Moy, Lillian 2016

Last modified: 2021-01-18 07:55
Storyteller: Moy, Lillian
Interviewer: Houseman, Alan
Date of interview: 2016-05-13
Length: 0:27:03

Topics: American Bar Association (ABA), Civil legal aid: General, Diversity and inclusion, legal aid union, LGBT, NLADA, and SCLAID
Geo, US: GA, MA, and NY
Lists:
Medium: Video
Collection:

NEJL I.D.: NEJL-009.113
Georgetown status: Video upon request
Georgetown notes: summary, bio note, keywords
Link to NEJL page: http://aspace.ll.georgetown.edu/public/repositories/2/archival_objects/381
NEJL AV link:

Video status:
Video notes:

Transcript link: Transcript
Transcript status: DeleteMeSoon
Transcript notes:

Consortium status: Gtn info copied
Consortium notes:

Excerpt:

Executive Director of Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York beginning in 1995. Past Chair of the Civil Policy Group and the Board of the NLADA. Co-convener of the New York Diversity Coalition.



Bibliographic citation:

Abstract: The interview was conducted at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.

Description

Bio note
From https://www.lasnny.org/about/management/:
Lillian M. Moy has been the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York since 1995. She is a 1974 graduate of Hunter College of the City University of New York and a 1981 graduate of Boston University School of Law. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Albany Medical Center and a member of the Governance Committee of the Capital District Pride Center.

Ms. Moy is a nationally recognized leader, writer and trainer in the civil legal aid community. Her particular areas of expertise are leadership development and diversity. Ms. Moy currently serves on the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the Legal Access Job Corps Task Force.

She is past Chair of the Civil Policy Group and the Board of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. Ms. Moy serves as the Chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Attorney Professionalism, and serves on the Nominating Committee, President’s Committee on Access to Justice and the Committee on Legal Aid. Ms. Moy is also co-convener of the New York Diversity Coalition, a group of legal services staff and managers dedicated to raising and resolving diversity issues in the legal aid community.

Ms. Moy has been honored by the National Organization of Legal Services Workers, the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Bar Association of New York, the Schenectady County Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association and the Catholic Charities Housing Office. Most recently, Lillian was the recipient of the New York State Bar Association’s Diversity Trailblazer Award for 2013.

Full text of transcript

Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with
Lillian Moy
Conducted by Alan Houseman
May 13, 2016

Alan Houseman:
This is an oral history of Lillian Moy. She is the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. The interviewer is Alan Houseman for the National Justice Library.

Alan Houseman:
This interview takes place on Friday, May 13, 2016 at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, at the Equal Justice Conference.

Alan Houseman:
Lillian, let’s begin with a brief overview of where you grew up, college, law school, and the jobs you’ve had. Then we’re going to come back and focus on those and your badge volunteering.

Lillian Moy:
So I was born in New York City and I was raised in Queens, New York on the Queens side of the Bronx Whitestone bridge. I’m the daughter of a laundry man, like of course. And I’m a first generation. My dad was an immigrant so I think I am considered first generation, although technically my mother was born in the States.

Lillian Moy:
I went to Hunter College. In my family I was the first kid to venture out of Queens. So it was kind of a big deal. I worked between college and law school as a secretary and I was a member of District 65, one of the first unions that organized in the white collar industries. Then I went to law school at Boston University. I clerked there at Greater Boston Legal Services for … do you remember Bill McNally?

Alan Houseman:
Sure.

Lillian Moy:
So I was right on that edge, right? Meeting some of the early leaders. Then my other clerkship was at Rhode Island Legal Services with Alden Harrington. My first job was at Georgia Legal Services with John Cromartie. Then I became a managing attorney at the Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Mass, now called Community Legal Aid. Then I became the director in Albany in 1995.

Alan Houseman:
What motivated you to go into civil legal aid?

Lillian Moy:
Growing up my father was an owner. His staff belonged to a union. So I understood labor and management early on in a pretty black and white way. I was interested in the labor side. Then, in between college and law school, I was a tenant in a rent strike. So I worked with some of the early tenant organizers in New York City, one very famous. Just like in the tenant organizing world, similar to working for Bill McNally so I had great experiences. At that time I was living as a lesbian and so I was also involved in the really nascent LGBT movement. So I had all these experiences that moved me farther and farther to the left. Then I went to a very run of the mill law school and just wanted to do civil legal aid. I knew I wanted to work on that side. I was in the legal aid clinic, I did the public defender clinic actually. And my public defender friends said, “Civil is what you do after your first heart attack.” But that’s what I chose to do. So yeah. I want to be on the right side. I still want to be on the right side.

Alan Houseman:
What got you to Georgia Legal Services?

Lillian Moy:
Oh, well you know in those days, GLSP was a very big program. They actually came up to BU and they recruited. So Ayers Gardener had a little cocktail party for the BU civil legal services students and recruited me.

Lillian Moy:
I took a Greyhound bus. You could pay $150 and ride wherever you wanted for a week. So I did that and I rode down to Georgia and I interviewed in Macon and Columbus, and I also interviewed in Cleveland. I liked Columbus. So that’s where I went.

Alan Houseman:
What were your accomplishments or how would you describe your experience at Georgia Legal Services?

Lillian Moy:
Well, earlier this morning your questions forced me to look at an older version of my resume. In those days we were generalists. I’m not sure the job that I had exists anymore. I did a little bit of everything. I was a staff attorney and an acting supervisor for about eight years there and I did a little bit of everything — consumer, family. I think I was an okay lawyer. When they think of me at Georgia Legal Services, they don’t say “Snap, wow, she was a really good lawyer.” But I did some good stuff. I worked on a food stamp class action, a prison conditions class action, a minority teacher who failed newly imposed qualification tests. I got her employment. I did the groundwork for a case that held a portion of George’s adoption statute unconstitutional because it failed to give indigent parents a right to show why they didn’t pay the child support. You know, “My guy was in prison.” I probably couldn’t have represented him now, right? But it was a really good program.

Lillian Moy:
I was laid off after my first 18 months by Willie Abrams, who now works at the Legal Services Corporation. As I am very fond of saying, you never forget the ones who lay you off. Then that’s how I ended up in Macon. In the next several years I went on to organize the union at Georgia Legal Services called the Employees Association of Georgia Legal Services Eagles. I’m told that when John Cromartie finally retired (I had already left), his t-shirt said, “I survived many, many things including Lillian Moy.” I remember sitting down with him when we organized the union. He just sort of said, “You know, Lillian. One day you’re going to go back to where you came from and I’m going to have this thing here to deal with.” Which is kind of what happened, right? But the union is still there and I hope and I believe it protects employees and makes for fair dealing in the program.

Alan Houseman:
Just for the record here. When John Cromartie left Georgia Legal Services, what did he do?

Lillian Moy:
I heard that he was called to the ministry. You know, there’s some people said he was doing that when he was the director, too. I mean, he was obviously a very special man. A very special Georgian. And you know the stories about how the GLSP attorneys were at the statewide meeting and got caught smoking pot. John had to run down and get them out of trouble. Well, he never had to do that for me. But you know, I think we developed a grudging respect. I think of him sometimes when I come to these annual meetings. Because the first time I ever went to a national legal services conference, the union flew me to Miami. I spent a lot of time plastering the hotel with stickers that said, “Justice begins at home.” John Cromartie, justice … he was head of NLADA then. So he survived me, right?

Alan Houseman:
Right. So, your next step. You moved back to the northeast, went to Mass.

Lillian Moy:
I did. In those days — Alan, you’ve probably heard these stories a lot. I lived with a man, we worked in the same small rural office. So you know what happened? He started having an affair with someone else. We were in a seven attorney office, right? So then boom, what happens? She goes to Chicago, he goes to New Jersey, and I went to Massachusetts. That’s just what happens in those days when we were young legal aid lawyers. Everything blew up. So then I went to Massachusetts. I looked around at a few other really great programs. I just met a young man from Louisville and I told him that I think all the time, what if I had taken that job instead of going in Massachusetts?

Lillian Moy:
But I went to Massachusetts and that was great. And I had kids. So you always have a certain fondness for the place where had your kids. I was a managing attorney and it was a good job. You know who hired me there? Rusty von Keller. I stayed over at their house during my interview. Nancy was his wife then and she interviewed me at night and I believe signed off on me. Nancy told me then that being a managing attorney was the best job there was in legal services because you had some responsibility but you were not ultimately responsible. So it was a wonderful time for me personally and professionally there.

Alan Houseman:
And what led you to your current job?

Lillian Moy:
Well, it’s funny. I mean, again, my personal life blew up, right? My ex went to Springfield, Massachusetts. We had two small kids. And so one of my goals was to be in driving distance of their father. So I’ll tell you where else I interviewed. I interviewed in Camden. That was a rough place. Intense poverty? And the program at the time was kind of in a shambles. Then there were people who never even called me back. In the Bronx I think I never got a call back. Maybe I interviewed in Hartford. Steve Frazzini was leaving. Alan remembers all of these people, right?

Alan Houseman:
Right.

Lillian Moy:
So my job in Massachusetts was held by Denny Ray. Denny went into the hospital to have a hip replacement. He died. They spent a year searching for his replacement. So yeah, I got to the work finally in February of ’95 and the office had no furniture. Nothing. Some kid who was doing community service had just painted it. So that was nice. But they gave me the opportunity to pick out my own used furniture, which I still have.

Alan Houseman:
Talk a little about what you’ve done at your program.

Lillian Moy:
You have my resume.

Alan Houseman:
I know, but tell me more about it. Let’s give them …

Lillian Moy:
I mean, it was 1995. It was a completely different time. Remember we used to get news from the PAG, the Project Advisory Group hotline, which I understand was an answering machine from Radio Shack. That’s how we would get the news updates about what was happening in Congress.

Lillian Moy:
It was a very small program. Two offices, maybe 30 employees, one and a half million dollars. Within the first year I had lay off five employees. It was 1996. Newt Gingrich became the Speaker. What did Anh Tu say? We were on a “glide path to extinction.”

Alan Houseman:
Right.

Lillian Moy:
Right. So that was the year I became the director and I had to lay off five people. We were a unionized program. So it was really, I think, set by contract, although the employer, I, could choose the job category.

Lillian Moy:
So that’s what happened. I hoped after that never to have to involuntarily lay someone off and I’ve been pretty able to avoid that. I work stuff out when it makes sense and try to basically be on a growth trajectory, which has happened.

Lillian Moy:
We did, I think, a really good job about creating some new programming. I went to a program that had not paid much attention to domestic violence work so I created that work. Previously there was one person who did it and no one else in a program-wide way. I don’t think that was Denny’s forte. So I created that. That’s probably one of my earliest new services that I brought to the program. Also one of the first new things I did was a children’s law project to do special education work for children with disabilities. Then I remember came McKinney-Vento and funding for homeless people from HUD. I was able to capture some of that and really become involved in the community in a way that I don’t think the organization had really been involved before. That’s a lot of what we do now and a lot of what we believe in as well.

Alan Houseman:
You’ve also been very involved in both the New York bar and the American Bar Association in a whole set of issues around legal aid. So let’s talk about some of them. I know you’ve been involved with at least two things in the American Bar Association. But why don’t you talk about-

Lillian Moy:
Sure. With the ABA, it was the language access advisory group that I did first. Then I was on the task force that revised the standards for providers of civil legal aid. Then I became a member of the Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense (SCLAID) and had a great time and I think I did some good work.

Lillian Moy:
I was counseled early on by some of my colleagues that I should try to lay low, not get into the light too much. But I think I was supportive to the community. SCLAID, of course, has a historic and current role in really looking out for both the public defender and civil legal aid community. I worked under Lisa Wood as the chair and she was terrific and I think, oddly, very interested in the criminal defense issues as well as the civil. So that was good.

Lillian Moy:
Then after that I became a member of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono public service, which surprised me. But under Mary Ryan’s chairpersonship, I have had the opportunity to do a lot of fun things. Yesterday, I moderated a panel that talked about attorneys emeritus and the new report. Of course we’re on the inside and trying to make the report as good as possible and trying to make the topic as good as possible. I think it went really well. I mean, we’ll see, right? I haven’t looked at the evaluations.

Alan Houseman:
Lets go back, when you were on the task force to revise the standards. As I recall, you played a pretty significant role in forcing us to face up to language access issues as well as diversity.

Lillian Moy:
That’s true. I mean, I don’t think I had to force anyone to. But I was persistent.

Alan Houseman:
To face up to it.

Lillian Moy:
Yeah. You know what I remembered when I was thinking about it? The open hearing that John Tull ran. He had recruited a whole schedule of witnesses. But so had I. My people sort of slid in and so not all of his people got to do their thing. I’m thinking that that might’ve been when he thought about what it would mean to have me on this committee. I mean it was like that all the way through. Right? So I did involve people speaking about language access. I remember Paul Ahrer, who now works for the Department of Justice, coming to testify and saying that the language access standards were like a old car. We like it, it’s familiar, but it needs some updating. You know, he did a great job. So yes, I would say I was persistent in bringing those issues to attention.

Alan Houseman:
Right. You’ve also been active in the New York bar. Talk a little about some of that and then I want you to focus on the task force to expand actions in civil [ ??].

Lillian Moy:
So the state bar headquarters are in Albany where I live and work. So it’s natural to become involved, but it also was part of my personal and professional interests. I was first active in and then became the chair of a committee that was then called the Committee on Minorities in the Profession. Now it has a slightly sleeker name, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. So we’re working through the issues that people of color, any diverse people, face. It has always been one of my passions.

Lillian Moy:
I’m also a former chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Aid. Of course that is the committee where a lot of providers are gathered and address many issues relevant to legal aid. I also became involved in governance of the state bar. I served on the House of Delegates and then on New York State Bar Association’s Executive Committee. That was great. I had to face down there a number of different controversies about the definition of pro bono. That was probably a very controversial issue in 2005 when it became more active. Then again when I stepped off, the first round being about how do we define pro bono, you know yet another iteration of 6.1. Most recently: are we going to have mandatory reporting of pro bono hours and financial contributions?

Lillian Moy:
And the state bar is a powerful ally in funding at [Anna?]. The state bar leaders in New York participate in the ABA days where civil legal services are among the issues most fervently advocated for. In the days when we tried to speak about overturning the restrictions, the state bar was hot and cold on that, but mostly good when it was timely. I just want to interject in there the period of state planning where the state bar wasn’t yet quite involved in the state planning effort but ultimately came to support the decisions that were made as a result of state planning, which were a reduction in the number of Legal Services Corporation grantees in New York.

Lillian Moy:
Okay. So there it is. The state bar is chugging along. I still believe that it’s very important for civil legal aid lawyers and leaders to be part of your state bar association or your city bar association. People who regularly can advocate for our issues and to some lesser degree maybe even for our client issues. So I spent some good time on state bar. And where did this lead to? At some point when Chief Judge Lippman appointed a task force to expand access to civil legal services, I was asked to join the task force. I think that was 2010 after law day. Earlier that year I’d had a stroke. Not a funny story, but I was at the New York State Bar Association’s annual meeting. So people were very supportive. There was a big question about whether it was going to be so good for my health to join the task force. But I did convince Helaine that I wanted to, that it would be okay. So it’s 2010 and I’m a member of the task force. There’s probably 23 or 24 members appointed by the Chief [Judge Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals]. Helaine Barnett is the chair, the former president of the Legal Services Corporation. Are you going to interview her?

Alan Houseman:
Yes.

Lillian Moy:
So obviously you must do that, right? She’s done a masterful job, of course working very closely with the Chief, in terms of producing each year a report that shows the continuing and urgent need for legal services, the impact of low income people going to court without representation, the burden on the courts and on the judges and on the other litigants.

Lillian Moy:
As you know, we had hearings every year. Throughout the state we’re divided into four judicial departments. In each department we were able to bring a wide variety of witnesses, business leaders, and governmental leaders. Cardinal Dolan got the most press, I think ever. He came in full regalia. It was pretty cool. I mean, I have to say. Just a masterful job of building the case for funding for civil legal aid. Of course each year for the last five, six years, more state funding has been allocated to civil legal services in New York than anywhere else. This year, there is a new chief judge, a new allocation, and a little bit of a dustup about distribution. That’s why I really had to take that call-

Alan Houseman:
Got you.

Lillian Moy:
– and we’ll see what happens. I feel like the new chief judge is equally supportive as Chief Judge Lippman. She’s in a different place though too, right? So I think the new money will still come, but maybe we’ll have to wait a little bit more.

Lillian Moy:
I come to DC for the LSC’s 40th anniversary, or even the White House Access to Justice forum. I go back and I think, this is what we’ve been doing. A little bit more, of course, on a national level here. But really making the case for civil legal services and for funding for civil legal services from a broad range of supporters. So it’s been a remarkable experience.

Alan Houseman:
So you’ve also been very active in the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA).

Lillian Moy:
Yes, I’m an ambassador.

Alan Houseman:
So, can you talk a little bit about that?

Lillian Moy:
So, I’m a former board member and a former chair of the civil policy group. It seems like a long time ago. I also, before that, was a member of the Project Advisory Group. I was a staff representative. My recollection is that some people thought the Project Advisory Group was a little bit more of a democratic organization and NLADA maybe just a little less so. Some of us fought and supported the merger of the two organizations and I think it was a privilege, really, to be part of the merged organization and to work with my colleagues on the civil policy group and on the board. I was on the board that brought Jo-Ann Wallace in as our CEO. So, I feel like that’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Lillian Moy:
Were there disagreements? Yes. At some point I stopped drinking alcohol. So I felt a little bit less able to participate in the resolutions that would take place at the bar at night. But most things still worked out the right way. I was thinking about when I left the board. You know, John Asher did such a beautiful job yesterday remembering Esther Largent. When I left the board, he did me, right? It was pretty nice. I was thinking, “I’m going to have to ask him for the moment when I pass, if he’ll remember me as well.” So I’ve learned a lot from Jo-Ann and from everyone else on the board.

Alan Houseman:
So finally, I want to end with a question. What is your vision for the future of civil legal aid?

Lillian Moy:
You know the issue of diversity that I’ve been most passionate about over the years? I think I finally have everyone in agreement that diversity is needed for us. It’s part of our business case, right? All these years I’d say, “We have to do a better job and look at our internal stuff.” I think finally now across the country, there’s agreement that this is what we have to do in order to better serve our diverse clients and to reach out to diverse members of the communities that should support us. It’s still always an uphill battle. This afternoon I’m going to go to a workshop about improving cultural competence in serving LGBT clients. And that’s still, I think, not the last, but one of the newer frontiers that we continued to struggle with. So my vision is that there is agreement that this is a high priority issue for civil legal aid organizations. Everyone agrees that it’s going to help us do a better job in serving our clients and that it really will.

Alan Houseman:
Finally, do you have anything to add that I missed or didn’t cover?

Lillian Moy:
No, it’s been a very pleasant trip down memory lane. I hope John Cromartie’s okay with this.

Alan Houseman:
Thank you very much.

Lillian Moy:
Thank you, Alan. Thank you.