A. THE BASIC ROLE OF THE OFFICE
Individuals who have no attorney and seek information about legal processes in the court are advised to visit the Help Center (Room 116). The staff of the Center will do their best to answer questions about court operations and procedures and make certain forms available so that inquiring persons can take legal action on their own if so inclined. See also the link above.
In addition to furnishing information and forms, the Help Center staff may make an examination of papers for formal sufficiency. This work by the Center will increase the chances that, when the unrepresented person appears in a back office of the court, the papers will be in proper form. The Help Center is not a point of intake of legal papers, with one exception, poor person applications, described below.
The staff of the Help Center are not permitted to offer legal advice. Legal advice is the province of the attorney, who, upon assuming a representation, undertakes specific duties and professional responsibilities toward the client.
B. POOR PERSON APPLICATIONS
The Help Center is a point of intake for poor person applications, which are applications made prior to substantive legal action. In this instance, the applicant claims to be a poor person within the meaning of Article 11 of the CPLR who would be unable to proceed with some form of legal action absent an exemption from the obligation to pay court filing fees. If fees are to be avoided on this basis, an order of the court granting an exemption is required.
The applicant for a poor person order must submit an affidavit setting forth in detail the amount and sources of the person's income and the value of his/her property. The applicant must show an inability to pay the costs, fees and expenses to prosecute or defend the action. The affidavit should describe the nature of the action and set forth facts needed for an accurate evaluation of the merit of the contentions involved. The court may require that the applicant submit a certificate of an attorney stating that the attorney has examined the action and believes that there is merit to the applicant's position. CPLR 1101. Fees and costs are waived in cases brought by legal services attorneys. See CPLR 1101(e).
Poor person applications frequently are brought on without notice. Some, however, must be made on notice. CPLR 1101.
C. OTHER APPLICATIONS BY UNREPRESENTED PERSONS
Other applications frequently made by unrepresented persons include:
Matrimonial action -- see section of this website describing uncontested matrimonial matters
Article 78 proceedings to challenge the decision/determination of an agency of New York State or New York City government (for example, termination of tenancy (New York City Housing Authority), correction of a New York City birth certificate, denial/reduction of social services benefits, decision by New York State Commission on Human Rights)
Other Article 78 proceedings
Application for a change of name
Application for extension of time
The Help Center maintains information sheets on all of the above, as well as forms for common procedures such as bringing on and answering motions.
D. PAPER FLOW
Poor person applications are carried by the staff of the Center to the Ex Parte Justices on a daily basis. If signed, the papers are filed in the County Clerk’s Office by the staff. Orders to show cause brought by the unrepresented are filed with the Ex Parte Office. After normal processing by Ex Parte, the OSC’s are carried to the assigned Justices located at 60 Centre Street by the staff of the Help Center and by movants themselves in the case of Justices located in the court’s satellite facilities. A copy of the order is given to the movant to facilitate conforming the signed OSC and instructions for completing the process. Other ex parte applications are filed by the unrepresented directly with the Ex Parte Office (Room 315).