Nassau Suffolk Law Services’ Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and the Nassau County Bar Association (NCBA) are pleased to honor John Bermingham as our most recent Pro Bono Attorney of the Month. This month’s award recognizes an attorney who has displayed tremendous long-term dedication to the clients he represents in Landlord-Tenant Court through the VLP’s Attorney of the Day Project. Since 2014, Mr. Bermingham has assisted 43 needy clients, volunteering more than 60 hours of his time this past year. His representation has allowed many tenants to remain in their residences, avoiding eviction and possible homelessness.
Mr. Bermingham, a California native, graduated from UCLA in 1968. After serving in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps, he worked for a short while as a probation officer. He then headed to St John’s School of Law, graduating in 1975. He is admitted to practice in New York, the US District Courts of the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, and the Court of Federal Claims. Mr. Bermingham is also fluent in Spanish, which he learned while working in Costa Rica. In addition to volunteering for the VLP, he happily assists Spanish-speaking clients at the NCBA Mortgage Foreclosure Clinic.
John Bermingham retired in 2014 from a rewarding and varied 39 - year legal career. After first working for several years at a large Wall Street firm, and later as in-house counsel to Siemens Corporation, Mr. Bermingham ultimately hung out this own shingle on Long Island, with wife Linda as his office manager. He eventually dedicated a significant portion of his practice to criminal law. He is now designated as an Attorney Emeritus through the Office of Court Administration.
The first time Mr. Bermingham volunteered for the Attorney of the Day Project was back in the 1990’s; his goal to help those less fortunate. He later took a hiatus in 2006, when he moved his office to Brooklyn and wrote the book, Ten Percent Can’t be Saved, based upon his experiences in criminal law. When he retired and moved back to Long Island in 2014, Mr. Bermingham enthusiastically reaffirmed his commitment to the VLP, relishing the opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of those less fortunate.
Mr. Bermingham encourages more attorneys to provide pro bono legal service to help those who cannot afford legal counsel. “There is almost always a satisfactory outcome, a chance to do some good. Clients facing eviction are often lost, not knowing which way to turn. It is very traumatic and bewildering to be hauled into court. The client may have recently lost their job, or been sick. They need someone to talk to the landlord on their behalf to solve the problem. The client needs a zealous advocate to convince the landlord to make needed repairs, or to obtain more time for them to find alternate housing if they no longer can pay the rent. It’s incredibly rewarding to be that advocate.”
"I'm particularly proud of the way VLP attorneys stand up for their clients against aggressive landlords. There is no backing down”, he remarks. Mr. Bermingham credits Roberta D. Scoll, the Coordinating Attorney for the VLP Landlord/Tenant Attorney of the Day Program, with providing excellent training to attorneys. He also is impressed how well the VLP connects clients with outside agencies to further assist them in their housing needs.
According to Roberta Scoll, "we are very fortunate to have John as a volunteer. His enthusiasm and calming presence play such an important role while advocating on behalf of our clients. He truly puts his all into every matter he handles."
Mr. Bermingham is best known to the VLP for his passionate advocacy and long-term dedication to assisting clients with their landlord tenant disputes. His commitment to helping Nassau County resident obtain access to justice is indeed admirable; thus we are very proud to honor him as Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.
The Volunteer Lawyers Project is a joint effort of Nassau Suffolk Law Services and the Nassau County Bar Association, who, for many years, have joined resources toward the goal of providing free legal assistance to Nassau County residents who are dealing with economic hardship. Nassau Suffolk Law Services is a non profit civil legal services agency, receiving federal, state and local funding to provide 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 residents. 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, guardianship or bankruptcy representation, therefore the demand for pro bono assistance is the greatest in these areas. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Susan Biller, Esq. 516-292-8100, ext. 3136.