BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s a changing of the guard at a legal services firm born to fight housing segregation and social injustice. The Western New York Law Center has a new leader.

“So if somebody from Buffalo said, well I’m eligible for Section 8 and I want to apply and I want to live in Amherst, they would basically have to wait 10 years as well,” said Joe Kelemen, outgoing WNY Law Center director.

The Western New York Law Center challenged that policy, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and would result in $700 million in new Section 8 vouchers coming to Western New York.

The Law Center also took on the City of Buffalo’s tax foreclosure auctions. When a home is sold to pay the back taxes, the homeowner is entitled to any surplus funds, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the city would often keep the money and it would go to the state.

“I mean these are people losing their homes and they have equity in their homes. If they owe $2,000 in taxes and it is taken for that, but sold for $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000 of course they are entitled to the money,” Kelemen said.

In some cases, homeowners, not just in Buffalo, would have their property taken before they could defend themselves, and the Western New York Law Center would get it back.

After 24 years, Joe Kelemen is handing over the reins to Keisha Williams, who has also been fighting the good fight, over predatory lending, so-called “stop receipts” issued to drivers in Buffalo, and is setting up shop to help small businesses struggling to survive.

“You understand that you are in this position, and if you do not do it, then probably no one else will. Those are the things I like about my job, it is the fact that I can make a difference,” added Keisha Williams, incoming WNY Law Center director.

Jim Morrissey co-founded the Western New York Law Center with Kelemen in 1996, and two years later Morrissey went on to the Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds Bureau.

“The Western New York Law Center was doing consumer protection work when no one else was doing it. The Western New York Law Center was handling bankruptcy cases when no one else was doing it,” said Morrissey.

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Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.