National Center for Law and Economic Justice

NCLEJ works to advance the cause of economic justice for low-income families, individuals, and communities, using groundbreaking impact litigation, policy advocacy, and support for grassroots organizing. Because poverty disproportionately impacts communities of color and families headed by women, the Center applies this strategy to advance racial, immigrant, and gender justice. NCLEJ believes that this nation should ensure that all have access to the means to meet basic human needs and that all people are guaranteed an equal opportunity to participate. NCLEJ addresses a broad range of issues that impact low-income families. Our work focuses primarily, but not exclusively on preserving and maintaining access to government benefits; protecting and securing the rights of low-wage workers; combatting unlawful debt collection; and advocating for persons with disabilities. NCLEJ’s staff of award-winning experienced lawyers multiplies its impact by collaborating with major law firms and with civil rights, civil liberties, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights organizations.

NCLEJ was founded in 1965, in the heyday of the civil rights movement. From the very start, NCLEJ staff joined with southern civil rights lawyers in landmark cases, worked with community-based organizations around the country, won ground-breaking victories in the courts, and achieved major reforms in legislation and agency policies and practices. Through these early successes, NCLEJ demonstrated that the law can be a powerful instrument for improving the lives of the most disadvantaged members of our society. NCLEJ has guaranteed access to benefits for hundreds of thousands of people providing a baseline of economic security to help stabilize low-income families and individuals, holding agencies accountable to comply with the law, and safeguarding important legal and constitutional rights.

THE CASE: The Barbara McDowell Foundation is generously helping to fund NCLEJ’s class action law suit, Black Love Resists et al v. City of Buffalo et al., which challenges the Buffalo Police Department’s systematic and unlawful targeting of communities of color and the City of Buffalo's aggressive, punitive traffic enforcement resulting in millions of dollars in ticket revenues on the backs of low-income drivers. Moreover, these are many of the same practices and policies that lead to community unrest in places like Ferguson, Missouri. NCLEJ and co-counsel brought the action on behalf of thousands of individuals as well as the organization Black Love Resists in the Rust, whose members have been harmed by the Checkpoints program. Since 2012, the Buffalo Police Department has conducted thousands of constitutionally impermissible “traffic safety” stops. The checkpoints were placed overwhelmingly in Black and Latinx neighborhoods, and police officers were issuing excessive traffic summons to increase city revenue. 91.4% of all check points were in majority Black or Latinx census tracts, and race was a driving factor in the location of these checkpoints.

The lawsuit aims to stop these discriminatory policing practices that have subjected communities of color in Buffalo to both unreasonable intrusion and relentless revenue harvesting through unfair ticketing, towing, suspensions, and arrests. This case arises at the intersection of two of NCLEJ”s ongoing areas of litigation focus- racial justice and unfair and abusive debt collection practices.

Contact Person: Claudia Wilner, wilner@nclej.org, 212-633-6967