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In Conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Housing Court GAL Program will be offering GALs and Volunteer Attorneys free CLE Training | Thursday, October 15, 2015, 2:00 - 5:00 P.M. | Speaker: Jennifer L. DeCarli, Esq., LMSW, Senior Director, Legal Services, Her Justice.

This training seminar will provide an overview of the dynamics of domestic violence, New York State’s family, criminal, immigration and housing laws relevant to domestic violence and resources available for victims of domestic violence. Specific laws that will be addressed include the following: New York’s mandatory arrest statute, primary aggressor statute, orders of protection in Family and Criminal Court, the role of ACS in domestic violence cases, and the federal Violence Against Women Act protections afforded to clients with regard to housing and immigration. Participants will also learn how to effectively and sensitively ask about domestic violence and how to connect litigants to available social service resources in their community.

To attend, GALs must RSVP to and Volunteer Attorneys to

FREE Bridge-the-Gap CLE in return for Pro Bono Service in Court's Access to Justice Program. Tuesday, October 27, 2015 through Thursday, October 29, 2015| View Flyer for more details.

The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program will present free bridge-the-gap CLE trainings on October 27th - 29th in return for pro bono service in the Court’s Access to Justice Program. Attorneys will be trained to provide free legal advice and limited representation to unrepresented litigants in New York City’s Housing, Civil, and Supreme Courts. Recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys may fulfill their first or second year Mandatory CLE requirements through participation in this program. The program also facilitates fulfillment of the new rule mandating 50 hours of pro bono service for new attorneys. Since the program’s inception in 2011, over 600 recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys have signed up for this CLE series and provided pro bono service to more than 6,000 litigants. Involving attorneys in pro bono service early in their careers encourages long-term commitment to public service within the profession. All participants in the program gain invaluable experience while helping some of New York’s most disadvantaged civil litigants obtain access to justice.



NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Celebrates Pro Bono!

The seventh annual national pro bono week celebration runs October 25-31, 2015 and the Access to Justice Program has events planned all over the state for lawyers and litigants!
  • Free legal services in the community: Once again the Mobile Legal Help Center will visit a different NYC County each day of the week to provide free legal consultations.
  • Free legal information workshops at the courthouses: Many of the NYS Court Help Centers have speakers lined up on various legal topics.
  • Free CLE training to do pro bono work for attorneys: A three-day Bridge-the-Gap training is scheduled in NYC.
  • Pro Bono Awards Ceremony: Awards will be presented to the volunteers who have given so much over the past year.

Find all information about the Access to Justice Program pro bono week events on National Pro Bono Celebration Week and on Twitter #celebrateprobono.


Maryland's Attorney General's Office Visits the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program

On September 9th, David M. Eppler, Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the State of Maryland, visited the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program to share ideas and discuss programs and resources that increase access to justice for people who do not have an attorney. In the morning, Judge Fisher and the Access to Justice Program's staff made presentations on various topics, including unbundled court based volunteer programs, community outreach programs, the guardian ad litem program, document assembly programs, the website and court help centers. In the afternoon, Mr. Eppler was escorted to the Bronx County Family Court Help Center to observe and tour the innovative facility.

David Eppler and Judge Fern Fisher
David Eppler and Judge Fern Fisher


Dawn Maletta Wins DIY Award

On August 20, 2015, Suffolk County Family Court Deputy Chief Clerk Dawn Maletta was awarded the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s prestigious DIY Star Award. Ms. Maletta's numerous contributions to DIY Form Programs included creating a DIY Center in her court and making a new Family Court DIY instruction sheet which is now used statewide. Read about Ms. Maletta and the DIY Star Award Ceremony.

LegalTech Pro Bono Innovation Award Presented

LegalTech News Editor-in-Chief Erin Harrison presented the New York State Unified Court System with the award for Best Pro Bono Technology Innovation for the court system’s online Family Offense Petition program. The program is used by domestic violence advocates and legal services attorneys to help victims obtain temporary orders of protection from the New York State Family Court. The program’s technology transfers the petitioner’s information directly to the court system, thereby speeding up the process for everyone involved. Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net, who nominated the court system for the award, and worked on the project, opened the ceremony held in New York City on August 11, 2015. Justice Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of NYC Courts and Director of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, accepted the award on behalf of the court system. Judge Fisher gave a moving speech where she relayed the story of her own mother’s experience with physical domestic abuse, which resulted in Judge Fisher losing her childhood home in foreclosure.

LegalTech Innovation Award Presentation
top row: Mark O'Brien, Erin Harrison, Josefa Romera, Michael McLoughlin, Maureen Curtis, Chip Mount, Mike Williams. bottom row: Karin Romans, Kimberlina Kavern, Alice Hawks, Judge Fern Fisher, Deirdre Lok, Rochelle Klempner, Niki DeMel, Sun Kim.

All the speakers remarked on the collaborative effort undertaken to build this program. Judge Fisher recognized the input of the DV advocate community during the development and pilot phases of the project, commenting how their testing and feedback of the HotDocs program helped the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s attorney-technologist Sun Kim create a superior Family Offense Petition program. Judge Fisher acknowledged the efforts of NYC Family Court personnel Mike Williams and Mike McLoughlin in the roll-out and success of the program in NYC and Melissa Mills for her work rolling out the program outside NYC. Chip Mount, the court system’s Director of Court Research and Technology, also spoke and acknowledged the many people that played a role in the success of this collaborative project.

The ceremony was attended via Skype by the members of the court system’s Department of Technology team, programmers Krzysztof Habich (technical lead), Qin Fan, Kevin Walker; analysts Amelia Sessions , Steven Hicks, Jim Howard, and Chet Zink; and framework team Jason Hill and Cliff DeCarlo. Led by Carol Greco Champitto, the team was instrumental in building the bridge between Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive server and the court system’s case management system. In addition, a number of domestic violence advocates who lent their expertise to the project and now use the program to assist DV victims were present, including Maureen Curtis, Safe Horizons; Alice Hawks, NYC Family Justice Center, Brooklyn; Kimberlina Kavern, Safe Horizons; Deirdre Lok, Hebrew Home at Riverdale; and Josefa Romero, Safe Horizons. Additional staff from New York City Family Court, the Access to Justice Program and Pro Bono Net attended. See a Photo Gallery of the event.


Tackling Economic Inequality

Justice Fern Fisher, Director of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts has published an essay for the "Tackling Economic Inequality" symposium hosted at the Impact Center for Public Interest Law Racial Justice Project at New York Law School. Entitled "Insuring Civil Justice for All: Meeting the Challenges of Poverty," she discusses the particular challenges persons who live in poverty face when they encounter the civil justice system and the need for the justice system to address those challenges.

NYS Court System Wins LegalTech Innovation Award

On July 14, 2015, the NYS court system’s Advocate Family Offense Petition Program received the LegalTech West Innovative Use of Technology in a Pro Bono Project award. The online program enables domestic violence advocates and legal services attorneys to assist victims with the preparation of their court papers seeking a temporary order of protection in the Family Court. The document assembly program was developed by the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program working with the NYC Family Court and domestic violence advocate groups. The court system’s Department of Technology worked with Pro Bono Net to build the technology that transfers the victim’s information directly to the court. The project was nominated for the award by Pro Bono Net. Read more about the project.

NYS Court Access to Justice Program Hosts Pennsylvania Court and Legal Services Visitors

Mike Williams, the Clerk of Court of Bronx Family Court with Vivian Appel and Sheila Fisher at Bronx Family Court Help Center
Mike Williams, the Clerk of Court of Bronx Family Court, with Vivian Appel and Sheila Fisher at the Help Center

On July 9-10, Vivian M. Appel, Esq., Family Court Administrator, Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas and Sheila J. Fisher, Esq., document assembly developer, North Penn Legal Services, visited the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program. On day one, discussion and presentations were made about the Access to Justice Program’s work on document assembly programs, court help centers, and the unrepresented litigant training conducted for judicial and non-judicial staff. On day two, the Pennsylvania guests were escorted to the Bronx County Family Court Help Center for a tour of its state-of-the-art services.

Uncontested Divorce Program Expands to Staten Island!

The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program will expand its Uncontested Divorce Clinic to Staten Island starting in July. Volunteer attorneys will assist pro se litigants seeking to file for simple uncontested divorces. The clinic will now operate in all 5 New York City counties.

Approximately 20 volunteer attorneys attended the program’s first training session. Volunteers will receive Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for attending the training session and pro bono CLE credits for volunteering in the Clinic. This program was presented in co-sponsorship with the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association.

The clinic will take place weekly in the Old Supreme Court Library, Staten Island. The clinic will be by appointment only. For more information about this program contact:

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