National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy
Cliff Zucker, J.D.
Cliff Zucker is General Counsel and Legal Director for Disability Rights New York, the state’s designated Protection and Advocacy System for people with disabilities. DRNY's mission is to protect and advance the rights of adults and children with disabilities so that they can freely exercise their own life choices, enforce their rights, and fully participate in their community life..
From 1989 through May 2013, he was the founding Executive Director of Disability Advocates, Inc. Under his leadership, DAI was in the forefront of legal battles to establish and enforce the rights of persons with disabilities. Cliff has played a key role in the litigation of several landmark disability rights cases. Most recently, the Federal District Court's ruling in DAI v. Paterson established the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 4,300 adult home residents to live in supported housing in the community rather than in segregated adult home institutions. Although the court order was subsequently dismissed for lack of standing, in July 2013, the parties agreed to a settlement that ensures that thousands of residents of 23 large “adult homes”—board and care homes serving primarily people with mental illnesses—will have the opportunity to live in their own homes with the services they need to succeed and be participants in their communities. The ruling paves the way for thousands of individuals with mental illness to be transferred to living environments that are healthier and more integrated settings.
Joseph S. v. Hogan, an ongoing case originally filed in 2006, seeks to enable over a thousand persons with mental illness who are unnecessarily warehoused in nursing homes to move to integrated community housing and services. DAI has also worked to end the practice of medical experimentation on patients with disabilities without appropriate consent. T.D. v. New York State Office of Mental Health invalidated the regulations of the New York State Office of Mental Health which had authorized risky, non-therapeutic medical experiments on adults and children who lacked the capacity to give informed consent. In 2006, Matter of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center (Marie H.-City of New York), established the right to counsel at public expense for indigent subjects of guardianship proceedings. The case was particularly noteworthy in that it was the first high court decision recognizing a constitutional right to counsel in guardianship proceedings seeking placement in an institution or to make major medical decisions without consent.
Mr. Zucker has also been an outspoken advocate for the rights of people with disabilities both nationally and internationally. He has called for greater protection for human subjects of medical research in testimony before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives, before the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, and before the President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. Under the auspices of Mental Disability Rights International, he participated in a human rights mission to Hungary regarding the rights of persons with mental illness, where he consulted with advocacy groups and ombudsmen to assist in developing reform strategies to eliminate human rights abuses in psychiatric facilities. Mr. Zucker received a B.A. from Evergreen State College and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.