News Release

 

     For Immediate Release                                                                      

    Thursday, June 9, 2005                                                                       

                                                                                              

     Contact:

     Anne Erickson   (518) 588-9729 

    Kristi Hughes    (585) 295-5817  

 

                                    

Two non-profit law firms create Empire Justice Center

 

Greater Upstate Law Project, Public Interest Law Office of Rochester combine forces,
focus on improving public services and legal protections for those who are poor, disabled

 

ROCHESTER, ALBANY, WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., June 9, 2005 — Two leading non-profit law firms officially joined today to form the Empire Justice Center – creating one of the most comprehensive and experienced advocacy organizations working for legal equity in New York State.

The Greater Upstate Law Project (GULP) and Public Interest Law Office of Rochester (PILOR) merged internally on January 1, 2004 creating a new organization, led by Anne Erickson, President/CEO, and Bryan Hetherington, Chief Counsel.  Today, they introduced the organization’s new name and logo.

The Empire Justice Center provides services in three areas: systems change advocacy, training and support to other advocates and organizations, and direct civil legal representation both in individual cases and in significant class actions.

The new organization combines GULP’s expertise in health care, public benefits, disability, housing, domestic violence and immigration law with PILOR’s strengths in consumer law, predatory lending, disability law, civil rights and special education.  The new organization brings together 12 staff members and 20 attorneys in three locations: Albany, Rochester and White Plains.

Erickson served as President and CEO of GULP — founded in 1973 to provide technical assistance and support to the legal services community across the state. GULP was a statewide informational clearinghouse, engaged in legislative and administrative advocacy and undertook major litigation in the often-complex areas of poverty law.

Hetherington was Chief Counsel of PILOR — a non-profit law firm that since 1996 has provided free, civil legal services to low-income people in the Greater Rochester area and has engaged in major litigation with statewide impact.

René H. Reixach, a partner in the Health Care Practice Group of Woods Oviatt Gilman in Rochester, chairs Empire Justice Center’s board of directors.

Noting the leadership role the agencies have played in advocating for greater access to justice in New York, Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein, Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, praised the emergence of the new organization.  “I am confident the new organization will continue to do all they can to improve access to justice in this state and I look forward to working with Empire Justice Center.”

 “I commend the Greater Upstate Law Project and the Public Interest Law Office of Rochester for their continued dedication to making sure that all New Yorkers have equal access to our justice system and the judicial process,” noted State Senator John A. DeFrancisco, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “I congratulate them on their new partnership and I look forward to working with the Empire Justice Center to ensure that all members of our community have the appropriate support and assistance when it comes to pursuing legal matters."

 “We’re excited about our new name and identity, which more clearly define our mission and services and will, ultimately, help raise awareness of what we do for communities across New York state,” Erickson said. “The merger thus far has allowed us to not only better serve a wider range of client interests, but also to offer a much more effective set of solutions to problems than either part of the organization could have offered individually.”

Over the past year, the Board and staff have worked to clarify and reinforce the core principles of the agency. 

  “We are proud to reaffirm our mission to protect and strengthen the legal rights of those in need by engaging in systems change advocacy, providing training and support to other advocates and organizations, and offering high quality direct civil legal representation both in individual cases and in significant class actions.” said Hetherington.

“Empire Justice is a statewide leader in ensuring access to justice for all New Yorkers,” said Reixach, chairman of the Empire Justice Center board.  “I am proud to be a part of this new, dynamic organization.”

      Visit http://www.empirejustice.org/ for more information, including staff and board listings and background information.

 

Cliff Perez M.S.W.
Systems Advocate

Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley Inc.
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