Litigants With Diverse Needs

New York City Civil and Housing Court Judges Training - October 2015

In 2015 Access to Justice conducted a poverty simulation training for New York City Housing and Civil Court Judges and the entire first year class of Touro Law Center. A Poverty Simulation is a half day training that places participants into groups of one to five, with each group representing an impoverished family. Participants are assigned a fictitious identity, family, and financial situation then forced to work together to simulate a one month period living in poverty. They live four 15 minute simulated weeks during which they have to do all the things families normally do on a regular basis - go to school or work, pay bills, grocery shop, take care of emergencies, and so forth - essentially live life with the resources of those living at the poverty level.

Access to Justice conducts Poverty Simulations for court system personnel and law students to educate and sensitize the legal community about how economic privilege affects the justice system and to encourage the provision of services in a more respectful and understanding manner. Poverty Simulations also improve coordination, team building, and innovative thinking of its participants. Over the two days 60 New York City Civil and Housing Court Judges and a total of 140 law students were trained during the two half day sessions. Touro Law Center professors, 2L and 3L students, and some of the Judges, played the roles of community groups and office staff and interacted with the “families.” As one 1L student stated "The experience of treatment by the various community members (bank, work, social services), and experiencing how poorly they treated the individuals who went to them for assistance. This illustrated to me how difficult it is to obtain various services and how discriminated against people of low-financial means are.”