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Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga & Oswego Counties


Fifth District Pro Bono Action Now Program

 

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Who we are | Who is eligible

 

The Fifth Judicial District Pro Bono Action Now Program is the first pro bono program to be funded by the New York State Unified Court System. The Program is run by a Committee of judges and lawyers in the Fifth Judicial District whose goal is to try to meet some of the unmet civil legal needs of low-income persons that cannot be met by other legal service providers by using Pro Bono lawyers. Pro Bono means work that is done without financial compensation for the public good. The Committee recruits lawyers who are willing to volunteer time to help those unable to afford a lawyer and who have important legal needs.

 

Who are we?

The Fifth Judicial District Pro Bono Action Now Program is the first program to become active as part of the statewide initiative, "ProBonoNY," sponsored by the New York State Unified Court System to encourage and help support attorneys' Pro Bono legal services.

The initiative was originally envisioned by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and organized under the aegis of Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives. The Fifth Judicial District Program is run by a Committee of judges and lawyers--co-chaired by Hon. James C. Tormey, Administrative Judge, and Robert J. Smith, of Costello, Cooney & Fearon, PLLC.

The Committee's goal is to try to meet some of the unmet civil legal needs of low-income persons that cannot be handled by other legal service providers by using Pro Bono lawyers. Specific case referrals are made through Legal Services of Central New York, Inc. and other service agencies, through the Committee's pro bono coordinator and staff.

The Fifth Judicial District Action Now Program was the first active program in the ProBonoNY initiative, holding its initial Continuing Legal Education for lawyers program in April 2006, and it was also the first ProBonoNY Committee to receive funding from the court system for an attorney pro bono coordinator. Increased funding for the Program allowed expansion of the staff to include two legal assistants who are involved with furthering all the Committee's goals and activities, including recruiting volunteers, case and client intake, case assignments, training and CLE programs, and volunteer recognition.

 

Who is eligible for what type of Pro Bono services?

Who? Clients will be screened under our financial guidelines and must live in Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, or Oswego county. Once found eligible, clients will receive legal assistance if their case requires the assistance of an attorney, if their case falls within the Program's priorities and if there is a Pro Bono lawyer willing to assist the client. The Program is administered by three staff at the Syracuse office who are responsible for screening clients, making referrals and overseeing the quality of the services provided.

What? The types of legal services to be provided are very broad, however the Program will not provide any assistance in criminal matters. The legal assistance provided may range from information and referral, to counsel and advice, to full representation before administrative agencies, state courts, or federal courts. The types of cases that lawyers will handle are many. Just a few examples of the types of cases that may be evaluated for case acceptance include:

  • Divorce
  • Evictions
  • Probate
  • Defense of a lawsuit