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News Archive 2014


DECEMBER

More Videos Added to YouTube

Last year for the 40th Anniversary of NYC Housing Court, interviews were conducted with the people who were there at the Court's inception. Three new video interviews were posted to the NYS Court's Access to Justice Program's YouTube channel: Judge Lorraine Miller, the original proponent and author of the Housing Part Act; Judge Harriet George, former Housing Court Judge; and David Rozenholc, a former Legal Services attorney. A playlist has also been created that contains all available interviews and the video that was shown during the "New York City's Housing Court at 40: Controversies, Challenges and Prospects for its Future" conference. Watch these historical and fascinating recollections from the people who made the Housing Court what it is today.

New Partnership with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP

The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program has partnered with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP to train their associates to accept Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) pro bono appointments involving impaired litigants residing in New York County. Volunteer attorneys will receive free training from a panel of experts in the fields of social work advocacy and landlord-tenant law before accepting GAL appointments.




NOVEMBER

New Videos Added to YouTube

Five new video interviews conducted in coordination with the 40th Anniversary of NYC Housing Court in 2013 have been posted on the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's YouTube channel. Three Judges, Jaime R. Rios, Peter M. Wendt and Jerald R. Klein, and two former landlord-tenant practitioners, Kent Karlsson and Daniel Finkelstein, share their recollections about the formation, implementation and advancement of the Housing Court. These oral histories from the people who were there at the Court’s inception provide a unique window to the past. Anyone who has had contact with the Housing Court over the past 40 years will find the never-before-seen footage extremely interesting. Also available on YouTube are videos of Judges Israel Rubin, Fern A. Fisher, Margaret Cammer and former court employee William Etheridge, which were previously posted. Watch for more videos coming soon in December.

CourtHelp Website Redesign

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program launched a complete redesign of the court system’s CourtHelp website for unrepresented litigants. The redesign enables users to find the help they need when they are going to court without a lawyer. The number of litigants representing themselves in court has grown exponentially since CourtHelp was first launched in 2003. The new design improves the public’s access to justice by providing legal and procedural information and resources in a user-friendly presentation.

Highlights of the newly launched site include:

  • Information sections on court case basics and many new legal topics, including money problems and foreclosures;
  • Twitter, YouTube and the DIY Form program icons;
  • Helpful quick links, including Find a Lawyer, Help Centers and a new complete plain language glossary;
  • A court locator box on every page allowing users to find their court; and
  • An improved mobile-device experience.

CourtHelp will continue to expand in 2015, adding additional features and legal information, including a search button, A-Z topics, appeals, criminal law, collections and traffic. Visit the redesigned site: www.nycourthelp.gov.




OCTOBER

Pro Bono Awards Celebration Held

In honor of National Pro Bono Celebration Week the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, the New York State Bar Association, and the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA) co-sponsored a lovely and festive pro bono volunteer recognition event on Thursday, October 23, 2014, at NYCLA. Numerous volunteers were recognized for their outstanding pro bono service. A list of those recognized can be found in the Pro Bono Awards Presentation and Reception Program. A photo gallery from the event is posted on the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NYCourtsVLP.

Bridge the Gap Training Series Held

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program held a free "Bridge the Gap" training program for recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys. Training sessions in Consumer Debt, Ethics, Landlord & Tenant Law and Uncontested Divorce took place Tuesday, October 21st through Thursday, October 23rd, 2014. In exchange for 18 CLE credits participants will complete a 50 hour pro bono practicum assisting litigants in the NYC Housing, Civil, and Supreme Courts. This training series encourages graduates and newly admitted attorneys to get involved in pro bono work early in their careers by bridging the gap between law school and the realities of practicing law. Over 65 recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys participated in this initiative.




AUGUST

Spanish Language Feature Added to Family Court DIY Programs

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has added a new Spanish feature to the Family Court Custody/Visitation Enforcement and Custody/Visitation Modification DIY Form programs for Spanish speaking unrepresented litigants. Every screen has "Español" links which open pop-up windows with the translations of the screen. The programs can be found on CourtHelp, the Unified Court System’s website for unrepresented litigants. The programs generate instructions and pleadings in English, with a Spanish copy of the instructions for the litigants.

New Spanish DIY Program Video for Uncontested Divorce

The NYS Court Access to Justice Program has posted a Spanish version of the Uncontested Divorce video explaining how unrepresented litigants in New York State can easily use the free Uncontested Divorce DIY Form program to make the Supreme Court papers they need to request an uncontested divorce. The video can be read and listened to in Spanish.




JULY

Kings County Civil Court L&T Staff Win DIY Star Awards!

Congratulations to the L&T Clerk's Office Staff and Assistant Deputy Chief Clerk Melinda Alexander of the Kings County Civil Court on winning the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's DIY Star Award. The award is presented from time to time to courts and individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the success of the DIY Form programs and improved access to justice for unrepresented litigants. The staff received the award because of their impressive usage statistics of the NYC housing DIY Forms. Melinda Alexander earned the award for her assistance developing, implementing and promoting the DIY Form Programs. Read about the Kings County Civil Court Star Awards.

Retired Clerk of the County wins DIY Star Award

On July 22, 2014, Judge Fern Fisher presented the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s DIY Star Award to Lydia Grima, Retired Clerk of the County of the Kings County Civil Court for her outstanding leadership in the implementation of the DIY Form programs in the New York City Civil Courts. Lydia’s commitment to furthering access to justice for unrepresented litigants has been the driving force behind two Civil Court Clerk’s Offices earning the prestigious DIY Star Award. In October 2011, under Lydia’s leadership as Clerk of the County of the New York County Civil Court, the Civil Clerk’s Office staff won the DIY Star Award. It is no coincidence that after Lydia became Clerk of the Court in the Kings County Civil Court, DIY Form program statistics skyrocketed and the L&T Clerk’s Office earned the DIY Star Award.

New DIY program video for Uncontested Divorce

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has created a video for the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form Uncontested Divorce Program. This video explains how unrepresented litigants in New York State can easily use the free DIY Form program to make the Supreme Court papers they need to request a divorce. Watch the Uncontested Divorce video.




APRIL

New DIY program for Uncontested Divorce

The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program has created a new DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form program for uncontested divorce. This program is for unrepresented litigants seeking an uncontested divorce using DRL 170(7), no fault, and where there are no children. This is the third DIY program available for litigants in Supreme Court and the 25th DIY program overall.

The program produces all the paperwork needed for an uncontested divorce. The forms and instructions generated from the Uncontested Divorce DIY Form Program are personalized to the litigant and print only those papers and instructions applicable to his or her situation. Compared to the "paper" uncontested divorce packet and instructions, the papers generated from the Uncontested Divorce DIY Form Program print about 34 fewer pages. The program is available on CourtHelp.




MARCH

Tompkins County Family Court Clerk's Office Staff Wins DIY Star Award!

On March 27, 2014, the Tompkins County Family Court Staff was awarded the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's prestigious DIY Star Award. The award is presented from time to time to courts and individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the successful development and implementation of the DIY Form programs. The Tompkins Court staff received the award because of their outstanding usage and promotion of the Family Court DIY Form programs, increasing access to justice for unrepresented litigants. Read about the Tompkin's Family Court's Star Award.

Kansas and Montana State Court Officials Visit

Visit from the Montana and Kansas State Courts
The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program hosted officials from the Montana and Kansas State Courts

Both the Kansas and Montana State Court systems received grants from the National Center for State Court's Center on Court Access to Justice for All, in order to travel to New York to observe the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's DIY Form document assembly programs and Court Help Centers. The Technical Assistance Grant is awarded to courts interested in gaining specific expertise on implementing an access to justice program, practice or service. During the week of March 17, 2014, eight State Court officials attended an all day session in New York City learning the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's Best Practices and also visited and observed the Bronx Family Court Help Center.




FEBRUARY

2013 Report

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program issued its 2013 Report, entitled, "Delivering Legal Services, Assistance and Information to the Public." The Report provides a brief overview of the Access to Justice Program's programs and resources, as well as the highlights of the Access to Justice Program's accomplishments in 2013. Some of the highlights include: expansion of the VLFD Housing Program, VLFD Consumer Debt Program serving 10,000 litigants, new Family Offense Petition Advocate program, DIY Form program's expansion to County Courts, opening of the 7th JD Help Center, launch of the Uncontested Divorce DIY Form program pilot, ACP expansion, and 109 trainings and presentation held for the public and court personnel, including Judge Fisher's participation in a White House forum on access to justice. In addition, this year's Report describes the Access to Justice Program's multi-faceted approach to the delivery of legal services, assistance and information and the benefits to unrepresented litigants and the court system of the different types of delivery methods. Thank you to all the partners, friends, and court personnel who helped make 2013 another successful year!

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