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News Archive 2013


DECEMBER

Uncontested Divorce DIY Form Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has commenced testing of the new Uncontested Divorce DIY Form Program in the Kings County Supreme Court Help Center. This program is for unrepresented litigants with no children seeking a divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the relationship (no fault). The DIY Form program greatly simplifies the process for completing the paperwork required in an uncontested divorce.




NOVEMBER

Spanish Audio Added to Paternity DIY Form Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has added Spanish audio to the Family Court Spanish Paternity Petition DIY Form program. This feature will assist Spanish litigants who do not read well or who process spoken information better than written text. The program is available on CourtHelp.




OCTOBER

NYS Courts Access to Justice Program DIY Forms in the News

Meghan Lenahan, who works in the Public Access Law Library in Suffolk County, published an article in the November 2013 issue of the American Association of Law Libraries, Spectrum magazine entitled,"DIY Forms Programs: Helping unrepresented litigants navigate the court system in New York". The article praises the DIY Form programs as a great resource to assist unrepresented litigants.

Audio Added to NYC DIY Tenant Restore to Calendar Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has recorded the text of the New York City Civil Court Tenant Affidavit to Restore to Calendar DIY Form program so that the program has audio available. Audio can be turned on and off by the user. The goal of the audio feature is to improve the DIY Forms' experience for unrepresented litigants with limited English proficiency and lower reading comprehension, as well as users who process information better from spoken rather than written words. The program is available through the Civil Court's Housing website, as well as CourtHelp.

New DIY Form Program for Consumer Debt

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has created a new DIY (Do-It-Yourself Form program for unrepresented litigants to move to vacate a default judgment for failure to appear or answer. The program produces all the papers needed, along with instructions, for any state court in which the judgment was ordered. The program is available on CourtHelp.




AUGUST

New York County Family Court Staff Win DIY Star Awards!

Congratulations to the Help Center and Petition Room Staffs, Assistant Deputy Chief Clerk Nicholas Rapallo, and Court Assistant Juntel Sheard of the New York County Family Court on winning the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's DIY Star Award. The award is presented from time to time to courts and individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the success of the DIY Form programs and improved access to justice for unrepresented litigants. Juntel Sheard and her colleagues in the Petition Room and Help Center received the award because of their outstanding customer service and impressive usage statistics of the Family Court DIY Forms. Nicholas Rapallo earned the award for his changes in procedures that led to a change in court culture and work environment. Read about the New York County Family Court Star Awards.

New York City Family Court Administrative Judge Wins DIY Star Award

On August 8, 2013, Judge Fern Fisher presented the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's DIY Star Award to Administrative Judge Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson for her outstanding leadership in the implementation of the DIY Form programs in the New York City Family Courts. Judge Richardson-Mendelson's efforts to make the DIY Form programs a priority in the New York City Family Courts are clearly evidences by the fact that over the past three years, four of her Courts (Kings, Bronx, Queens and New York Counties) have been recognized for their outstanding assistance to unrepresented litigants through the use of the Family Court DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form programs.

Judge Richardson-Mendelson, our super special star!
Judge Fern Fisher and Judge Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson

Audio Added to DIY Paternity Petition Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has recorded the text of the New York Family Court DIY Paternity Petition program so that the program now has audio which can be turned on and off by the user. The goal of the audio feature is to improve the DIY Forms' experience for unrepresented litigants with limited English proficiency and lower reading comprehension, as well as users who process information better from spoken rather than written words. Audio will be recorded and added to the Spanish version of the DIY Paternity Petition program by the end of the year.




JULY

Grand Re-opening of Bronx Family Court Help Center

The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, New York City Family Court Administrative Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, Bronx Family Court Supervising Judge Monica Drinane and Clerk of the Court Michael J. Williams are proud to announce the opening of the new and improved Bronx Family Court Help Center. Now with 10 DIY computers in the waiting area, the Bronx Family Court Help Center allows unrepresented litigants to create and file petitions all in the same room. At this new location litigants can meet with Volunteer Attorneys, receive copies of court orders, and even appear before a Court Referee, allowing many of their needs to be addressed right when they file. Location address and times are available on CourtHelp.




JUNE

Document Assembly Programs Best Practice Guide Second Edition

The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program has published a second 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 used on CourtHelp: www.nycourthelp.gov.




MAY

The NYS Court Access to Justice Program Hosts Florida State Court Administrators

The Florida State Court received a grant from the National Center for State Court's Center on Court Access to Justice for All, in order to travel to New York to observe the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's DIY Form document assembly programs. The Technical Assistance Grant is awarded to courts interested in gaining specific expertise on implementing an access to justice program, practice or service. On May 20, 2013, three Florida State Court Administrators spent the day in New York City learning about development and implementation of the DIY Form programs. The following day, the Administrators toured the Bronx Housing, Family and Surrogate's Courts.

Visit to Bronx Surrogate's Court
Standing from left to right: Florida State Court Chief of Court Improvement Rose Patterson, Bronx County Chief Clerk Michael Hausler, Bronx County Deputy Chief Clerk Earnestine Glover, NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Special Counsel Tracy McNeil, Court Officer Julio Toro. Seated: Florida Deputy State Court Administrator Blan Teagle and Florida State Court Chief of Court Improvement Gregory Youchock.

Mike Williams Wins 2013 Kathryn A. McDonald Award

Congratulations to Mike Williams on winning the Kathryn A. McDonald Award from the New York City Bar. This award is presented annually for excellence in service to the Family Court. Mike has worked for the courts for 23 years and is the Chief Clerk of Bronx County Family Court. He was instrumental in the development of the Family Court DIY Forms programs and the Family Offense Petition E-Filing Project. Click here for more information.

Mike Williams Wins McDonald Award
Mike Williams with his Kathryn A. McDonald Award

New York State Courts Celebrates 10,000 Consumer Debt Defendants Served by Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Pro Bono Program and Honors Program Partners

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program hosted a reception at the New York City Civil Court to celebrate the milestone of 10,000 consumer debt defendants served by its Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program since its inception. The program included remarks by Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti. Over 100 of the program’s volunteer attorneys attended the reception and the following program partners were honored:

  • New York Appleseed;
  • Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project;
  • New York County Lawyers’ Association; and
  • New York Legal Assistance Group

We are so proud of the hundreds of attorneys who have provided legal representation through this program and our four partner organizations who have worked with us to achieve justice for so many thousands of litigants.

Successful Fourth free Bridge-The-Gap CLE in return for Pro Bono Service in NYS Courts Access to Justice Program

The fourth series of free bridge-the-gap CLE trainings in return for pro bono service in the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program was successfully concluded in April. Over 100 attorneys were trained to provide free legal advice and limited representation to unrepresented litigants and began their pro bono service in New York City’s Housing, Civil, and Supreme Courts in May. Recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys are able to fulfill their first or second year Mandatory CLE requirements as well as New York’s new mandate of 50 hours of pro bono service for new attorneys through participation in this program.

CLE training was offered in Consumer Law, Uncontested Divorce, Landlord/Tenant Law and Ethics. In return for CLE training, participants were required to complete a 50 hour supervised pro bono practicum assisting litigants in NYC Housing, Civil and Supreme Courts within 6 months of training. Since the program’s inception in 2011, over 400 recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys have signed up for this CLE series and provided pro bono service to more than 4,500 litigants. Demand for this program is so strong that each of the series has been was oversubscribed within weeks of its announcement. It is hoped that involving attorneys in pro bono service early in their careers will encourage long-term commitment to public service within the profession. The program will be offered again in the Fall.




APRIL

Spanish language feature added to Surrogate's Court DIY Safe Deposit Box Program

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program has added a new Spanish feature to the Surrogate's Court Safe Deposit Box DIY Form program for Spanish speaking unrepresented litigants. Every screen has "Español" links which open pop-up windows with the translations of the screen. The program can be accessed through CourtHelp. The program generates instructions and pleadings in English, with a Spanish copy of the instructions for the litigant.

Suffolk County Surrogate's Court Staff wins the DIY Star Award

On April 15, 2013, the Suffolk County Surrogate's Court Staff was awarded the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's prestigious DIY Star Award. The 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 Surrogate's Court staff received the award because of their outstanding usage and promotion of the Surrogate's Court Small Estate, Guardianship and Safe Deposit Box DIY Form programs, increasing access to justice for unrepresented litigants. Read about the Surrogate's Court Staff.




MARCH

New NYC Chinese Landlord Guide

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's Guide for NYC landlords and owners, entitled: New York City Landlords & Owners: Questions & Answers about Housing Court is now available in Chinese! The tenant guide is also available in Chinese. The publications are accessible through the NYC Civil Court's Chinese website and CourtHelp.

"New York City Housing Court at 40" YouTube Video

A new video celebrating the 40th anniversary of Housing Court is posted on the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program's YouTube channel. This video was produced for the New York City's Housing Court's 40th anniversary. On March 11, 2013 the Association of the Housing Court Judges, The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at NYU, and the New York City Bar Association held a conference called "New York City's Housing Court at 40: Controversies, Challenges and Prospects for its Future". This video is a compilation of interviews of many people who were involved with the formation of Housing Court, its implementation and its advancement.




FEBRUARY

Family Offense Petition Pilot Project

A pilot project specifically designed for domestic violence advocates to assist DV litigants in completing and filing Family Offense Petitions is underway in the Bronx County Family Court. The New York State Court System's Office of Policy and Planning, Department of Technology, NYC Family Court Administration, and Access to Justice Program, worked with Pro Bono Net and the Center for Court Innovation to build the capability to directly transfer data collected in the program into the Family Court’s case management system.

If this pilot project is successful, the program's application will be expanded throughout New York State in the latter part of 2013 and will be of great benefit to domestic violence victims. Bronx advocate groups interested in using the program, or anyone interested in learning more, can contact Bronx County Chief Clerk Mike Williams: mwilliams@courts.state.ny.us.

It is anticipated that in the coming years the technology designed for this document assembly program will lead to the e-filing of documents produced by the DIY Form programs.




JANUARY

2012 Report

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program issued its 2012 report. Highlights of the report include Highlights of the report include over 14,000 litigants served by court-based volunteer programs; Housing VLFD program expanded to tenants in Bronx County; new partnership forged to expand pro bono assistance with uncontested divorces; Family Court VAP expanded to Richmond County via teleconferencing; Forms Simplification Committees established; Uncontested Divorce Program replicated in Monroe and Suffolk Counties; Law School Pro Bono Initiative launched; NYCHA and Article 78 proceeding assistance offered; partnership established to open new Help Center in the 7th JD; DIY Forms projected to break 100,000 assemblies in 2012; seven new DIY Form programs created; four new YouTube videos launched; specialized training for Court appointed Lay GALs developed; increased numbers of GALs serving hard to reach Courts; state-wide survey conducted: “Understanding the Nature and Scope of GAL Appointments Outside NYC;” Poverty Simulations held for Criminal Court judicial and non-judicial personnel; Mobile Legal Help Center provides Hurricane Sandy storm help; and, Temporary Order of Protection issued from Mobile Legal Help Center. Thank you to all our partners, friends, and court personnel that helped make 2012 such a success!

New 7th Judicial District Court Help Center

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program and Administrative Judge Craig J. Doran are proud to announce the opening of the 7th Judicial District Court Help Center. Located in the Rochester City Court, this brand new Help Center is a partnership between the Courts, the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County, Inc. (VLSP), the Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA), the Telesca Center for Justice, and the Center for Dispute Settlement. The Help Center will provide free walk-in legal and procedural information to litigants who are not represented by an attorney. Location address and times are available on CourtHelp.

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