Students in EJP represent individual clients at administrative hearings involving public benefits eligibility. These hearings are adversarial evidentiary proceedings at which students present direct testimony and documentary evidence, cross-examine opposing witnesses, make appropriate procedural and substantive objections to adverse evidence, and offer oral and written argument.
Students in EJP also provide legal support to grassroots community groups and campaigns focused on economic justice issues, including workers’ rights and access to housing and public benefits. These projects involve less-traditional forms of lawyering, such as engaging in legislative and policy advocacy and analysis, developing community education trainings and materials, and providing other types of legal work in support of organizing efforts and campaigns.
To undo the damage caused by decades of policy that restricted access to higher education, EJP is part of an extensive outreach campaign to educate CUNY students about local, state, and federal policies and debates, build knowledge around welfare legislation, promote participation in evolving welfare policy, and ensure students know their rights.
In Spring 2014, the New York Legislature enacted a law that – for the first time – allows welfare recipients to meet a substantial part of their “workfare” obligations through studies in four-year college. In collaboration with the Education and Training Taskforce and the Welfare Rights Initiative, EJP drafted the initial version of the law and labored for years to secure its passage. Before this reform, welfare policies in New York all but excluded poor families from four-year college. The adoption of the law opens opportunities for thousands of poor families and, given the link between educational attainment and economic mobility, holds out the possibility of transformative change.