Legal Assistance

Occasionally a teacher is sued (for example, by a parent) because of something he or she allegedly did at work. When the New York City Corporation Counsel finds that the teacher broke no rules or laws in carrying out their duties at work, it will provide legal representation to the teacher and, if the teacher is found financially liable, will reimburse the teacher the amount he/she is required to pay.

In order to be entitled to this defense, the teacher must provide to Corporation Counsel a copy of the summons, complaint, notice, demand or pleading within 10 days after the teacher is served with any of these documents and then fully cooperate with Corporation Counsel in their defense. Corporation Counsel may refuse to provide representation until any disciplinary action is resolved and the teacher has been exonerated.

The DOE's Office of General Counsel (it used to be called Office of Legal Services) acts as a go-between for Corporation Counsel to determine if it will provide you with representation. If you are being sued, you must complete a form and give it to your supervisor with the relevant papers. Your principal should obtain the form from the DOE Office of General Counsel. In many instances, you only have 20 days to file an answer to the lawsuit, so you should also contact your district representative about the possibility of a NYSUT attorney obtaining an extension of time for you.

Another situation in which you may be provided representation is if you are facing criminal charges as a result of disciplinary actions taken against a pupil while you were doing your job. You should immediately contact your district representative or UFT borough office for assistance in this situation.

There’s one additional step worth taking. At the same time that you contact the DOE and Corporation Counsel, you should get an application for the NYSUT Legal Defense Fund. Contact the office of the NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer by calling 1-800-342-9810 for the form. If you are fully exonerated of all charges, the fund will reimburse you for up to $25,000 in legal fees.

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