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Community Legal Information Fair

The Office for Justice Initiatives and the New York City Bar Legal Referral Service is proud to present the 2018 Community Legal Information Fair. Several legal services and community based organizations will be available to inform the public about the services they provide. In addition, the joint NYLAG – NYS Court’s Access to Justice Mobile Legal Help Center van will be onsite to provide legal help for those in need. This event is FREE and open to the public. See flyer for more details.

Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Time: 11:00 AM - 2:30 PM
Location: In front of the Civil Court Building located at 111 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013



New DIY Form Combined Support Modification, Enforcement/Violation Petition Program

The Office for Justice Initiatives is proud to announce a brand-new DIY Form Program for unrepresented litigants who have child support and/or spousal support orders. This combined Support Modification, Enforcement/Violation Petition Program allows unrepresented litigants to input their information once and ask the court for one or both forms of relief. This decreases the amount of time spent preparing papers for court and enhances their overall experience with the program and the court.

New Version of Family Court DIY Form Programs Launched

All Family Court DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form computer programs have been updated to improve the unrepresented litigant’s experience. Program users no longer require Adobe Flash or Microsoft Word or Word Viewer to prepare their court papers. Instead the papers generated by the programs open in a PDF document. The computer program graphics have a sleek new design and are available on mobile devices. The DIY Forms FAQ page has been updated to reflect the changes to the program. Stay tuned for improved DIY Form Programs for Surrogate’s, Supreme, County, District, City, Civil, Housing and Justice Courts. For more information about DIY Form Programs visit CourtHelp.


Poverty Simulation

Hofstra University Poverty Sim 2018

On April 4, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives facilitated a Poverty Simulation for students enrolled in the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. The Poverty Simulation is designed to provide participants with the experience of living in poverty for one month. Each month is lived in fifteen-minute increments, during which the participants are tasked with making decisions to support and care for themselves and their families. Faculty and staff from the school, volunteered to play the role of various governmental agencies, community organizations, and private companies typically found in communities. The participants had two goals: to connect with their colleagues and strengthen their ability to work collaboratively; and to challenge assumptions they had about poverty. At the conclusion, of the simulation, student participants, volunteer faculty and staff, gathered to debrief. Based upon the comments shared, it was clear that many participants felt the constraints and difficulties people living in poverty face each day. Visit the Litigants with Diverse Needs page to learn more about Poverty Simulations.


NYC Housing Court Guardians Ad Litem (GALs) trained on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

On March 2, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives' (OJI) Access to Justice Program in collaboration with the Advisory Committe on Access for People with Disabilities conducted an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) training for NYC Housing Court Guardians ad Litem.

Led by OJI Special Counsel for Court-Based Interdisciplinary Programs, Denise-Colon Greenaway, Esq. MSW, the purpose of the training was to promote awareness regarding the challenges people with physical and mental disabilities face when attempting to meaningfully participate in the court process and to educate GALs on how to help them do so. The panel provided tools for GALs to use to determine what specific needs should be addressed in order to promote meaningful participation for their appointees in the court process as well as which accommodations our courts are able to provide.

The well attended training, which was held in the midst of a Nor’easter, was so widely successful that it will be developed into an additional training for Housing Court Judges and Court Attorneys.


Seal Up to Two Criminal Convictions in New York

As of October 2017, it is now possible to file a motion asking the court to seal criminal convictions in New York under CPL 160.59. Up to two convictions can be sealed, only one of which may be a felony, if the person has been crime-free for ten years since the date of the conviction, or from the date of release from custody, whichever is later. Certain violent felonies and sex crimes are not eligible for sealing. Learn more information and find free court forms and instructions on CourtHelp.


Judge Mendelson Interviewed on the NY Courts Amici Podcast

Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives Edwina G. Mendelson sat down with John Caher to discuss her new position heading the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI). In the interview, Judge Mendelson talks about her goals for the OJI, and her new responsibilities which include leading child welfare and juvenile and adolescent justice initiatives, and implementing the important legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18 years of age. The podcast covers Judge Mendelson’s plans to continue and expand the work of the Access to Justice Program throughout the state and various justice initiatives including community outreach, the CourtHelp website for unrepresented litigants, non-lawyer assistance Court Navigator programs, DIY Form document assembly programs, Court Help Centers, and volunteer attorney programs. When asked how she feels about her leadership role in the court system, Judge Mendelson quoted Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, stating that she similarly feels “unimaginable good fortune” over her responsibilities. Judge Mendelson is tasked with directing multiple court programs, narrowing the justice gap and increasing access to justice.

The “Amici” (Latin translation: “friend of the court”) podcasts are a series of interviews with individuals on topics of interest to the legal community at large. Listen to Judge Mendelson’s podcast, as well as past amici podcasts, by visiting the court system’s website or the iTunes podcast library. Or read a transcript of Judge Mendelson’s podcast.


Pro Bono Awards Night

Foreclosure volunteers
Judge Edwina Mendelson & Judge Sam Walker with attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP, Regeneron Corporate Law Dept. and Law Office of Peter Spino who volunteered in 9th JD’s Foreclosure Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program

In recognition of National Pro Bono Celebration Week, the NYS Court System’s Office for Justice Initiatives, along with the NYS Bar Association and New York County Lawyers’ Association, hosted a standing-room only awards ceremony and reception honoring attorneys for their volunteer efforts at NYCLA on October 26, 2017. Special recognition was given to innovative pro bono programs in the Eighth (Buffalo and surrounding counties) and Ninth (Westchester and surrounding counties) Judicial Districts. Speakers included Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives; Edwina Martin, Co-chair, New York State Bar Association President’s Committee on Access to Justice; and Michael J. McNamara, President, New York County Lawyers’ Association. A list of those recognized can be found in the Pro Bono Awards Program. View the photo gallery from the event.


Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson Will Direct the Access to Justice Program

On July 1, 2017, the Honorable Edwina G. Mendelson was appointed Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York State Unified Court System's Office for Justice Initiatives. Judge Mendelson is charged with directing the New York State Courts' Access to Justice Program, as well as leading Child Welfare, and Juvenile and Adolescent Justice initiatives, including implementation of recent legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York. Judge Mendelson and the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI) will work closely with the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, as well as with the Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities, the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), the Division of Technology, the Forms Committees, the Grants Office, the Office of Language Access, and law schools.