UCS Mission Statement

NY State SealThe mission of the Unified Court System (UCS) is to deliver equal justice under the law and to achieve the just, fair and timely resolution of all matters that come before our courts.

In the service of our mission, the UCS is committed to operating with integrity and transparency, and to ensuring that all who enter or serve in our courts are treated with respect, dignity and professionalism. We affirm our responsibility to promote a court system free from any and all forms of bias and discrimination and to promote a judiciary and workforce that reflect the rich diversity of New York State.


Please be advised that some of the New York State Unified Court System Office for Justice Initiatives’ volunteer attorney programs are now available online.

We are working hard to restore all of our volunteer programs. Please check this page regularly to receive updates.

Find Free LEGAL ASSISTANCE during the Coronavirus crisis by phone and online

New and easy to follow instructions for making phone and video court appearances are here:
Virtual Court Appearances for the Public



The New York State Unified Court System’s Office for Justice Initiatives led by Honorable Edwina G. Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, is charged with directing the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program. The Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI) also oversees child welfare and juvenile and adolescent justice initiatives, including implementation of legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York (commonly known as the “Raise the Age” law). The Office for Justice Initiatives works closely with the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, as well as with the Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities, the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), the Division of Technology, the Grants Office, the Office of Language Access, Office of Legal Information and law schools.


Unrepresented Court Users Report

Unrepresented Court Users Report

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted a substantial population of court users — the unrepresented. Cognizant of this reality, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks appointed the Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, to lead a working group to consider and develop strategies for promoting access to our virtual courts for unrepresented court users.

The unrepresented are often at a disadvantage in even the best of times, and this crisis has exacerbated many of the hardships, including the digital divide between those with access to technology and those lacking such access. Yet, the crisis has provided the Unified Court System with the impetus to design and implement a virtual extension of our existing Access to Justice program. A system that works well during a pandemic will work exceedingly well as the crisis subsides.

The July 1, 2020 Unrepresented Court Users Report identifies efforts undertaken by the Unified Court System to maintain access to justice, discuss the barriers encountered by the unrepresented and offer a preliminary blueprint for best serving all court users for the duration of the pandemic and beyond.


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Judge Edwina G. Mendelson, DCAJ for Justice Initiatives

Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives
Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson Profile

Chief of Staff
Michelle Smith, Esq.


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