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FREE Bridge-the-Gap CLE

Recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys may fulfill their first or second year Mandatory CLE requirements through the NYS Courts Office for Justice Initiatives Free Bridge-the-Gap CLE training. See flyer for details.

Date: Tuesday, October 23 - Friday, October 26th, 2018
Location: 111 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013

National Pro Bono Celebration Week

In celebration of National Pro Bono Week, Help Centers throughout New York State will be providing free presentations and information sessions for the public during the last week of October 2018. Registration is not required, and all events are open to the public. This year, events will take place in Bronx County, Kings County (Brooklyn), Monroe County, New York County, and Queens County. Topics will include NYC Small Claims, Family Law, Small Estates, Disaster Preparedness and general information about the law and court procedure. Click on the county nearest to you, to view the flyer for the event.

Bronx County

Kings County

Monroe County

New York County

Queens County



Launch of Pro Bono Partnership Project with the City Bar Justice Center at June 14th Training

Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, Deputy Chief Judge for Justice Initiatives, welcomed volunteer attorneys at a training program on June 14th developed jointly by the court system’s Office for Justice Initiatives and the City Bar Justice Center. Volunteer attorneys were trained to provide brief legal information and advice to assist unrepresented litigants in the New York City Civil Court’s Help Centers with small claims, consumer debt, name change and other civil matters. New York City Civil Court and City Bar Justice Center staff attorneys conducted the orientation and training. Volunteers earn free CLE credits in return for their pro bono service. “This project will leverage the pro bono resources of the private bar to help us increase access to justice to those in need in our state courts. We are delighted to partner with the City Bar Justice Center on this important initiative!” said Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina G. Mendelson. Volunteer opportunities begin in late June at Civil Court in Brooklyn and Manhattan. All volunteers are asked to commit to 20 hours of pro bono service in the program within six-months of training.


New DIY Form Combined Support Modification, Enforcement/Violation Petition Program

The Office for Justice Initiatives is proud to announce a brand-new DIY Form Program for unrepresented litigants who have child support and/or spousal support orders. This combined Support Modification, Enforcement/Violation Petition Program allows unrepresented litigants to input their information once and ask the court for one or both forms of relief. This decreases the amount of time spent preparing papers for court and enhances their overall experience with the program and the court.

New Version of Family Court DIY Form Programs Launched

All Family Court DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form computer programs have been updated to improve the unrepresented litigant’s experience. Program users no longer require Adobe Flash or Microsoft Word or Word Viewer to prepare their court papers. Instead the papers generated by the programs open in a PDF document. The computer program graphics have a sleek new design and are available on mobile devices. The DIY Forms FAQ page has been updated to reflect the changes to the program. Stay tuned for improved DIY Form Programs for Surrogate’s, Supreme, County, District, City, Civil, Housing and Justice Courts. For more information about DIY Form Programs visit CourtHelp.

Queens Clergy Day

Queens Clergy Day
Judge Edwina Mendelson, Office for Justice Initiatives Staff and Members of the Queens Clergy

On May 3, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI) welcomed Queens religious leaders to a thought-provoking discussion at the historic Long Island City Courthouse. Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Mendelson discussed the advantages of courts and faith leaders working together and shared updates on the new Raise the Age law. She was joined by Deputy Administrative Judge of the New York City Family Court Anne-Marie Jolly, Administrative Judge of Queens Supreme Court - Criminal Term, Joseph Zayas, Queens County Family Court Judge Dweynie Paul and Special Counsel for OJI, Lisa Zayas.

Judge Zayas gave an overview of the courts and of the judicial system. Judge Jolly and Judge Paul provided valuable information about what court users should expect when they appear in Family Court. They also encouraged clergy members to advise congregants about which documents to bring to court and what kind of behavior judges expect in courtrooms. Lisa Zayas gave an interactive presentation on Court Help Centers in Queens County and how to use Do-It-Yourself court forms.

Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center and Anita Parker, President, Treat me Right Inc., introduced the Safe Exchange Program at St. Luke AME Church in Harlem. Safe Exchange facilitates supervised visitation for children and parents and provides for a place of worship to be used for custody exchanges. The program is a resounding example of how the clergy, court leaders and members of law enforcement can work together to meet a significant need in their community. View the photo gallery from the event.


Poverty Simulation

Hofstra University Poverty Sim 2018

On April 4, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives facilitated a Poverty Simulation for students enrolled in the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. The Poverty Simulation is designed to provide participants with the experience of living in poverty for one month. Each month is lived in fifteen-minute increments, during which the participants are tasked with making decisions to support and care for themselves and their families. Faculty and staff from the school, volunteered to play the role of various governmental agencies, community organizations, and private companies typically found in communities. The participants had two goals: to connect with their colleagues and strengthen their ability to work collaboratively; and to challenge assumptions they had about poverty. At the conclusion, of the simulation, student participants, volunteer faculty and staff, gathered to debrief. Based upon the comments shared, it was clear that many participants felt the constraints and difficulties people living in poverty face each day. Visit the Litigants with Diverse Needs page to learn more about Poverty Simulations.


NYC Housing Court Guardians Ad Litem (GALs) trained on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

On March 2, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives' (OJI) Access to Justice Program in collaboration with the Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities conducted an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) training for NYC Housing Court Guardians ad Litem.

Led by OJI Special Counsel for Court-Based Interdisciplinary Programs, Denise-Colon Greenaway, Esq. MSW, the purpose of the training was to promote awareness regarding the challenges people with physical and mental disabilities face when attempting to meaningfully participate in the court process and to educate GALs on how to help them do so. The panel provided tools for GALs to use to determine what specific needs should be addressed in order to promote meaningful participation for their appointees in the court process as well as which accommodations our courts are able to provide.

The well attended training, which was held in the midst of a Nor’easter, was so widely successful that it will be developed into an additional training for Housing Court Judges and Court Attorneys.


Bronx Clergy Day

Bronx Clergy Day
Judge Edwina Mendelson, Office for Justice Initiatives Staff and Members of the Bronx Clergy

On February 28, 2018, the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI), led by Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, Hon. Edwina Mendelson, hosted a Clergy Roundtable discussion in the Bronx County Civil Courthouse. This was the first in a series of conversations being planned throughout the city and state. Attendees were welcomed by Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts, George Silver and Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center. A panel discussion followed which covered the following topics: Clergy as First Responders, Immigration, Court Programs, Housing Court Issues and the New Raise the Age Law.

The exceptionally engaged audience posed several questions to the court leaders and provided helpful feedback about their congregants' interactions with the court system. Interpreters were on hand to provide translation services for Spanish speaking participants. Judge Mendelson, who is co-leading the Courts' implementation of the new Raise the Age law, explained how the law would impact the community and the courts.

Housing Court Judge, Hon. Howard Baum, gave a detailed explanation of what litigants can expect when they enter the courts in addition a concise description of services available both inside and outside of the court. Attorneys from the OJI, Lisa Zayas and Laurie Milder, were also on hand to share information on various court sponsored programs. Terry Lawson, of Bronx Legal Services was on hand to discuss the current changes in Immigration law and how they affect families. View the photo gallery from the event.

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