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The Court Navigator Program trains non-lawyer volunteers to provide in-court assistance to unrepresented tenants, property owners in New York City Housing Court and defendants in certain civil court cases in New York County Civil Court. See flyer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Registration: 1:00 P.M.
Training: 1:15 PM - 3:30 PM
Location: 111 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013 (Enter using the White Street Employee Entrance between White Street and Centre Street) Library


The Court Navigator Program trains non-lawyer volunteers to provide in-court assistance to unrepresented tenants and property owners who are parties in nonpayment proceedings in New York City Housing Court. See flyer.

Thursday, June 20, 2019
Registration: 9:30 A.M.
Training: 9:45 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.
Location: 141 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201, 12th floor Conference Room.

If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to



New Foreclosure Answer DIY Form Program

The Office for Justice Initiatives and the Office for Policy and Planning have developed a brand-new DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Foreclosure Answer Program in partnership with Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc., Legal Services NYC, and the Division of Technology. The program provides users with easy to read Foreclosure Answer papers along with step-by-step instructions. To use the Foreclosure Answer Program, the user will need Adobe Flash Player, Microsoft Word and an attached printer. Visit CourtHelp to view all available programs.


Poverty Simulation

On March 6, 2019, the Office for Justice Initiatives facilitated a Poverty Simulation at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Participants included law students from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, New York Law School as well as the Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest at Rutgers Law School, the Senior Director of Public Service and Pro Bono Initiatives at New York Law School, and a faculty member from New York Law School and non-judicial NYS Court personnel. In addition, administrators and faculty from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, staffed community organizations that the participants interacted with. The Poverty Simulation is designed to provide participants with the experience of living in poverty for one month. Participants were exposed to the difficult choices that people living in poverty make every day. At the conclusion, of the simulation, participants and volunteers gathered to debrief.

Visit the Litigants with Diverse Needs page to learn more about poverty simulations and read testimonials provided by participants.


Grand Opening of the Bronx County Surrogate's Court Help Center

Bronx Surrogate's Court Help Center
(L-R) Deputy Chief Clerk Elix R. Madera-Fliegelman, Surrogate Nelida Maláve-González, Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, DCAJ for Justice Initiatives, Chief Clerk Michael P. Hausler and Associate Court Attorney Wendy Silva

Friday, January 11, 2019, marked the grand opening of the Bronx County Surrogate’s Court Help Center. Surrogate Nelida Maláve-González, Chief Clerk Michael P. Hausler, Deputy Chief Clerk Elix R. Madera-Fliegelman and Associate Court Attorney Wendy Silva, hosted the grand opening celebration. Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives presided over the grand opening celebration. This is the second Help Center to open under the leadership of Judge Mendelson and the thirtieth Help Center to open in New York State.

The Bronx County Surrogate’s Court Help Center is located on the third floor in room 323 of the courthouse. The Help Center is staffed by a court attorney who will be available to meet with unrepresented litigants one-on-one, to assist them with administration proceedings. In addition to the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Forms terminals located in other parts of the Surrogate’s Court, the Help Center has one DIY terminal that unrepresented litigants may use to prepare the papers they need for a Small Estate Affidavit, Article 17-A Guardianship Petition and Safe Deposit Box Petition. The location, address, and hours of operation are available on CourtHelp.


New Version of Surrogate's Court DIY Form Programs Launched

All Surrogate’s Court DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form computer programs have been updated to improve the unrepresented litigant’s experience. The Article 17-A Guardianship Petition Program now offers pop-ups in Spanish. 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 Supreme, County, District, City, Civil, Housing and Justice Courts. For more information about DIY Form Programs visit CourtHelp.

New York County Clergy Day

On November 13, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI), led by Hon. Edwina Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, hosted Manhattan Clergy Day at the New York County Family Court. Local court and faith leaders were invited to meet and develop a better understanding of the legal issues that impact their shared community.

The latest in a series of conversations held throughout the city and state, Manhattan Clergy Day provided an excellent discussion between all in attendance. In addition to Judge Mendelson, the diverse panel of speakers included Hon. Anthony Cannataro, Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy, Hon. Douglas Hoffman, Hon. J. Machelle Sweeting, Hon. Anne Katz, Interfaith Center Executive Director Rev. Chloe Breyer, Family Justice Center Community Outreach Coordinator Indhira Castro, Hasan Shafiqullah, Esq., Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit, and from OJI, Chief of Staff Michelle Smith, Denise Colon-Greenaway, Esq., and Lisa Zayas, Esq. The presentations explored topics ranging across the legal spectrum, including guardianship, implementation of the Raise the Age law, domestic and matrimonial matters, consumer debt cases, elder justice, immigration, and the historic Right to Counsel law newly enacted in New York City. Participants also engaged in an interactive presentation on Manhattan’s Help Centers and the Do-It-Yourself Form Programs, which can help unrepresented litigants prepare forms for filing in court. Clergy members received a wealth of information and resources to share with their congregants.

Seventh Judicial District recipients of Circle of Excellence Awards

Congratulations to the 7th JD, Circle of Excellence Award
(L-R) Ronald Pawelczak, Timothy Hunt, Hon. Edwina Mendelson, Mary Aufleger and Hon. Craig J. Doran

On Thursday, November 1, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI) awarded the Circle of Excellence Award to the 7th Judicial District Help Center in recognition of their hard work and dedication to providing the public with the assistance they need to navigate their matters in court. The Circle of Excellence Award is presented by the OJI in recognition of court personnel who have made remarkable achievements in our shared mission to ensure meaningful access to justice for all New Yorkers regardless of income, background, or special needs. As a crucial part of this mission, Help Centers provide resources and free information about the law to people who do not have an attorney, ensuring that unrepresented litigants are fully aware of all their options so they can make the decision best suited for their case. In 2017, the 7th Judicial District Help Center, led by librarians Timothy Hunt and Karen Sampone, as well as court personnel Cheryl Baxter, Mary Jo Mahoney, Gene Crimi and Kathy Watkins, assisted an estimated 3,912 unrepresented litigants; this year, through September, they have already assisted an estimated 3,179 litigants. The 7th Judicial District Help Center also established a partnership with the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County, a program consisting of 1,600 volunteers who donate much of their time and effort to assisting the litigants who visit the Help Center.

Congratulations to Ronald Pawelczak
Ronald Pawelczak, Hon. Edwina Mendelson and Hon. Craig J. Doran

Additionally, the OJI presented an individual award to District Executive of the 7th Judicial District Ronald Pawelczak, in recognition of his invaluable leadership and commitment to providing meaningful access to justice.

Congratulations and thank you to all the Circle of Excellence Award recipients! The OJI is always looking to award the exemplary work of those in our state, so be on the lookout for the next presentation of our Circle of Excellence Awards.

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