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News Archive 2015


Uncontested Divorce Program Expands to Staten Island!

The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program will expand its Uncontested Divorce Clinic to Staten Island starting in July. Volunteer attorneys will assist pro se litigants seeking to file for simple uncontested divorces. The clinic will now operate in all 5 New York City counties.

Approximately 20 volunteer attorneys attended the program’s first training session. Volunteers will receive Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for attending the training session and pro bono CLE credits for volunteering in the Clinic. This program was presented in co-sponsorship with the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association.

The clinic will take place weekly in the Old Supreme Court Library, Staten Island. The clinic will be by appointment only. For more information about this program contact:


Summer Pro Bono Trainings a Big Success!

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program is delighted to announce the addition of 175 new volunteers who attended our nine New York City June Pro Bono Trainings for our court-based programs. Volunteers include lawyers, law graduates, law students, college students, and others who have graciously agreed to donate their services to assist unrepresented litigants with their court cases. These volunteers have already started their pro bono service in the Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program and the Supreme Court Uncontested Divorce Program. The majority of the volunteers were trained to participate in the New York City Housing Court Programs; the Guardian Ad Litem Program, Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program Housing, Volunteer Lawyer Program, Court Navigator Program and DIY Assistance Program. We welcome our new pro bono volunteers and thank all of our partners and trainers for their time and effort. You are all pro bono heroes!


New York County Community Law Day

On Friday, May 1st, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, the New York State Court Officers Association and the New York City Bar’s Legal Referral Service co-sponsored Community Law Day in New York County. Balloons, music, refreshments and free giveaways made the otherwise cool and windy day a festive event. Over 20 agencies gathered at Collect Pond Park to participate in the three and a half hour event including, Safe Horizon, NYC Department for the Aging, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, the Legal Aid Society, the Administration for Children’s Services and Sanctuary for Families. . In honor of National Law Day, the Mobile Legal Help Center, which is a traveling Help Center sponsored by NYLAG and the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, completed 13 legal intakes which included two previously scheduled appointments and eleven walk-in appointments.  The majority of the clients seen on the Mobile Legal Help Center had housing court issues, while some had questions regarding consumer and immigration law. In addition, the Legal Referral Service offered free private legal consultations with experienced attorneys to assist members of the public with their legal and social needs. Hundreds of people stopped by to take advantage of the free information, literature and legal consultations. To view photos from our previous Law Day events, click here.

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Help Center Best Practices Guide

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has published a new Best Practices Guide for Court Help Centers. The best practices are aimed at court administrators and personnel inside and outside New York State who are already interested in establishing a new Court Help Center or improving services in an existing Court Help Center. The guide is divided into six parts that cover initial considerations, services, set-up, staffing and responsibilities, promotion and oversight. The goal of the publication is to facilitate court help center expansion.

CourtHelp Upgrade

Continuing the November 2014 redesign of the CourtHelp website for unrepresented litigants, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has added several new topics and features to improve the user’s experience. This includes two new ways for litigants to find the information they need on CourtHelp. Every page now contains a search feature and a Quick Find link to a Topics A-Z page. These new search features greatly improve access and navigation to the site’s information. New topical pages have also been added on Appeals, Collecting a Judgment, and Adoption. Additional topics are planned by 2016. Finally, new What’s There? Links can be found on the Help Center page that list the services provided at each Court Help Center. Help us spread the word about CourtHelp by posting the new CourtHelp flyer.

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Eighth Bridge the Gap Training Series Held

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program held its eighth free "Bridge the Gap" training program for recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys. Training sessions in Consumer Debt, Ethics, Uncontested Divorce and Landlord & Tenant Law took place from March 24-26th. 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 50 recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys participated in this initiative. The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program is grateful to all of the wonderful presenters who graciously volunteered their time.

Consumer Debt Part I - Sidney Cherubin, Esq., & Evan Denerstein, Esq.
Consumer Debt Part II - Robert Jacovetti, Esq., & Sarah Rosenthal, Esq.
Ethics - Laura Smith, Esq., Allison Schoenthal, Esq., & Meredith Heller, Esq.,
Uncontested Divorce - Baila Kamman, Esq., Kwaku Agyeman, Esq., & Lisa Zayas, Esq.
Landlord & Tenant Law - Hon. E. Pilar Sanchez, Alan Canner, Esq., Tracy McNeil, Esq., Timothy Collins, Esq., Deborah Riegel, Esq. & Hon. Sabrina Kraus.

For more information about volunteering in the NYS Access to Justice Program please contact:

Nepal Delegation Visit

On March 10, 2015, a delegation from the Supreme Court of Nepal visited Bronx County Family Court in the morning and spent the afternoon with Judge Fisher and the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program staff learning about access to justice programs and initiatives. The Nepal delegation, led by Senior Justice Kalyan Shrestha, and organized by D. Christopher Decker, Chief Technical Advisor, Rule of Law and Human Rights Programme, United Nations Development Programme, visited Arizona and Washington D.C., before finishing their judicial outreach trip in New York.

Visit from the Supreme Court of Nepal
Delegation from the Supreme Court of Nepal with Judge Fern Fisher

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Lance B. Harris Wins DIY Star Award

On February 25, 2015, Kings County Supreme Court Senior Court Clerk Lance B. Harris was awarded the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s prestigious DIY Star Award for his contribution to the Uncontested Divorce DIY Form program’s Pilot Project and his assistance to unrepresented litigants in the Court Help Center. Read about Mr. Harris and the Star Award Ceremony.

Judicial Activism

Justice Fern Fisher, Director of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts has published an article in the CUNY Law Review. In her article she urges the judiciary to embrace a new definition of judicial activism in light of the legal needs crisis. The article, entitled "Moving Toward a More Perfect World: Achieving Equal Access to Justice Through a New Definition of Judicial Activism," discusses the various ways that judges can improve the administration of justice.

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2014 Report

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program issued its 2014 Report, entitled, "Providing New Pathways to Legal Services, Assistance and Information." 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 2014. Thank you to all the partners, friends, volunteers and court personnel who helped make 2014 a success!

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