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New York StateUnified Court System

Court Navigator Program, formerly known as Resolution Assistance Program (RAP)


If you would like to post your own testimonial about your experience as a Court Navigator volunteer, e-mail



Posted: January 6, 2017

By: Johanna Sanchez, Undergraduate Student

“During the summer of 2016, as part of my internship requirement for the Skadden Arps Honors Program at the City College of New York, I volunteered as a Court Navigator in the Housing Court. I worked in the Manhattan and Queens Civil Courts, which gave me two different experiences. As a Court Navigator, I assisted tenants and landlords navigate through the complex court system. The Court Navigator program provides volunteers with computer training on the interactive DIY (Do-it-Yourself) program used in court. This program generates the proper forms litigants require with the help of a computer. Litigants input their case information and the program fills out the forms. The result is a completed document with the correct information on it, which the litigants print out to hand to a clerk. The DIY program helps facilitate the generating of official government documents for unrepresented litigants without the stress of obtaining an attorney. Court navigators are equipped with this training and are able to guide people through the process. In my experience people needed help getting started, the program itself is free, very easy to use, quick, and interactive. Additionally, court navigators can accompany litigants in attorney conferences and when they go before the judge. Having someone to accompany them, helps ease their anxiety and fear. Navigators are not attorneys and therefore, cannot provide litigants with any legal advice. However, the program teaches navigators how to assist unrepresented litigants in other ways.

As court navigators, we are able to help litigants by calculating their rent breakdown. Sometimes, the amount of back rent being sued for is not the correct amount. I have assisted a few litigants resolve issues of back rent by simply organizing their checks and receipts and calculating the amount of money already paid off. In other situations, the amount being sued for was accurate. At this point, some litigants ask us to help them calculate a payment method based on their income. It is a rough calculation, but at least we ease their stress by presenting them with other options. Navigators are also well aware of all other organization within and outside the court that may help the litigants further resolve their disputes. I have helped litigants apply for “One Shot Deals” in the HRA department. It is an emergency grant that helps litigants who cannot meet an expense due to an unexpected situation or event. I have also helped litigants get in contact with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). This organization provides high quality, free legal services to litigants who cannot afford private attorneys. The Court Navigator Program is essential to New York courts because it makes the entire court process easier for litigants to work through.

Overall, the navigator experience showed me the types of challenges unrepresented litigants face and how difficult it is to advocate for oneself without the proper recourses. I felt a genuine pleasure every time I assisted a litigant, whether it was directing them to the proper courtroom, explaining the court procedures, letting them know what to expect, or giving them a chance to vent their concerns. Sometimes, the best thing I did for litigants was to genuinely sympathize with them and make them feel heard. Moreover, language barriers do negatively affect unrepresented litigants because it adds to their anxiety and it makes them feel completely lost in the process. Being Latina, I was better able to assist many Spanish-speaking litigants. Some litigants are homeless, in debt, or on the verge of losing their household. These litigants have kids and other things going on in their lives. Therefore, they need all the help they can get. Housing Court handles very stressful situations and that is why I believe that the Court Navigator Program benefits our justice system. Being a court navigator was an experience that I will carry with me throughout my professional career.”



Posted: December 9, 2016

By: Yscary Rodriguez, Undergraduate Student

“The Court Navigator Program is an essential part of the Housing Court. The program helps unrepresented litigants in their nonpayment cases in obtaining financial resources and assistance during their case. The litigants usually come to court scared and with little knowledge of how the Housing Court process works. They are more likely to sign stipulations without understanding their rights or the agreements. The Navigator Program is in place to assist in explaining the process, obtaining resources, and ensuring unrepresented litigants do not get intimidated by their court experience or their adversary.

Overall, my experience as a Court Navigator was memorable. The best part was helping others. Once the litigants understood the process, they felt more comfortable speaking with the landlord's attorney, asking for a conference, and explaining their case to the judge. They were able to relax and focus on the issue at hand: their rent arrears, and how they are going to pay them to avoid an eviction. The Navigator Program is about helping others by providing them with information they may not be aware of that can help resolve their case.

The downside of the Court Navigator Program is that not all of the courtrooms are enrolled into the program. Maybe in the near future we can have more Court Navigators throughout the Housing Court and other courthouses as well. The services that Navigators provide are more than raising awareness about resources, we also provide moral support to unrepresented litigants in a time of need.

I am grateful I was able to partake in this experience. It opened my eyes about the underlying issues of Housing Court. No racial, social, or economic groups are exempt from reporting to Housing Court for a non-payment or holdover case. We all share similar reasons in ending up in Housing Court. The Court Navigator Program is here to help and so far, the program seems to be accomplishing its goals/mission.”



Posted: August 7, 2015

By: Juliet Sato, Undergraduate Student

“I served as a Court Navigator in the summer of 2015 as part of my internship with Professor Rosenberg, Dean of the law clinic at CUNY Law School. I had an extremely immersive experience during which I was able to learn how complex Housing Court cases can be. I had predicted feelings of frustration with my limited ability to help litigants the way attorneys would be able to help, but I found my experience to be quite the opposite. You realize that even though you feel your help is insignificant, it can mean a lot to the person you are helping. Often, a litigant just needs someone to look them in the face and say "listen, I know you are really upset and I understand why. I want to help you do what you need to do," to be able to take a deep breath and think about the next steps they need to take. My experiences in Housing Court illuminated so many intersecting issues in terms of non-representation and access to justice. Often, social, economic, educational, and sometimes gender issues were involved in the cases that I was able to work on. Many unrepresented litigants who visit Housing Court are unfortunately disadvantaged in more than one way before they even step foot in the building; to have to go through the process unrepresented without help is yet another disadvantage. While these issues are depressing and can be discouraging, it is hopeful that the Navigator program exists in an attempt to address a part of the very prevalent problem of representing yourself in court.

The Housing Court's interactive DIY program is an excellent way to help litigants file answers in a professional way. The program walks litigants through each step of filling out their appropriate form, and at the end of the program, prints out their appropriate form to submit to the clerk. I was impressed at how accessible the program is, and how the program takes answers to simple, straightforward questions and turns them into an official legal document. This is something that helps unrepresented litigants greatly, as it helps them represent themselves in a more serious and streamlined way. Often, unrepresented litigants were very emotional and it was hard to focus on the details of their case. Having a DIY Navigator to talk the answers out with helped the litigants complete the programs quicker and thus, take the next step they need to take in their case. The DIY program is designed very well, and having Navigators assist litigants in using it significantly improves the overall usage of the program.

Overall, the Navigator experience is, in my opinion, an essential step towards gaining a deeper understanding of housing policy in New York City. By giving you the opportunity to assist unrepresented litigants in Housing Court, the Navigator program also opens your eyes to the inter-connectivity of issues that those who are disadvantaged in our city face every day. While the Navigator program is an excellent experience for any student interested in housing policy, it also makes for a great experience for students generally interested in public service or public policy in New York City.”



Posted: October 14, 2014

By: Sagar Sharma, Undergraduate Student

“During the summer of 2014, I was a Court Navigator for the Access to Justice Program. Initially, I was not really sure of what to expect-I had heard from various people that Housing Court is a chaotic environment. However, it turned out that all of those people were blatantly wrong. The Court Navigator program gave me an opportunity to help litigants that do not have the time or the financial capacity to hire a lawyer. Although I was unable to provide legal advice (since I am not an attorney), I noticed that the information that I was able to provide tremendously helped the unrepresented litigants. The simple act of providing a litigant a phone number for an agency - such as The Legal Aid Society - was appreciated. I also noticed the moral support I provided to the litigants instilled in them a confidence that they were previously lacking. I was surprised to learn the amount of free legal aid that is available to those who cannot afford an attorney. Yet, I was saddened to learn that this information is not widely known- which is why the Court Navigator Program, and its volunteers, is a great asset for the Court to have.

In addition to learning about the Court System and providing help to those who do not have a lawyer, I was able to meet and interact with people from vastly different backgrounds. Interacting with lawyers, judges, court attorneys, and litigants gave me a deeper understanding of the types of people present in New York City. It would be an understatement to say that I was a different person after my experiences as a Court Navigator.

Overall, I had a delightful experience as a Court Navigator. As a result, my desire to go to law school increased tremendously. The Court personnel were supportive and encouraging - especially during my first few days as a Navigator. I would highly recommend the program to anyone who has a desire to go to law school or a desire to provide assistance to those who truly need it. It will be a decision that they certainly will not regret.”



Posted: October 18, 2013

By: Ivonne T., Undergraduate Student and Aspiring Volunteer

“I would like to take the time to thank the RAP program and its representatives for their incredible assistance in continually providing support to individuals who are not represented by an attorney. Recently, my sister and I came to the Housing Court at 111 Centre Street after receiving a court notice. We were informed that our landlord charged us an additional $600.00 towards rent without a substantial explanation. My mother and head of the household was unable to attend because of jury duty. This consequently resulted in my sister and I appearing on her behalf. While sitting on the bench my sister and I did not know what to expect. We thought we were going to lose the case because we came to court with no representation. However, two guardian angels who are RAP volunteers by the name of Sue and Natasha not only assisted us in our defense, but they genuinely and compassionately helped us. We call them our guardian angels because out of everyone on the 7th floor, Sue and Natasha took the initiative and the time to help my sister and me. They were phenomenal in every way imaginable and stood beside us until we settled with the landlord's attorney. I am currently pursuing a degree in Humanities & Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. My goal after graduation is to attend law school and to one day become a Human Rights attorney. The RAP Program is a unique program and I appreciate its mission in serving as mentors to individuals who are unrepresented... I am highly interested in being a part of this program and aiding others similar to the way Sue and Natasha helped my family. If you are still recruiting volunteers for this program please let me know the application process.”



Posted: October 18, 2013

By: Sue Herskovits

“ I have really enjoyed working as a R.A.P. volunteer at the Manhattan Housing Court these past 6 months. What you don't get in pay you get back 10 times in satisfaction. As a R.A.P. volunteer in the fast-paced atmosphere of the courtrooms and hallways of Housing Court, you are definitely learning as you go, which keeps you on your toes (I carry the RAP Manual with me everywhere I go!). But because all the Court personnel are so welcoming and helpful, it is exciting rather than overwhelming.

While assisting unrepresented litigants, I have met people with all different backgrounds and it is amazing how after just a few short hours of being together and hearing the stories of their circumstances, a bond forms. No two stories are alike. One case was a dressmaker who was locked out of his apartment with a bride's dress still inside which he desperately needed to retrieve. Another case was a teacher who was wrongfully terminated by Section 8 due to the Social Security Administration issuing her 2 different Social Security numbers without her knowledge. The litigants are often intimidated by the courtroom setting so it is empowering for them when someone has their back. It can also put them in a less adversarial mood, keeping the process moving more smoothly. The RAP volunteer can help level the playing field for unrepresented litigants by accompanying litigants when they speak with the attorneys and judges, by encouraging them to advocate for themselves in a focused, effective way, and by helping them organize their documents and navigate the system. They are genuinely happy and appreciative of the assistance, which makes this volunteer work so rewarding.”



Posted: October 14, 2011

By: Adam Antreassian, J.D. Candidate (2009-2012)

“Over the summer of 2011, I volunteered as a R.A.P. Assistant with the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program. Shortly after completing my training, I was assigned to the Housing Resolution Part of the New York City Civil Court in Queens County.

Having just completed my second year of law school and being interested in public interest law, the Resolution Assistance Program was a great fit for me. The program put me in the courtroom where I interacted with judges, attorneys, and litigants, and immersed me in ongoing legal disputes carrying serious consequences.

The Program taught me the importance of assisting unrepresented litigants and the responsibility that comes with that assistance. Many litigants in landlord/tenant disputes have low incomes and are forced to represent themselves without an attorney. These unrepresented litigants often find court proceedings confusing and intimidating, especially since most of their adversaries are represented by an attorney. As a R.A.P. volunteer, I eased the stress levels of unrepresented litigants by providing them with support. While I never told litigants that "everything would be OK," I did assure them that they had rights, I told them where they could go to get free legal assistance, and most importantly I made sure that they were not taken advantage of by opposing counsel.

Overall, my experience as a R.A.P. volunteer was very positive. I truly enjoyed working in court and having face to face contact with litigants, attorneys, and judges. The court personnel were very welcoming and supportive, and my supervisors were always available to offer me help and advice. I would highly recommend the program to other students.”



Posted August 26, 2011

By: Selicia Smith, Undergraduate Student

“Volunteering as a R.A.P. Assistant for the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program has been an enjoyable experience. I am truly thankful that I had the opportunity to lend an ear and provide moral support to unrepresented litigants who needed assistance with their case. In addition, I am truly grateful for having had the opportunity to work with several knowledgeable attorneys and court clerks in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens Civil Court. Thanks to these professionals, I was able to get a good grasp of housing law. My biggest take away from volunteering for this program is that I am going to walk away with a vast amount of wisdom on landlord and tenant issues as well as a drastic improvement in my legal vocabulary.”