The Permanent Commission convened its fifth annual Statewide Stakeholders Meeting on October 18, 2021. The meeting was held virtually and was well attended, bringing together diverse stakeholders from every judicial district to share knowledge, strategies and best practices for developing local access to justice initiatives.
Helaine M. Barnett, Chief Judge DiFiore, and New York State Bar Association President T. Andrew Brown, welcomed the attendees. The attendees also heard from Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives Edwina Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the Courts Outside NYC, Norman St. George, and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the Courts Inside NYC, Deborah Kaplan. Every Administrative Judge in every Judicial District outside of New York City gave an update on the ongoing work in their localities being carried out in coordination with their local Access to Justice committee.
Digital Divide Presentation
Commission members Kristin Brown, Adriene Holder, Lillian M. Moy and Commission Consultant Neil Steinkamp, discussed the digital divide (the gap between those who have ready access to the internet and computers and those who do not), and its impact on the justice system. Presenters provided an overview of the digital divide and addressed the need for expanded availability of technology; provision of technical support and training; increased accessibility of virtual proceedings; and, increased community outreach and communication. The results of the Permanent Commissions court user survey also were shared.
Alaska Mapping Presentation
Stacey Marz, Administrative Director of the Alaska Court System, described how Alaska used its 2016 Justice for All grant to develop a statewide action plan to expand access to justice. Alaska approached this task by first redefining “justice” as an ecosystem of services, including housing, family, education, financial security, jobs, food, information, health, safety and access to legal and other information. They then mapped the civil justice ecosystem and infrastructure associated with legal, social service, medical and information providers to assess the state’s assets and gaps and analyze the relationships within the justice ecosystem. They used this information to work on strengthening connections and filling existing gaps by forming partnerships between legal and non-legal providers.
This presentation makes clear that, despite differences in living environments, Alaska's approach to building a strong ecosystem of networked, meaningful, and effective services can be replicated anywhere.