Financial record    Year ended Dec. 31, 2014
Revenue    %
Program services    $5,920,834    89
Contributions and grants    $762,885    11
Interest    5,810    Less than 1
Total revenue    $6,689,529    100

Expenses    %
Salaries and benefits    4,379,136    68
Office expenses    288,384    5
Occupancy    255,994    5
Travel    106,574    2
Other    1,410,156    22
Total expenses    $6,440,244    100
Excess (deficiency) of revenue over expenses    $249,285

Board of Directors
Joseph Casion, chairman
Christine Rutigliano, vice chairman
Michael Harren, treasurer
Candice Lucas, secretary
Raymond Brescia
Latonia Early-Hubelbank
John LaFalce
Tom Maligno
David Munro
Edward Premo II
JoAnn Smith
Melanie Wolk

If you are interested in having your group featured in the Non-Profit Report, please contact Lisa Granite at (585) 546-8303, ext. 116, or by email at [email protected]

11/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]

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