“For the Judiciary, there can be no higher priority than ensuring meaningful access to justice for all persons. The Permanent Commission on Access to Justice plays a critical role in our institutional efforts to promote the fair and effective delivery of justice to all New Yorkers regardless of economic status.” – Chief Judge Janet DiFiore
Since taking office as the Chief Judge of New York State on February 8, 2016, Hon. Janet DiFiore has been steadfast in her commitment to bridging the access to justice gap and ensuring that all New Yorkers have meaningful access to the courts and the legal assistance they need to secure the essentials of life. The Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, established in 2015 with the enactment of Part 51.1 of the Rules of the Chief Judge (22 NYCRR § 51.1), continues the original mandate of the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, which was established in 2010 by then-Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman as part of a comprehensive effort to provide counsel to low-income New Yorkers in civil cases.
The change in status of the Task Force to a Permanent Commission was made in recognition of the Task Force’s significant contributions towards increasing the availability of civil legal services, while acknowledging the work that remains to further remove barriers to justice for all New Yorkers (See then-Chief Judge Lippman’s 2015 Press Release establishing the Permanent Commission).
The Permanent Commission’s mission is two-fold. It provides support for the preparation of the Chief Judge’s annual statewide hearing to assess the unmet needs for legal representation in civil legal proceedings involving fundamental human needs, as well as providing assistance in developing the Chief Judge’s report and recommendations to the Legislature and the Executive about the level of public resources necessary to meet those needs.
The Permanent Commission’s mission also concerns the expansion of access to civil legal services and the improvement of access to justice generally. The Permanent Commission has ongoing responsibility to study, analyze and develop recommendations on all aspects of civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers; to issue recommendations providing for improved and increased access; and to collaborate on access to justice issues, including expanded pro bono services and help for unrepresented litigants, with Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives.