Homeowners Say NY Courts Defy Law On Foreclosure Aid

By Marco Poggio | June 7, 2023, 4:43 PM EDT ·  

Two Brooklyn homeowners accused New York’s court administrators and justices of the state’s Supreme Court in Brooklyn of failing to implement a state law requiring courts to assess if homeowners who are facing foreclosure and cannot afford an attorney should be given free legal representation, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a proposed class action on behalf of Carl Fanfair and Gloria Antoine, two Black homeowners who are going through foreclosure after falling behind on their mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic

In their class petition, Fanfair and Antoine alleged that the housing court judges dealing with their cases failed to comply with Rule 3408 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, which requires courts to provide additional protections and foreclosure prevention opportunities to homeowners at risk of losing their homes.

Under the rule, which state legislators enacted in the midst of the 2008 foreclosure crisis, judges must, at the beginning of every residential foreclosure case, convene a settlement conference to determine whether the debtor and the creditor can come to a resolution.

If the homeowner appears at the settlement hearing without an attorney, the court should interpret it as a motion to proceed as “a poor person.” In that case, the presiding judge has an obligation to determine whether the homeowner can continue through the foreclosure process unrepresented, or if the court should appoint a lawyer.

But in housing courts in Brooklyn and around the state, courts have failed to implement the rule, the plaintiffs argued in their suit, filed against the New York State Office of Court Administration and Justices Lawrence Knipel and Cenceria P. Edwards in their official capacities.

“When homeowners appear unrepresented at settlement conferences, courts do not deem them to have made poor-person motions and do not determine whether they should be appointed counsel,” the petition says. “Instead, courts press ahead with the proceedings, leaving the homeowners to fend for themselves as they face the loss of their homes.”

The plaintiffs also accused the administrators’ office of flouting Rule 3408’s requirement to provide pro se homeowners notice that they have a right to an appointment-of-counsel determination, and of failing to comply with the state law’s directive to train the court-appointed referees overseeing settlement conferences under the rule.

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the state courts, declined to comment on the suit’s allegations.

“Courts are putting vulnerable families at risk of exploitation and permanent displacement from their homes and communities,” Terry Ding, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement announcing the class action. “Having an attorney can make a significant difference for homeowners facing foreclosure. With this lawsuit, we want to ensure New Yorkers have a fighting chance to save their homes.”

Read the full article from Law360 here.

Artificial Intelligence in Employment Decisions

By Kellie Hand

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the way many businesses operate, and the realm of employment decisions is no exception. AI tools are increasingly being utilized to streamline and automate aspects of the hiring process. For instance, In February 2022, the Society of Human Resources Management found that 79% of employers use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and/or automation for recruiting and hiring. Although AI and automation can significantly reduce bias when implemented correctly, AI algorithms are only as good as the data they are trained on. As a result, if an AI tool incorporates biased information or reflects historical disparities, the AI tool may inadvertently perpetuate those biases, leading to workplace discrimination. 

In October 2021, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Charlotte A. Burrows announced the Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Fairness Initiative, an agency-wide initiative to ensure that the use of software, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other emerging technologies used in hiring and other employment decisions comply with the federal civil rights laws that the EEOC enforces. On May 18, 2023, the EEOC released a technical assistance document, “Assessing Adverse Impact in Software, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence Used in Employment Selection Procedures Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” wherein it affirmed that if an employer administers a selection procedure, it may be responsible under Title VII if the procedure discriminates on a basis prohibited by Title VII, even if the test was developed by an outside vendor. Additionally, employers may be held responsible for the actions of their agents, which may include entities such as software vendors, if the employer has given them authority to act on the employer’s behalf. However, in most cases, it can be impossible for an employee to know whether an employer is using a discriminatory AI selection procedure. 

In 2021, the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (“DCWP” or “Department”) sought to increase transparency by implementing new legislation regarding automated employment decision tools (“AEDT”). Local Law 144 of 2021, which will go into effect on July 5, 2023, “prohibits employers and employment agencies from using an automated employment decision tool unless the tool has been subject to a bias audit within one year of the use of the tool, information about the bias audit is publicly available, and certain notices have been provided to employees or job candidates” who reside in New York City. The law defines an “employment decision” as the act of screening “candidates for employment or employees for promotion within [New York City].” 

A bias audit of an AEDT must calculate the selection rate for each race/ethnicity and sex category (i.e., how often individuals in each race/ethnicity and sex category are chosen by the tool) and compare the selection rates to the most selected category to determine an impact ratio. The impact ratio shows if there is a significant difference in selection rates between groups. A large difference may indicate that the tool is biased.

To comply with the Code, an employer or employment agency may provide notice to a candidate for employment or promotion who resides in New York City by doing any of the following: 

(1) Provide notice on the employment section of its website in a clear and conspicuous manner at least 10 business days before the use of an AEDT; 

(2) Provide notice in a job posting at least 10 business days before use of an AEDT; or 

(3) Provide notice to candidates for employment via U.S. mail or e-mail at least 10 business days before the use of an AEDT. 

Additionally, Local Law 144 requires that employers provide instructions for how an individual can request an alternative selection process or a reasonable accommodation under other laws, if available. 

*It is important to note that while the law covers bias regarding race, ethnicity, and sex, it does NOT apply to older or disabled workers. 

Class Action Lawsuit: Courts Denying Brooklyn Homeowners Facing Foreclosure Opportunity For Legal Representation

BROOKLYN – Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Yolande I. Nicholson, P.C., Mehri & Skalet PLLC, and Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP, filed a class action lawsuit against the Office of Court Administration and justices of the Kings County Supreme Court for failing to implement a state law requiring courts to assess if homeowners who are facing foreclosure and cannot afford an attorney should be appointed free legal representation.

In 2017, homeowners of color in New York City were more than twice as likely to receive pre-foreclosure notices—the first step in foreclosure proceedings.

“Courts are putting vulnerable families at risk of exploitation and permanent displacement from their homes and communities,” said Terry Ding, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Having an attorney can mae a significant difference for homeowners facing foreclosure. With this lawsuit, we want to ensure New Yorkers have a fighting chance to save their homes. Because New Yorkers of color have long been the targets of housing discrimination, including redlining and predatory lending practices, they are overrepresented in foreclosure cases. Enforcing legal protections for homeowners in foreclosure proceedings is a racial justice imperative.”

Read the full article from Black Star News.

VKV Partner Robert Barravecchio recognized for highest level of service by peers

Martindale-Hubbell, part of the Martindale-Avvo family, is proud to announce that the following attorneys have achieved a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating, awarded to only those lawyers who have the highest ethical standards, legal knowledge, and professional ability. This rating signifies a large number of the lawyer’s peers have assessed their professional ability in a specific area of practice via a secure online survey.

Congratulations to the following for garnering the highest honor, the AV Preeminent (alphabetical by last name of attorney):


Mary Clift Abdalla, Attorney at Forman Watkins & Krutz
Reginald W. Abrams, Member at Law Office of Reginald Abrams, Sr., L.L.C.
James P. Alder, Attorney at Alder Law Group


Robert Barravecchio, Partner at Valli Kane & Vagnini, LLP
Michael S. Bender, Member at Kaye Bender Rembaum
James Thomas Bennett, Member at Bennett Law Firm, LLP
Richard Bolger, Managing Member at Bolger Law Firm
Fred Bowers, Principal at Bowers Law Office 
Jonathan Braaten, Attorney at Anderson, Creager & Wittstruck, P.C., L.L.O. 
Brian Britt, Member at Kopesky, Britt & Norton, LLC
W. Mark Broadwell, Partner at Broadwell Law