The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program joined the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to sponsor the seventh annual National Pro Bono Celebration Week from October 25-31, 2015. The Access to Justice Program held events all over the state for lawyers and litigants to celebrate pro bono! The 2015 events included:
- Free legal services aboard the Mobile Legal Help Center
- Free legal information workshops at many courthouses sponsored by the Court Help Centers
- Free CLE training to do pro bono work for attorneys
- Pro Bono Awards Recognition Ceremony
The Mobile Legal Help Center
In honor of National Pro Bono Celebration Week, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program partnered with NYLAG, and The Commissioners of Jurors: Hon. Stephen J. Fiala of Richmond County, Hon. Luis M. Diaz of Bronx County, Hon. Audrey Pheffer of Queens County, Hon. Nancy Sunshine of Kings County and Hon. Milton Tingling of New York County, to bring free civil legal information and services to New York City jurors and litigants on board NYLAG's Mobile Legal Help Center October 26-30. 2015. The Access to Justice Program staffed information tables outside of the jury rooms and directed jurors to the Mobile Legal Help Center parked in front of a different courthouse each day of the week. The Mobile Legal Help Center was staffed by NYLAG attorneys and paralegals that provided free legal services and information on Civil, Housing, and Family Court topics as well as legal information regarding Employment, Foreclosure, Immigration and Social Services. Over 30 people were served during scheduled appointments in addition to numerous walk-ins.
Court Help Center Workshops
In honor of National Pro Bono Celebration week, the New York City and Nassau County Court Help Center staff hosted free legal clinics and informational seminars throughout the week. In New York City, informational seminars were held in each county, including Small Claims tutorials in the New York Civil Court, Bronx County Supreme Court and Richmond County Civil Court Help Centers; “How to get away with Service: How to do service and why it’s important!” in the Kings County Housing Court Help Center; “The ABCs of Housing Court: The Anatomy of a Housing Court Case” in the Queens County Housing Court Help Center; “How to Start or Defend a Housing Court Case” in the Bronx County Help Center; and, a NYCHA seminar in the New York County Housing Court Help Center. The Richmond County event was co-hosted by retired Deputy Chief Clerk & Chief Clerk of Small Claims Joseph Gebbia and the Bronx County event was presented in English and Spanish.
In Nassau County, court staff hosted a legal information clinic where they assisted over 40 people, answering questions on a multitude of legal topics, including divorce, foreclosure, and civil judgment. Court staff also participated in a Pro Bono Fair at the Nassau County Bar Association where they provided information to approximately 100 people about a variety of legal topics, including the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, foreclosures, consumer credit judgments, name changes and general information about the Court Help Center.
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 27th through Thursday, October 29th, 2015. 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. Forty-five recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys participated in this initiative.
Pro Bono Awards Night
The Access to Justice Program, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), and the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA) co-sponsored a pro bono volunteer recognition event on Thursday, October 29, 2015 at NYCLA. Awards were presented by NYCLA President Carol A. Sigmond, NYSBA President-elect Claire P. Gutekunst and Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts and Director, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program. All of the Access to Justice Program honorees performed over 50 hours of pro bono services in a court-based program throughout 2015. See our Reception Programfor a complete list of all the volunteers who were recognized for their outstanding pro bono service. A photo gallery from the event is posted on the 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. The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program honorees included Juanita Lasprilla, Esq., who received a Superstar Award for her five years of dedicated service in the Uncontested Divorce Program; Guardian Ad Litem Program volunteer Jaime Lathrop, Esq.; Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program volunteers Shaun McElhenny, Esq. and Len Colonna, Esq.; Uncontested Divorce Program volunteers Carolyn A. Mann, Esq. and Horacio Sardinas, Esq.; Housing Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program volunteer Evelyn Kaye Lin, Esq.; Housing and Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Programs volunteer Thomas Joseph Mennecke, Esq.; Housing Volunteer Lawyers Program volunteer Andres Edwin Valles, Esq.; Civil Court Volunteer Lawyers Program volunteers Ginu Jacob, Esq. and Law Student Victoria Hill; Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program volunteers George Bassias, Esq. and Law Students Tyler Roberts and Israel Appel; and Court Navigator Program volunteers Vanessa Gutierrez, Jacqueline Zeigler and Sherly Romero.
The law firm of Paul Hastings LLP was also presented with a plaque in recognition of its contribution to the Housing Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program. Paul Hastings has an established record of pro bono service in the Access to Justice Program in that well over 100 of their associates and partners have take the VLFD Housing Program training. The award was accepted by Paul Hastings Senior Litigation Associate Anthony Antonelli, Esq.