The origins of Northeast New Jersey Legal Services (NNJLS) go back to the 1960s, a time when concerned citizens and legislators realized the need for attorneys to advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves. Staffed largely by private attorneys, many small legal services organizations began to spring up across the country, especially in urban areas which has large populations of people living in poverty. The legal services organizations in Bergen, Hudson and Passaic Counties had their beginnings in this era.
After serving low-income residents in their separate counties for decades, the legal services agencies of the three counties merged in 2003 to become Northeast New Jersey Legal Services. NNJLS is one of the largest providers of free legal assistance in the state, serving a population of great racial, ethnic and socio-economic diversity. NNJLS’ staff of experienced attorneys and support personnel provides free legal assistance to low-income people from all parts of its service area – from the urban centers of Paterson, Jersey City and Hackensack, to the more “rural” areas in northern Bergen and Passaic Counties.
NNJLS focuses on four core areas of civil law – housing, consumer, family and public benefits. These are the areas in which our clients are most likely to develop legal problems which they cannot address by themselves. With experienced attorneys on staff in each office, NNJLS works to ensure that clients do not lose their housing due to eviction or foreclosure; that they are not harassed by debt collectors or victimized by unfair business practices; that they and their families have fair custody and support arrangements in the event of separation or divorce; that they can receive the public benefits and other forms of income support they need to maintain their independence and meet their daily needs.
NNJLS also strives to meet the needs of special populations in the area. Programs have been created to address the legal needs of senior citizens; victims of domestic violence; recent immigrants; residents with HIV/AIDS, the homeless and low-income residents who have federal income tax issues.