Three leading civil rights advocacy groups and law firms have announced the approval of a request to distribute $165,000 in residual funds from a 2012 class action lawsuit equally amongst four New York nonprofit agencies – Picture the Homeless, Ali Forney Center, Streetwise & Safe, and the Urban Justice Center Sex Workers Project.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York approved the distribution of funds under the cy pres doctrine, which allows unused funds to be allocated in a manner that benefits the original class members.
The original suit, filed on behalf of 22,000 New Yorkers who had been illegally charged under unconstitutional loitering statutes, required the City to pay out $15 million to affected citizens.
During the 1980s and 1990s, New York State and Federal Courts had struck down such loitering laws, but the New York Police Department (NYPD) persisted in enforcing the defunct statutes in a manner that predominantly impacted racial minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
Under the agreement, the four nonprofits will each receive more than $40,000, which will be applied directly to social services for underserved New York populations.
The three co-counsels – New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, and The Bronx Defenders – released a joint statement praising the Court’s decision.
“These four nonprofits not only serve the homeless, LGBTQ, and other marginalized New Yorkers who were initially impacted by the enforcement of void loitering laws, but will also know how to best use the remaining funds by providing community-centered legal and social services,” the statement read.
“We are delighted that the Court has approved our plan to distribute the remaining funds and look forward to further extending the impact of our original settlement by putting the additional $165,000 to good use.”
The Urban Justice Center Sex Workers Project, one of the nonprofit beneficiaries, also lauded the terms of the distribution settlement.
“The Sex Workers Project is delighted to receive these funds. We will use this money to assist sex workers by providing legal and social services grounded in human rights values, and to continue to advocate that the criminal justice system treat sex workers with dignity and fairness.”