Mental Hygiene Legal Service
41 Madison Avenue
The Mental Hygiene Legal Service is the oldest legal advocacy program for the institutionalized mentally disabled in the U.S. Since its creation by statute in 1964, MHLS has served as the watchdog of the rights of the institutionalized mentally disabled in New York and has been recognized by the courts as essential to the state’s statutory “protective shield of checks and balances” governing the admission, transfer and retention of psychiatric patients. In addition to on-site advocacy, which includes representing patients in court hearings on treatment over objection, transfer and retention, MHLS serves as counsel for all individuals subject to petitions for court-ordered outpatient psychiatric treatment. MHLS’s fieldwork generates a busy motion and appeals practice, including constitutional litigation, class actions, and writs of habeas corpus in State and Federal Court. The agency has also brought, and continues to bring, significant litigation on behalf of both individual clients and classes. In the past year, the agency has also been mandated to represent convicted sex offenders in post-prison civil commitment proceedings under the recently enacted Article 10 of the Mental Hygiene Law, which has led to several appeals argued in front of the New York Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court.