The October Pro Bono Attorney of the Month recognition goes to Victor Ambrose, a former attorney at Nassau Suffolk Law Services (NSLS), with a long and impressive legal career in public interest law. Mr. Ambrose was a staff attorney and supervisor at (NSLS) for many years before his retirement in 2017. During his tenure, he represented clients in many areas of the law, and now in his pro bono career, he passionately continues this invaluable service by representing clients as an Attorney Emeritus through NSLS and Empire Justice Center in Section 8 (Federal Housing Subsidy) disputes and eviction defenses.
As an experienced litigator, Victor recently took on a Section 8 appeal in Federal Court to assist a mentally disabled tenant who had lost her subsidy and was facing the loss of her Section 8 voucher. Though her chances seemed slim, Victor reviewed her file and determined that the termination notice was defective and the evidence adduced at the hearing was inadequate. The pro bono case became quite complicated after an unsuccessful administrative hearing decision in which the disabled client had appeared pro se, an eviction case was pending. After Ambrose filed an amended complaint, did extensive discovery for the appeal, and involved the NYS Attorney General, and the defendants agreed to enter settlement discussions. The client’s precious Section 8 voucher was ultimately restored and her repayment reduced by half with her housing preserved, well worth Mr. Ambrose’s over 100 hours of volunteer service.
This was not the only time Victor saved his client’s housing and subsidy. It is just one of his many victories in preventing homelessness for needy clients. Throughout his career he took on cases that some attorneys may have considered hopeless, and was often rewarded with positive results. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” is Mr. Ambrose’s favorite quote from Dr. King as he reflected on his Selma to Montgomery March. Ambrose says, “In a small way I have tried to bring some justice to my clients.”
Mr. Ambrose appreciates the opportunity to be part of the Attorney Emeritus Program which was started by former Chief Judge Lippman, to promote volunteer work among retired attorneys. It is administered by the Feerick Center for Social Justice and participating attorneys agree to perform 60 hours of pro bono representation over the course of two years and receive in return CLE credits and a waiver of the biennial registration fee. A graduate of St. John’s University, Ambrose started his career working for the New York City Youth Services Agency. He enjoyed and was inspired by these youths, who faced their many obstacles with intelligence and humor. He recalls that some of these young men died in Vietnam, in the Bushwick streets, and others later succumbed to AIDS. His relationships with them had a deep impact on his life.
Victor attended St. John’s Law School, following in his father’s footsteps. He immediately went to work for NSLS and he immensely enjoyed the work, his clients and his colleagues. His focus was always on landlord tenant law, more specifically Section 8 housing, and he also was employed as attorney staff by the Housing Clinic of Hofstra Law School for several years, where he relished teaching and his intelligent and dedicated students. Mr. Ambrose is highly regarded by his former colleagues. As eloquently extolled by his colleague Michael Wigutow also of NSLS:
Law is his career, but people and society are his interest. Having oft considered becoming a history teacher, he effectively taught colleagues, adversaries and jurists that justice is more than mere deadlines, that laws are not entirely separate and distinct enactments, but part of society’s greater need to consider the disparate patchwork of people who inhabit our world. That he is very funny, and practiced law with much humility, griping not about individuals but ideals, only raises him up, in my estimation even more.
His coworkers at NSLS who had the privilege of working with him, also took advantage of his willingness to share his impressive legal knowledge. Victor was appreciated as the housing expert and frequently consulted with his colleagues regarding their difficult cases. NSLS is always happy to see him when he visits the office and is especially happy when he leaves with a pro bono case!
Victor has a beautiful and talented wife, Linda Halliday, who was formerly an ER nurse in an inner city hospital and then a school nurse in a BOCES high school on Long Island. He has two daughters who take after their mother (according to Victor) in that they are lovely, intelligent, kind and funny. He states he is so grateful to have had these three women in his life.
It is with utmost respect and admiration that we award Mr. Victor Ambrose the distinction of Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.
The Suffolk Pro Bono Project is a joint effort of Nassau Suffolk Law Services, the Suffolk County Bar Association and the Suffolk County Pro Bono Foundation, who, for many years, have joined resources toward the goal of providing free legal assistance to Suffolk County residents who are dealing with economic hardship. Nassau Suffolk Law Services is a non-profit civil legal services agency, providing free legal assistance to Long Islanders, primarily in the areas of benefits advocacy, homelessness prevention (foreclosure and eviction defense), access to health care, and services to special populations such as domestic violence victims, disabled, and adult home resident. The provision of free services is prioritized based on financial need and funding is often inadequate in these areas. Furthermore, there is no funding for the general provision of matrimonial or bankruptcy representation, therefore the demand for pro bono assistance is the greatest in these areas. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Ellen Krakow, Esq. 631 232-2400 x 3323.