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News Archive 2017


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.


Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia Visits Court Navigator Program

Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia Executive Director Heather de Berdt Romilly and her colleague Julien Matte visited the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program to observe the Court Navigator Program in action. Special Counsel Kathleen Maitland escorted the visitors through the New York County Housing Court where they discussed the Program and met with volunteer Navigators Gideon Soule and Jessica Delisa. The Court Navigator Program operates in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan Housing Courts to train college students and other volunteers to provide non-legal, in-court assistance to unrepresented litigants. Learn more about the Court Navigator Program.

Court Navigator Visit
(l-r) Julien Matte, Gideon Soule, Jessica Delisa,
Heather de Berdt Romilly, and Kathleen Maitland, Esq.


Document Assembly Programs Best Practices Guide Third Edition

The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program has published a third edition of its Document Assembly Programs Best Practices Guide for Court System Development and Implementation Using A2J Author. The Guide is a tool for other court systems interested in producing self-help document assembly programs that generate court forms for low-income unrepresented litigants. New York's document assembly programs are called DIY Forms and can be found on CourtHelp:

LiveHelp Assistance Expanded on CourtHelp

LawHelpNY’s successful bilingual online chat LiveHelp service has been expanded to the Families & Children pages of the CourtHelp website. Visitors can click on the instant messaging button and LiveHelp trained operators, who are primarily law students, can help visitors navigate to helpful legal information on CourtHelp and LawHelp. LiveHelp operators can also help visitors navigate to legal services providers who may be able to help with their cases. In 2015, this service was added to eight Foreclsoure pages. The LiveHelp button is now available on an additional 43 Family Court related information pages on CourtHelp, including support, custody, paternity, adoption, and visitation. See e.g.: Read more about the expansion in the Press Release.

Summer and Fall 2017 Assigned Counsel Project Internship Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program seeks enthusiastic and dedicated law student and recent law graduate volunteers for the Assigned Counsel Project Internship Program. Interns will assess the legal needs of vulnerable seniors at risk of eviction in Brooklyn or Queens Housing Courts and conduct intake for the Assigned Counsel Project (ACP). Responsibilities include working under the supervision of a Court Attorney to issue spot potential defenses and identify possible social service needs for the Supervising Judge to consider when triaging candidates for the ACP. Summer hours for the program are M-F, in shifts of 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM, or all day 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM from June to August. Participation in the program fulfills the 50-hour pro bono requirement. Deadline to apply for summer internships is May 22, 2017. More information including training dates and how to apply.

Attention College Students Looking for Summer Volunteer Opportunities

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s Court Navigator Program is holding a two-part training session on May 25, 2017 for enthusiastic volunteers who want to assist unrepresented landlords and tenants in the New York City Housing Courts. Accepted students may attend one or both training sessions in exchange for 30 volunteer hours. The morning session trains volunteers to assist unrepresented litigants facing nonpayment proceedings. The afternoon session trains volunteers to assist unrepresented litigants preparing their court papers using the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form computer programs. Volunteers may choose to help people in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan or Queens. Court Navigators have the opportunity to obtain real life courtroom experience while helping people in need.

To apply, send your resume to: by May 19, 2017.


Medgar Evers College Students Train for Court Navigator Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s Court Navigator Program recently trained 17 new volunteers from Medgar Evers College to assist landlords and tenants in Housing Courts throughout New York City. Since the program’s inception in 2014, countless Medgar Evers students have assisted unrepresented litigants in New York City Courts thanks to our close working relationship with the school. A special thank you to Medgar Evers College Student Life Coordinator Cheryl McNeil for helping to coordinate the training and her continuing efforts and support of the Court Navigator Program!

Since the Court Navigator Program began, over 490 volunteers have been trained to assist unrepresented litigants in New York City Courts. Volunteers working in the Housing Courts help people facing nonpayment proceedings in Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. College students who become Court Navigators have the opportunity to obtain real life courtroom experience while helping people in need. For more information, visit Court Navigator Program or email:


2016 Report

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program issued its 2016 Report entitled, "Working Toward 100% Meaningful Access to Justice.” The Report describes the significant advances that the Access to Justice Program has made toward providing 100% meaningful access to justice for all through multi-faceted programs and initiatives aimed at filling the justice gap. Some highlights include an overview of the court-based programs, technology initiatives, community-based initiatives and simplification efforts. The Access to Justice Program thanks all of the partners, friends, volunteers and court personnel who helped make 2016 a success.

New Help Center

Ribbon cutting at the New York County Surrogate's Court Help Center
Chief Clerk Diana Sanabria, Surrogate Rita Mella, Justice Fern A. Fisher, & Surrogate Nora Anderson

On March 1, 2017, Judge Fern Fisher, Director of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, Surrogate Nora S. Anderson, Surrogate Rita Mella, and the New York County Surrogate’s Court Chief Clerk Diana Sanabria hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the NY County Surrogate’s Court Help Center. The Help Center is located in Room 500 of the NY County Surrogate’s Court and is staffed by an attorney. The Help Center will focus on issues such as the probate of wills, the administration of estates, and guardianships. In addition, there are DIY terminals available for unrepresented litigants to use to prepare papers for Small Estate Administrations, Article 17-A Guardianship Petitions, and Safe Deposit Box Petitions. In addition to using the DIY Form terminals, unrepresented litigants will also be able to obtain sample forms, and ask questions about court procedures. The location, address, and hours of operation are available on CourtHelp.

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