The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program joined the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to sponsor the sixth annual National Pro Bono Celebration Week from October 19 - 25, 2014. The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program sponsored a free legal clinic on the Mobile Legal Help Center, a Bridge the Gap CLE pro bono training series, and a Pro Bono Awards Night volunteer recognition event.
The Mobile Legal Help Center
In honor of National Pro Bono Celebration Week and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program partnered with NYLAG, Senator Andrew Lanza, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Council Member Mark Treyger, Council Member Mark S. Weprin, Council Member Antonio Reynoso and the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence, to bring free civil legal services to New York City communities aboard NYLAG's Mobile Legal Help Center. The Mobile Legal Help Center traveled to a neighborhood in New York City each day between October 20 - 24, 2014 to provide legal services to the community. Staffed by volunteer attorneys, law graduates and law students, as well as NYLAG attorneys and paralegals, over 40 New Yorkers received free, private legal consultations on board the Mobile Legal Help Center. Court personnel focusing on domestic violence were also available to provide legal and procedural information about Family and Housing Court issues.
Bridge the Gap Training Series
The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program held a free "Bridge the Gap" training program for recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys. Training sessions in Consumer Debt, Ethics, Landlord & Tenant Law and Uncontested Divorce took place Tuesday, October 21st through Thursday, October 23rd, 2014. In exchange for 18 CLE credits participants will complete a 50 hour pro bono practicum assisting litigants in the NYC Housing, Civil, and Supreme Courts. This training series encourages graduates and newly admitted attorneys to get involved in pro bono work early in their careers by bridging the gap between law school and the realities of practicing law. Over 65 recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys participated in this initiative.
Pro Bono Awards Night
The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program, the New York State Bar Association, and the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA) co-sponsored a pro bono volunteer recognition event on Thursday, October 23, 2014, at NYCLA. Awards were presented by Carol A. Sigmond, President-elect, NYCLA, Partner, Horowitz, Sigmond LLP; Seymour W. James, Jr., past president, NYSBA, Attorney-in-Chief, The Legal Aid Society; and Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts and Director, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program. A list of all the volunteers who were recognized for their outstanding pro bono service is contained in the Pro Bono Awards Presentation and Reception Program. A photo gallery from the event is posted on the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NYCourtsVLP.
Special recognition was given to a number of exceptional attorneys and non-attorneys for their dedication and commitment over the past year. The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program honorees included Stanley Pruszynski, Esq., who received a Superstar Award; William Brick, Esq., Michael Massmann, Esq., Kinshasa K. Hillery, and Eugene Chen, Esq., for their participation in the Housing and Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Programs; Joellen Valentine, Esq., Gastron Kroub, Esq., Adam S. Waldbaum Esq., and Amy G. Davis, Esq., for their contribution advising unrepresented litigants in the Family and Housing Court Help Centers; Rafael Tassy, Esq., Maria La Macchia, Esq., and Tamekia Hosang, Esq., for their work in the Uncontested Divorce Program; Betty Ware Hayes, for her extraordinary service to the Guardian Ad Litem Program, assisting our most vulnerable population in danger of eviction; Christopher K. Lee for his work in the Housing Court ACP; and Sagar Sharma, Susan Herskovits, Jennifer Velez, and Camille Prince-Mercado for helping consumer debt and housing litigants “Navigate” the courts.
Pfizer, Inc. was also presented with a plaque in recognition of its contribution to the National Center for Access to Justice’s study of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program’s DIY Forms in the Bronx Family Court during the 2014 summer. Judge Fisher remarked that Pfizer’s understanding of the importance of pro bono service is a model to other corporations. The Pfizer award was accepted by Connie Matteo, Senior Corporate-Counsel-Litigation.