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NYLAG’s Danielle Tarantolo Receives NYCBA 2024 Legal Services Award

Tarantolo’s litigation work has directly impacted millions of people experiencing poverty in New York City and across the United States.

NEW YORK, NY – Danielle Tarantolo, Director of the New York Legal Assistance Group’s (NYLAG) Special Litigation Unit, received the New York City Bar Association’s 2024 Legal Services Award on Monday at the Bar’s midtown Manhattan headquarters. 

“Danielle’s legal expertise is only matched by her kindness and generosity, and importantly sets NYLAG apart in our capacity to make critical progress in our mission for racial, economic, and social justice,” said NYLAG President & CEO Lisa Rivera. “Her work yields far-reaching results to combat injustices across our systems and institutions, all on behalf of those most vulnerable to their failures and subsequent harm. A top-tier litigator and gracious leader to her team, I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition than Danielle.”  

NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit (SLU) uses impact litigation to redress systemic harms impacting New Yorkers in poverty or crisis. In her thirteen years working at NYLAG, including the past seven leading SLU, Tarantolo has led both lawsuits and pre-litigation advocacy across all the areas in which NYLAG practices, partnering with colleagues in our direct legal services units to benefit far more individuals without access to justice in New York City and nationwide. 

“I’m incredibly grateful for this recognition from the New York City Bar Association, and for the nominations from my colleagues,” said Danielle Tarantolo, Director of NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit. “Every practice area at NYLAG is doing vital work every day, directly partnering with our clients to address their immediate needs. It is my team‘s honor to partner with them to amplify that work—so that we can secure justice for hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people. These efforts help further NYLAG’s critical mission of moving towards a more racially, economically, and socially just city, state, and country.” 

Some of Tarantolo’s impact litigation work includes the following cases: 

  • Ershteyn v. Berryhill, No. 18 Civ. 4872 (E.D.N.Y.) came out of NYLAG’s Disability Advocacy Project, which serves SSI recipients in New York City, noticing a systemic problem at the Social Security Administration which, for years, regularly led to wrongful denials during the four months per year that SSI benefits are paid a day or two early because the first of the month falls on a weekend or holiday. When this problem was brought to Tarantolo’s attention, she immediately sprang into action, developing and filing a nationwide class action lawsuit, then tenaciously pushing SSA to fix the problem. As a result of the settlement her team reached in the case, SSA made critical changes to its computer system—helping not only NYLAG’s clients here in New York City but all 8 million SSI recipients from further errors. 
  • Campos v. Kijakazi, 21 Civ. 5143 (E.D.N.Y.) challenged unfair pandemic-era practices by the agency. Tarantolo’s dedicated efforts helped secure a settlement providing automatic remedies to nearly a quarter million SSI recipients, who will have at least tens of millions of back benefits credited to their accounts without having to take any action, and needed relief to nearly 2 million more SSI recipients. 
  • In Colaj v. Roberts, Index No. 452243/2017 (N.Y. Cty. Sup. Ct.), Tarantolo’s team successfully challenged New York State’s official policy of denying asylum applicants with work authorization Safety Net Assistance, crucial benefits recipients rely upon for shelter, food, and basic utilities. The team then parlayed that victory into further eligibility expansions, for other categories of immigrants, through non-litigation advocacy. In Shakhnes v. Proud, 11-2003 (2d Cir.), 06 Civ. 4778 (S.D.N.Y.), her efforts helped successfully defend on appeal an award of summary judgment to a statewide class of recipients of Medicaid-funded home health services who had suffered unlawful administrative hearing delays. And in 2022, she led a team demanding that the New York City Housing Authority stop sending notices that erroneously told Section 8 voucher recipients that their subsidies would be terminated, helping tens of thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers stay in their homes. 
  • Tarantolo’s case Mayfield v. Asta Funding, 14 Civ. 2591 (S.D.N.Y.), arose after a NYLAG consumer attorney referred a number of clients who had been sued in New York City Civil Court on questionable AT&T wireless debts. Tarantolo worked tirelessly to identify the bad actors, conduct factual and legal research, and develop this case, which challenged a debt buyer and debt collection law firm’s practice of suing tens of thousands of consumers using robosigned documents and without adequate documentation or review. After years of litigation, Tarantolo and the team secured a settlement providing nearly $4 million in monetary relief and injunctive relief that protected New York City consumers from millions of dollars of further collections. Tarantolo was in many respects the driving force behind this multi-year litigation, coordinating every aspect with creativity, tenacity, collaboration, and good judgment. 
  • Tarantolo’s additional consumer protection cases include Williams v. Equitable Acceptance Corp., 18 Civ. 7527 (S.D.N.Y.), which challenged the business practices of a network of student loan debt relief scam companies; Dupres v. Houslanger, 19 Civ. 6691 (E.D.N.Y.), which asserted claims of improper debt collection against a law firm that had victimized New York City consumers for years; and Burks v. Gotham Process, 20 Civ. 1001 (E.D.N.Y.), which challenged widespread sewer service by two New York City-based process servers. These three cases collectively resulted in over $2 million in money damages and millions of dollars worth of stopped collections, for nearly 85,000 consumers. 
  • Tarantolo is lead counsel in the ongoing case, JSM v. New York City Department of Education, No. 20 Civ. 705 (E.D.N.Y.), and previously led a litigation team in M.W. v. Achievement First, 15 Civ. 6342 (E.D.N.Y). In both cases, she has stood up for the rights of thousands of New York City schoolchildren with disabilities to ensure they get the special education rights to which they are entitled under the law. 

 

Per the New York City Bar Association, the Legal Services Awards recognize the efforts of those “providing free legal services to disenfranchised clients on a full-time basis for an extended period of time.” 

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