Lynne Day, Chief Clerk, Cortland County Surrogate's Court
Supreme Court Judge Phillip Rumsey, Surrogate’s Court Judge Julie A. Campbell, Surrogate's Court Chief Clerk Lynne Day, and Sixth Judicial District Administrative Judge Molly R. Fitzgerald
On June 27, 2016, Cortland County Surrogate’s Court Chief Clerk Lynne Day, received the prestigious New York State Courts Access to Justice Program’s DIY Star Award. A ceremony was held at the Cortland County Surrogate’s Court. NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Director/Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for NYC Courts Justice Fern A. Fisher, Sixth Judicial District Administrative Judge Molly R. Fitzgerald, District Executive Gregory A. Gates, Cortland County Supreme Court Judge Phillip Rumsey, Cortland County Surrogate’s Court Judge Julie A. Campbell, and NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Chief Counsel Rochelle Klempner, all spoke about Lynne’s contribution to promoting the use of the Surrogate’s Court DIY Form programs and her efforts to increase access to justice for unrepresented litigants. The Access to Justice Program staff participated through Skype. Following the award ceremony, Lynne, who was joined by her husband Don and two of her three children, enjoyed light refreshments with the entire staff of this hard-working multi-bench court.
Recipients of the DIY Star Award are recognized for creating lasting change in court culture and work environment. Winners are selected upon a thorough review of court case managements statistics, program usage and user comments. Lynne earned the DIY Star Award because of her long-standing promotion of the DIY Form programs and the personal touch she provides when assisting unrepresented litigants in her court. Since the Small Estate Affidavit DIY Form program was rolled out in May 2009, Lynne has consistently returned the DIY User Surveys from the Cortland County Surrogate’s Court. User surveys identify how the litigant learned about the program. The Cortland Surrogate’s Court User Surveys always indicate that the court refers a high volume of litigants to the program. For example, in 2015, two-thirds of all Cortland Surrogate’s Court Small Estate Affidavit program users were referred to the DIY Form programs by Lynn and her staff. User surveys also identify where a litigant used the program. Many users completed the forms at one of the two public access computer terminals that Lynne set-up in the Cortland Surrogate’s Court Clerk’s Office. Most importantly, the case management statistics that Lynne reports every quarter reveal that over the past three years nearly 100% of unrepresented litigants filing Small Estate Affidavits are using the DIY Form program to make their court papers, and a high percentage of unrepresented litigants utilize the 17A Guardianship DIY Form program as well.
DIY Star Award winner Lynne Day with her husband and children
After hearing several speeches highlighting Lynne Day’s hard work and accomplishments, Lynne took the podium and expressed her appreciation for the DIY Form programs. Lynne stated:
“I pride myself on a customer friendly office, the DIY program is one tool that assists us in that endeavor. I try very hard to treat court users how I would like to be treated. By encouraging court users to file proceedings using the DIY programs, it allows the user to gain a better understanding of legal terminology along with their role and responsibilities for the type of proceeding they are filing. Ultimately, the knowledge gained from the DIY program assists the user in filing a properly completed petition which leaves them with a positive experience both with our office and the court system in general. We’ve even had an 80 year old court user who was reluctant to use the computer give it a try and then at the end thank us for the experience.”
Often, the circumstances that lead to unrepresented litigants coming to Surrogate’s Court are emotionally charged. An unrepresented litigant may be using the Small Estate Affidavit program following the death of a loved one, or using the Article 17A Guardianship Petition program needed to help a mentally disabled family member. The Cortland Surrogate’s Court is lucky to have DIY Star Chief Clerk Lynne Day. As one user shared on a User Survey, “Lynne Day was very helpful to us at a most difficult time.” Lynne Day is the first Surrogate’s Court employee in the Sixth Judicial District to win a DIY Star Award.
View the photo gallery of the awards presentation.