NYC Civil Court, Housing Part
The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program oversees the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Program in NYC Housing Courts. The GAL Program recruits, trains, and provides Housing Court Judges with a pool of GALs whose goal is to safeguard the rights and prevent the eviction of some of New York City’s most vulnerable people. A Judge will often appoint a GAL when there is concern that a tenant is unable to advocate for him or herself due to a physical or mental impairment or age.
GALs advocate on behalf of the tenant whom they are appointed to assist by collaborating with different New York City agencies to resolve the Housing Court action. Advocacy includes securing needed entitlements or grants to pay for arrears, assisting with re-certification problems, or arranging for a heavy duty cleaning. They also negotiate for needed repairs to be addressed as part of a settlement. The powers of a GAL are limited and cease upon completion of the Housing Court case.
The pool of Housing Court GALs consists of attorneys and non-attorneys alike. In some cases GALs are compensated for their services and in other cases the GAL serves on a volunteer basis.
The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program collaborates with New York City agencies to advance solutions to problems commonly faced by GALs and Judges in trying to protect the rights of a person for whom a GAL is appointed. Additionally, it maintains a GAL website for existing and prospective GALs and provides a GAL litigant brochure in English and Spanish outlining the role of a GAL in Housing Court and how a litigant may proceed if they have concerns. The Program also provides a GAL Information Sheet for Landlords to address possible landlord concerns. In December 2016 the Access to Justice Program published a white paper entitled: “Creating a Successful Court-Based Program to Safeguard Access to Justice for Mentally and Physically Impaired Litigants at Risk for Eviction”. This white paper includes discussion on what happens when there is no landlord-tenant GAL program in place to safeguard the rights of impaired litigants facing eviction, the NYC Housing Part Guardian Ad Litem Program and how this program serves as a model court-based program, and how judicial systems throughout the nation can seek to replicate the program. For more information, contact Denise Colon-Greenaway, Esq. at 646-386-5408 or by email:firstname.lastname@example.org.