There’s a new kid on the block in the world of serial accessibility demands. It’s not a boy band, its “Legal Justice Advocates.” They’ve been sending demand letters to apartment owners, mortgage lenders and real estate agents claiming to represent an outfit called “Victims Awareness, Inc.” which, they claim, is a “national not-for-profit” with disabled members “throughout the nation.” Victims Awareness, Inc., they claim, uses experienced testers (who are not claimed to be disabled) to check on the accessibility of websites. The firm then sends a demand requiring remediation of unspecified defects and money for the lawyers. After seeing a few of these and getting calls from lawyers who saw more I thought it would be worthwhile to take a longer look at the firm and its supposed client.
It appears that Legal Justice Advocates is less a law firm than a website, for all of its members are in fact partners in other firms. The “managing partner,” Yvette Harrell, is a Florida lawyer whose firm “Law Offices of Y.J. Harrell” is located in Wilton Manors, Florida and handles “Bankruptcy, Business, Family, Immigration, Real Estate.” Ms. Harrell’s office, according to the Florida State Bar, is in this house:
A different online directory puts her office in this building in Wilton Manors:
Two other lawyers listed as “local counsel” are the named partners in Stamoulis & Weinblatt LLC. Two more, listed as “of counsel” are the named partners in Polo Pimentel P.A.. Jerome Ramsaran, listed as “of counsel” is a solo practitioner doing business as the Ramsaran Law Group, and the last, Halina Cegielski, is the owner of the H Law Group according to LinkedIn. What role these lawyers play isn’t clear – all the demand letters I’ve seen came from Ms. Harrell.
The “firm” seems to have been created only a year ago: Its internet domain name was registered in October of 2018. Despite its supposed mission concerning website accessibility the home page of the firm’s website has at least 46 WCAG 2.1 violations, including every kind of violation listed in the demand letters I have seen. Maybe they should send a demand letter to themselves.
Their supposed client, Victims Awareness, Inc. was first incorporated in Delaware in early July of this year. The firm claims Victims Awareness, Inc. is a national non-profit, but it does not appear to be registered to do business in any state other than Delaware and doesn’t have a website or enough presence to show up as an entity when searched for in Google. Delaware public records don’t show who the owners or managers are; it only names the service company that formed the entity and acts as its registered agent. I suspect it was created by Legal Justice Advocates or one of its affiliated lawyers for the sole purpose of sending demand letters.
What does all this mean for someone who gets one of these demand letters? The legal theories on which they are based are dubious, but more importantly it seems very unlikely that there is a person or organization with standing to sue or make a complaint with HUD. The supposed tester is not claimed to be disabled and would not therefore have suffered any injury at all. The organization seems to have been created to litigate and will probably not satisfy the standing requirements for organizational standing. No demand of this kind can be dismissed out of hand, but based on what can be found on the internet today Legal Justice Advocates seems to be in the business of sending form demand letters in hopes of making some easy money. Whether the “firm” can or will follow through on its threats only time will tell.