The NYS Unified Court System Office for Justice Initiatives joined the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to sponsor annual National Pro Bono Celebration Week from October 20-26, 2019. The Access to Justice Program held events for lawyers and litigants to celebrate pro bono! The 2019 events included:
• Free Court Help Center presentations and information sessions
• Free Bridge the Gap training
• Pro Bono Awards Night
Court Help Centers
In 2019, Help Centers throughout New York State provided free presentations and information sessions for the public from October 21 to October 25 in celebration of National Pro Bono Celebration Week. The theme was domestic violence. The Bronx County Supreme Court, Civil Term Help Center provided information about obtaining an Order of Protection, developing a personal safety plan checklist, the rights of immigrants in domestic violence as well as information about the domestic violence support hotline. The Queens County Supreme Court, Civil Term Help Center held a workshop and provided information about extreme risk protective orders, strategies to combat “revenge porn,” strategies for protecting an address, and more. The Nassau County Supreme Court Help Center held an information forum at the Nassau County Bar Association that addressed foreclosure, vacating judgment, divorce issues, and more. The 7th Judicial District Help Center in partnership with the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County, Inc., held a family law custody clinic that aided in the preparation of petitions for custody and visitation; modifications of custody and visitation and more. The Richmond County Surrogate’s Court Help Center held a court user/pro se appreciation day and provided information about the many resources that the court provides to the public.
Bridge the Gap Training Series
The Office for Justice Initiatives’ Access to Justice Program held a free "Bridge the Gap" training program for recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys. Experienced attorneys were also welcome to attend. Training sessions in Consumer Debt, Ethics, Landlord & Tenant Law, Family Law, and Uncontested Divorce took place from October 16 through October 25, 2019. In exchange for 21 CLE credits, participants completed a 60-hour pro bono practicum assisting litigants in the NYC Housing, Civil, Family 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.
Pro Bono Awards Night
The Office for Justice Initiatives, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), and the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA) co-sponsored a pro bono volunteer recognition event and dinner on Thursday, October 24, 2019, at the Rotunda of the Manhattan Surrogate’s Court. NYCLA President, Stephen C. Lessard, President-elect, New York State Bar Association, Scott M. Karson, and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, Edwina Mendelson, spoke and presented awards to the exceptional volunteers. The Albany County Bar Association and the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project received special recognition for their court-based volunteer lawyer programs. The following attorneys received plaques for outstanding service in the New York State Courts' Access to Justice Programs: Robert L. Becker and Emma M. Ekema for service in the Family Court Volunteer Lawyer Program; Eric Arbizo and P. Bartlett Wu for service in the Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program; Min Ji Kim and Heather Stiell for service in the Civil Court Volunteer Lawyer Program; Inhwan Chi and Juanita Lasprilla for service in the Uncontested Divorce Program; Richard M. Landman and Ann Elizabeth Lewis for service in the Housing Court Volunteer Program; Stuart C. Adler for service in the Guardian Ad Litem Program; and Peter Charalambous, Cleopatra Eckles, and Hannas B. Taverez for service in the Court Navigator program. See the Awards Program for a complete list of the volunteers recognized for their service.