Site Tools

Current Size: 100%




  • Smith v. Commercial Banking Corporation, Third Circuit decision that firmly established the right for low-income debtors to sue their mortgage companies when their consumer rights were violated.
  • Whitaker v. Phila. Electric Co., Third Circuit holds that bankruptcy debtors are entitled to immediate restoration of utility service without payment of deposit.
  • West v. Brown, Third Circuit holds that public housing utility allowances cannot be used in the calculation of food stamps.
  • Robinson v. Dawes, Third Circuit holds improper the rules which reduce food stamp awards to adult siblings who live together.


  • In re St. Mary's Hospital, Bankruptcy Court prevents closure of community hospital.
  • CLS, representing Tenants Action Group (TAG), is instrumental in passage of City Council ordinance making self help evictions illegal.


  • Mass tax sale by City is stopped; thousands of low-income homeowners get individual payment agreements and save homes.
  • Hendrickson v. PGW, federal court requires PGW to give notice and a hearing in denials of service for reasons other than nonpayment.
  • Bennet v. White, successful litigation and ensuing monitoring results in $6 million of improperly diverted support payments returned by welfare dept. to former welfare recipients.
  • O'Dell v. O'Bannon, District Court order Phila. Dept. of Human Services to provide a range of services for families whose children have been placed in foster care.


  • Suong Phan v. DPW, administrative civil rights complaint leads to the hiring of Vietnamese and Khmer-speaking welfare caseworkers and translation of materials sent to welfare recipients.
  • Harley v. Lyng, federal court requires state to properly issue expedited food stamps to poor persons in exigent situations.
  • Warren v. Hascher, court holds that residents of personal care boarding homes in PA are entitled to the same legal protection as tenants.
  • Fifty residents of Park Residence Nursing Home v. DPW, Commonwealth Court requires, for the first time, that nursing home residents must be given notice prior to changes in their level of care.


  • Mayhew v. Cohen, federal court holds reduction of welfare benefits to collect overpayments unconstitutional without adequate notice and hearing.


  • Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act passed, halting disability purges of the Reagan administration. Law passed in answer to massive litigation strategy, including Kuehner v. Heckler.
  • McCloud v. Saks, federal court order ends landlord/tenant officers' assessment of fees before judicial determination.


  • Lease Purchase Class Actions, CLS sues landlords who offer deceptive lease/purchase or installment sales contract for homes.  Hundreds of tenants obtain titles and repairs to their homes.


  • In Re Sheriff's Sale, court stays sheriff's sales on all Phila. mortgage foreclosures for over a year.  CLS, as counsel to Phila. Unemployment Project (PUP), is instrumental in the establishment of state mortgage foreclosure assistance programs (HEMAP).
  • USA v. Catherine Street Close, federal court enjoins Marshall's sale of subsidized housing in Queen Village, resulting in housing remaining subsidized.
  • James v. O'Bannon, Third Circuit requires the eligibility standard for AFDC supplements for working custodial parents to be based on net, not gross, income.


  • Youngberg v. Romeo, holds that a mentally retarded individual has liberty interests in receiving minimally adequate treatment.
  • PA v. Local 452, federal court order ends racial discrimination against minority operating engineers.
  • Kuehner v. Heckler, Third Circuit enjoins illegal termination of disability benefits; leads to passage of amended statute.
  • Henderson v. PHA, federal court orders hearing prior to termination of Section 8 housing benefits.


  • Shadis v. Beal, federal court reinstates Medical Assistance benefits to elderly and disabled Social Security beneficiaries.  Over $1 million in damages distributed.
  • TAG v. Paulken, federal court vacates decision which denied VISTA refunding for Tenants' Action Group.
  • Doe v. Colautti, class action leads to statewide regulations protecting the confidentiality of mental health information.
  • Business Assoc. of University City v. HUD, Third Circuit upholds building of subsidized housing in University City.


  • CEPA v. SEPTA, court enjoins SEPTA fare increase.


  • The CLS Dependency Unit (now the Family Advocacy Unit) is formed to expand representation of parents fighting to preserve and reunite their families.
  • CLS' Community Reinvestment Act challenges to bank mergers lead to community reinvestment agreements and lifeline bank accounts.
  • Hines v. Pettit, etc, series of cases ends practice of entering judgments in amounts higher than originally sought without notice or hearing.


  • Pugh v. Holmes, CLS assists in obtaining a PA Supreme Court ruling establishing in the common law an implied warranty of habitability in residential leases.
  • Ferrell v. Pierce, Federal court orders HUD to provide housing to homeowners whose mortgages had improperly been foreclosed upon and to operate a national program providing foreclosure relief.


  • Bankruptcy Reform Act is passed by Congress; CLS develops nationally recognized practice in consumer bankruptcy.
  • Davis v. Bucher, Federal Court holds that federally funded employers may not refuse to hire or fire individuals solely on the basis of past drug use.
  • Griffin v. HUD, Third Circuit rules that HUD violated the law in its operation of the rent supplement program in subsidized housing.
  • Finburg v. Sullivan, Third Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down PA rules that allowed creditors to seize consumers bank accounts containing SS benefits without notifying the consumers of any rights they may have, or providing any procedures to promptly return the seized goods.
  • Bolden v. PA State Police, one of the 1st ever race discrimination suits against a state police department. It was a long, bitterly fought case that led to a sweeping victory and integration of the force by African Americans.
  • Cooper v. Califano, court holds portions of Social Security Act unconstitutional because of gender discrimination.
  • Willing v. Mazzocone, PA Supreme Court protects the right of indigents to picket.
  • Vecchione v. Wohlgemuth, federal court enjoins seizure of Social Security benefits from institutionalized people.


  • Fare Hike by SEPTA, for the first time CLS seeks an injunction to prevent the hike.
  • Alexander v. Polk, Third Circuit rules that cutoff of WIC benefits by the Phila. Dept. of Public Health violates due process; damages awarded.
  • Liberty Alliance of the Blind v. Califano, Third Circuit requires payment of Social Security benefits to over 2,000 blind beneficiaries whose rights had been ignored by the Social Security Administration.
  • CLS establishes the Energy Unit to address utility related needs of low-income Phila. residents.


  • Whitman Park public housing project is ordered to be built in the southern tip of Philadelphia; this will be an ongoing and very public project of CLS.
  • Resident Advisory Board v. Mayor Rizzo, federal court finds racial discrimination by the City of Phila, RDA, PHA, and HUD and orders Whitman Park public housing to be built.
  • CLS helps draft PA Protection from Abuse Act, a national model for state domestic violence legislation.
  • Dawes v. Phila. Gas Commission and Koger v. Guarino, federal court holds due process protections apply to water and gas consumers, leading to the appointment of CLS as the Public Advocate before the Gas Commission.


  • Washington Square East litigation, CLS successfully concludes this long litigation with the building of low income units in this urban renewal area.
  • CLS expands and reorganizes into five neighborhood law centers with a main office in Sylvania House.


  • Buckles v. Weinberger, at the outset of the SSI program CLS successfully protects 5,000 disabled Pennsylvanians.


  • Nicholson v. Pittenger, institutes a federally-funded, free school breakfast program.
  • City-wide Coalition Against Childhood Lead Paint Poisoning v. HUD and City of Phila. v. Page, federal court requires de-leading of federally owned properties and public housing units.  Page holds that HUD violated the implied warranty of habitability in the sale of a house that contained lead hazards.
  • Goosby v. Osser, Supreme Court overturns Election Code provisions denying unconvicted pretrial detainees the right to vote.
  • David v. Romney, Third Circuit holds that properties sold under several FHA mortgage insurance programs must comply with local housing codes.


  • Swarb v. Lennox and Fuentes v. Shevin, Supreme Court holds confession of judgment and replevin procedures unconstitutional.
  • Dotson v. Redevelopment Authority, race discrimination litigation results in more low-income housing in Society Hill.


  • CLS helps Congress to adopt nation's first Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention Act.
  • Graham v. Richardson, Supreme Court holds citizenship requirements in welfare programs are unconstitutional.
  • Brown v. Phila. Housing Authority, federal court order establishes grievance procedure process for public housing tenants.


  • Fox v. HUD, attempts to gain housing assistance for racial minorities removed from their former neighborhoods.


  • Gurmankin v. Costanzo, strikes down the Philadelphia School District's bar against employing blind teachers.


  • CLS opens its own small neighborhood offices around the city.
  • Shapiro v. Thompson, welfare residency laws declared unconstitutional because they deny an individual the right to travel.


  • Judge Raymond Pace Alexander, of the Court of Common Pleas, grants CLS' charter over objection.  The new organization places attorneys in existing anti-poverty program offices in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.


  • Law and the War on Poverty in Philadelphia by William R. Klaus is published by the Public Service Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association in response to the growing and overwhelming need for legal services.



To learn more about how you can support our work, please click here.