On October 25, 2023, Davis Polk was honored at the 2023 New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) Pro Bono Awards with the Champion of Justice Award, the program’s highest honor, in recognition of the firm’s work in Josefina S. v. The City of New York.

For this matter, NYLAG and Davis Polk worked together to bring a class action suit against the City of New York’s Administration for Children Services (ACS) on behalf of a putative class of parents with actual or perceived intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, who have been or will be investigated by ACS. The suit alleged that ACS discriminated against those parents and failed to provide them with reasonable services or accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. After nearly six years of litigation – which involved the review of over 100,000 pages in discovery and five depositions of ACS employees – we successfully negotiated a settlement agreement, which received preliminary approval on September 22, 2023. The settlement includes a number of mechanisms designed to improve outcomes for parents with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who are involved with the child welfare system, including training, specialized protocols for handling of cases involving parents with actual or perceived disabilities, improved oversight, involvement of ACS specialists and an individual relief process.

Reflecting on this case, Chief Pro Bono Counsel Amelia Starr said, “We are honored to be recognized by NYLAG for our representation of parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After years of work with NYLAG and negotiations with the City, we have reached a settlement that we hope will bring about positive, demonstrable change for families in their interactions with ACS – both for parents with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their children.”

The Davis Polk team included Chief Pro Bono counsel Amelia Starr, senior counsel Sharon Katz, counsel Jim Windels and Head of Pro Bono Litigation Dara Sheinfeld, associates Stephanie Hansen, Jonathan Huberman, Michael Kucharski, Tess Liegeois, Meredith Manning and Charlotte Savino, and former associates Adrienne Adkins, Iris Hsiao, Brooke Kettler, Clara Kim, Alexa Lutchen, Cindy McNair, Benjamin Wasserman, Katie Trionfetti Wolfgang and Brett Workman.

Learn more about Davis Polk’s Pro Bono program.