New York Courts dot gov
New York StateUnified Court System

Events & News

2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014| 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

News Archive 2016


Unified Court System Encourages Unbundled Legal Services

Chief Administrative Judge Marks signed an Administrative Order declaring it the policy of the Unified Court System to support and encourage the practice of limited scope legal assistance in appropriate cases, and to encourage judges and justices to permit attorneys to appear for limited purposes in civil cases. Attorneys are required to complete a certified training course in limited scope representation before making limited appearances. Forms and training are in development. Offering limited scope assistance is another step in the effort to offer some form of civil legal assistance to every person in need. Prior to this Administrative Order, unbundled legal services in litigated matters were only sanctioned for lawyers participating in limited pro bono legal services programs (Rule 6.5 of the NYS Rules of Professional Conduct).

White Paper Published

The Access to Justice Program has published a white paper entitled: “Creating a Successful Court-Based Program to Safeguard Access to Justice for Mentally and Physically Impaired Litigants at Risk for Eviction.” The white paper includes discussion on what happens when there is no landlord-tenant GAL program in place to safeguard the rights of impaired litigants facing eviction, the NYC Housing Part Guardian Ad Litem Program and how this program serves as a model court-based program, and suggestions for how judicial systems throughout the nation can seek to replicate the program.


Tenant Guide to NYC Housing Court Updated

The Access to Justice Program has updated the New York City Tenants: Questions & Answers About Housing Court Guide. The legal and procedural information in the Guide provides simple plain language answers to commonly asked tenant questions. The information covers: holdovers, nonpayments, illegal lock-outs, HP actions, harassment, service, settlements, orders to show cause, evictions and more. A section in the back contains links and phone numbers to find help. The Guide provides an excellent overview for tenants with cases in the Housing Courts.

10th Anniversary of Volunteer Attorney Program – Family Court

On November 17, 2016, the Access to Justice Program and the NYC Family Court celebrated the ten year anniversary of the Volunteer Attorney Program. A lovely reception was held at the offices of Proskauer Rose LLP to mark this milestone and recognize the many attorneys who generously volunteer their time and provide legal advice to unrepresented litigants in the Family Courts. NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Director Hon. Fern A. Fisher, Administrative Judge of the NYC Family Court Jeanette Ruiz and Proskauer Rose LLP partner William Silverman, Esq. all spoke of the great need that this pro bono program fills. Participating law firms and practitioners were acknowledged and listed in the Reception Program. In addition, Judge Ruiz presented Mr. Silverman and six attorneys -- Greenberg Traurig LLP attorneys John Elliott and Philip Cohen; Citigroup attorneys Katherine Kessler, Joellen Valentine and Sara Blotner; and Kroub, Silbersher Kolmykov partner Gaston Kroub -- with plaques for their dedication to the program since its inception. Photos from the event are posted on Access to Justice Volunteer Program’s facebook page:

Queens County Civil Court Personnel Win DIY Star Awards

Congratulations to the Queens County Civil Court Special Term Clerk’s Office Name Change Staff and Assistant Deputy Chief Clerk Monica Dingle on winning NYS Courts Access to Justice Program DIY Star Awards. This is the second time personnel in the Queens County Civil Court have earned this honor. The Star 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 staff received the award because nearly 90% of their filings are prepared with the Name Change DIY Form programs, the greatest percentage in the state! Monica Dingle earned her individual award for her excellent leadership skills and dedication to access to justice. Read more about the Star Award ceremony.

DIY Stars with Judge Fisher
Justice Fern A. Fisher with DIY Star Award Winners

Poverty Simulation

For the third year in a row, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program conducted a Poverty Simulation training for the entire first year class enrolled in the full time program at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center on November 15, 2016. The goal of the simulation was for the future lawyers to rethink poverty. The more exposure and training that future lawyers receive allowing them to recognize and understand the harsh realities that New Yorkers in poverty face, the better they will be able to understand how poverty limits the interaction that many people have with the court system and in effect creates a more equitable justice system. Although there is no way to replicate every aspect and hardship that people living in poverty struggle with, the training provided future lawyers with a glimpse into some of the struggles faced. Learn more about Poverty Simulations.

Bridge the Gap Training Series

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, November 1st through Thursday, November 3rd, 2016. 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. Thirty-five recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys participated in this initiative.


Pro Bono Awards Night

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), and the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA) co-sponsored a pro bono volunteer recognition event on Thursday, October 27th, 2016 at the NYC Civil Court. Speakers and Award presenters were NYCLA President Carol A. Sigmond, NYSBA President-elect Sharon Stern Gerstman, Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, Acting Justice NY Supreme Court and Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts and Director, NYS Courts Access to Justice Program. All of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program honorees performed over 50 hours of pro bono service in a court-based program throughout 2016. See our Reception Program for a complete list of all the volunteers who were recognized for their outstanding pro bono service. A photo gallery from the event is posted on the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Facebook page:

Pro Bono Award Presenters
Judge Richardson-Mendelson, NYSBA President-elect Sharon Stern Gerstman
and NYCLA President Carol A. Sigmond.

Court Help Center Workshops

In honor of National Pro Bono Celebration Week, October 23-29, 2016, NYS Court Help Centers hosted a number of free workshops around the state providing free legal information focusing on the issues litigants commonly ask about when visiting Help Centers. In Monroe County a workshop was held focusing on issues faced by landlords and tenants. Workshops were held in Bronx County and Columbia County that focused on the issues faced in small claims cases. In Nassau County, events were held during the morning and afternoon. In the morning a workshop on foreclosure was held at the Nassau Supreme Court. In the afternoon, court staff presented at the Pro Bono Day Open House, hosted by the Nassau County Bar Association where they offered several presentations on the foreclosure process and other issues. Help Center staff also provided free legal information at the Mobile Legal Help Center in Queens County with a focus on the common social and legal issues faced by the elder LGBTQ community.

Criminal Content Added to CourtHelp Website

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has added criminal-related content to the CourtHelp website which provides online legal and procedural information, including links to Court Help Centers and the DIY Form programs. The new criminal related content includes: Case Basics, Criminal Records, Crime Victims, Sentencing, Collateral Consequences and Getting Rights Back. Help us spread the word by posting a CourtHelp Flyer.


Laura Hankin of Columbia County wins DIY Star Award

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program awarded Columbia County Supreme Court Librarian Laura Hankin the prestigious DIY Star Award on September 29, 2016. Ms. Hankin has promoted the DIY Programs in countless ways, from guiding unrepresented litigants through the DIY Form Programs before terminals were even available in the courthouse to being instrumental in the installation of public access terminals in the Columbia County Law Library/Help Center. Her endless contributions in promoting the DIY Form programs is admirable. Read about Ms. Hankin and the DIY Star Award ceremony.

Maryland State Court Officials Visit the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program

On September 28, 2016, representatives from the Maryland State Court System visited the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program to share ideas and discuss programs and resources that increase access to justice in landlord-tenant cases. In the morning, Special Counsel Yacine Barry-Wun escorted the Maryland delegation to the Kings County Housing Court to observe the Volunteer Lawyer for the Day and Court Navigator Housing Programs in action. The group was also able to observe the Court Help Center, the Volunteer Lawyers Program, and the Housing Court Answers and University Settlement Court Navigator Programs. In the afternoon, the visitors joined Justice Fern A. Fisher for lunch, followed by presentations on the DIY Form programs, the Guardian Ad Litem Program and the Assigned Counsel Program.

Maryland State Court Visitors with Judge Fisher
Maryland State Court Visitors with Judge Fisher

The Maryland visitors included District Court Chief Judge John P. Morrissey and District Court Judge Mark F. Scurti. In addition, three representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts attended: Access to Justice Program Department Director Pam Ortiz, Esq., Court Services Center Manager Lonni Summers, Esq. and Government Relations Representative Andrew F. Tress.

Hispanic Heritage Month: New Spanish DIY Form Program Resources

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program working with the Office of Language Access has added new Spanish resources for the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form programs and a new Spanish DIY Form homepage on the CourtHelp website. The new CourtHelp page contains a list of both the old and new Spanish resources available in the programs. New Spanish resources added to the programs include Spanish instructions in the Guardianship Article 17A DIY Form program and Spanish Pop-Ups and instructions added to the: Child Name Change DIY Form program, Uncontested Divorce DIY Form program, and Vacate Default Judgment Consumer Debt DIY Form program.


Cortland County Surrogate’s Court Chief Clerk Wins DIY Star Award

On June 27, 2016, Cortland County Surrogate’s Court Chief Clerk Lynne Day, was awarded the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s prestigious DIY Star Award. Ms. Day’s promotion of the DIY Form programs has enabled unrepresented litigants to create their Surrogate’s Court Small Estate and 17A Guardianship court papers. Read about Ms. Day and the DIY Star Award Ceremony.

Spanish Instructions Added to the Child Name Change DIY Form Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has added an option for unrepresented Spanish speaking litigants to print Spanish instructions when using the Child Name Change DIY Form program. Litigants now have a choice of printing instructions in English only or English and Spanish. This free and easy DIY Form program helps parents create all the court papers needed to ask the Supreme or Civil Court to change the name of one or more children. The program is available on CourtHelp.

Nepal Delegation Visit

On June 2, 2016, a delegation from Nepal visited the Access to Justice Program to learn about the programs and initiatives that the Access to Justice Program employs to increase access to justice for unrepresented litigants. The seven-person Nepal delegation included Judges and staff from the Supreme and District Courts of Nepal as well as members of Nepal’s recently created Access to Justice Commission, which was established after a Nepal delegation visit in 2015. Presentations were made by Justice Fern Fisher and members of the Access to Justice Program staff on various topics, including, court-based unbundled volunteer lawyer programs, the CourtHelp website, DIY Form document assembly programs, Court Help Centers, the Mobile Legal Help Center and community outreach, and the Housing Court Guardian Ad Litem program. The presentation concluded with a tour of the New York County Civil Court Help Center.

Nepal Delegation Visit 2016
Nepal Delegation with Justice Fern A. Fisher


New York County Community Law Day

NYS Courts Access to Justice Program commemorated National Law Day this year by holding a Community Law Day in the Bronx. Despite the cold and rainy day, the festive event complete with balloons, refreshments and free giveaways was held indoors at the Bronx County Supreme Court. Over 200 people stopped by to gather information from the 22 agencies that participated. Safe Horizon, Human Resources Administration, LIFT and The Legal Aid Society were just some of the agencies that gathered indoors to take part in the two and a half hour event. The Mobile Legal Help Center, a traveling Help Center sponsored by NYLAG and the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, was stationed outside of the Bronx County Supreme Court. Volunteer lawyers on the Mobile Legal Help Center provided legal advice and referrals to a half dozen litigants on their immigration, housing, employment and family law cases.


Unrepresented Litigant E-Filing Website

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, working with NYSCEF and the Department of Technology, have launched a new e-filing website for unrepresented litigants: The purpose of the e-filing unrepresented litigant track is to streamline the process and explain the e-filing procedure in simple terms that non-attorneys can better understand. The new website explains the basics of e-filing to help a litigant decide whether e-filing is right for him or her. The website clarifies the procedure for setting up an account to start a case or e-file in an existing case. In addition, the website contains content explaining what is needed before logging in, including information about motions, fee waivers and document redaction. The website also contains helpful links to explain terms, find forms and find live assistance.


2015 Report

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program issued its 2015 Report, entitled, "Delivering Cost Effective Legal Services and Information in Challenging Economic Times". 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 2015. Some of the highlights include: expansion of the Uncontested Divorce Program; VLFD Consumer Debt Program serving 20,000 litigants; opening of new Help Center in Columbia County; new statewide Child Name Change DIY Form program; over 200,000 litigants assisted by Court Help Centers; improvements to the CourtHelp website; and a Law a la Carte limited scope conference held. In addition, this year’s Report describes the Access to Justice Program’s cost-effective methods utilized for the delivery of legal services and legal information. Thank you to all the partners, friends, volunteers and court personnel who helped make 2015 a success!

back to top