The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program joined the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to sponsor the eigth annual National Pro Bono Celebration Week from October 23-29, 2016. The Access to Justice Program held events all over the state for lawyers and litigants to celebrate pro bono! The 2016 events included:
- Legal assistance for the elder LGBTQ community
- Community Leaders Roundtable
- Free legal information workshops at many courthouses
- Free CLE trainings for attorneys
- Pro Bono Awards Recognition Ceremony
Legal Assistance for the Elder LGBTQ Community
In celebration of National Pro Bono Week, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Community Outreach Program partnered with NYLAG to bring legal assistance to the elder LGBTQ community. A joint two-day program was held in Queens County. On October 18, 2016, the Access to Justice Program provided a legal information table at the Kew Gardens Community Center. Throughout the day, approximately 40 attendees visited the Access to Justice Program's information table to discuss family and housing issues, living wills, powers of attorney and other issues pertinent to the LGBTQ community. NYLAG presented a seminar on advanced planning. Participants were encouraged to sign up for the Mobile Legal Help Center event held the following week. On October 26, 2016, a second event was held at the Queens Center for Gay Seniors. The Access to Justice Program staffed an information table and answered questions from more than 30 seniors. In addition, the Mobile Legal Help Center (MLHC) was parked on site and NYLAG attorneys provided legal advice to 14 individuals. The Access to Justice Program also provided legal information on the MLHC.
Community Leaders Roundtable
The Outreach Program partnered with the Interfaith Center of New York and hosted a Community Leaders Roundtables held in the New York Civil Court. The purpose of the roundtable was to provide information to a small group of community leaders about Access to Justice Program free programs so that they can bring the information back into their communities. Information was shared about Court Tours, the Speakers Bureau, the Mobile Legal Help Center and Community Seminars. In addition, the roundtable was an important opportunity and to gather feedback about community needs and discuss solutions.
Court Help Center Workshops
From October 23 – 29, 2016, the Access to Justice Program’s NYS Court Help Centers hosted free workshops around the state providing free legal information targeted on the issues litigants commonly ask about when visiting Help Centers. The Monroe County Help Center held a workshop on landlord-tenant issues. Columbia an Bronx County Help Centers held workshops focused on small claims matters. Queens County Supreme Court Help Center’s workshop informed unrepresented litigants about the Center’s services and provide information about uncontested divorces and the availability of the uncontested divorce clinic. The Nassau County Help Center held a foreclosure workshop at the court and court staff also provided foreclosure information at t the Nassau County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Day Open House.
Bridge the Gap Training Series
The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program held a free "Bridge the Gap" training program for recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys. Training sessions in Consumer Debt, Ethics, Landlord & Tenant Law and Uncontested Divorce took place Tuesday, November 1st through Thursday, November 3rd, 2016. In exchange for 18 CLE credits participants will complete a 50-hour pro bono practicum assisting litigants in the NYC Housing, Civil, 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. Thirty-five recent law school graduates and newly admitted attorneys participated in this initiative.
Pro Bono Awards Night
The Access to Justice Program, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), and the New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA) co-sponsored a pro bono volunteer recognition event on Thursday, October 27th, 2016 at the The Access to Justice Program, 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 27th, 2016 at the New York County Civil Court. NYCLA President Carol A. Sigmond, NYSBA President-elect Sharon Stern Gerstman and Acting Supreme Court New York County Justice Edwina Richardson-Mendelson all spoke and presented awards to the exceptional volunteers. A recorded message from Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for NYC Courts and Director, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program Fern A. Fisher was played for the audience.
Special recognition was given to a number of exceptional attorneys and non-attorneys for their dedication and commitment. The NYS Courts Access to Justice Program honorees were: William Brick who received a Star Award for his three years of dedicated service in the Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program; William Richards for service in the Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program, Stella Hirsch for service in both the Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program and Consumer Volunteer Lawyer Program; Maria La Macchia and Mahbubar Talukdar for service in the Uncontested Divorce Program; Barbara R. Mendelson and Mary C. Pennisi for service in the Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program, VeNita LaNier for service in the Consumer Court Navigator Program, Yscary Rodriguez, for service in the Housing Court Navigator Program; Crystal A. Jackson and Rina F. Lieberman for service in the Housing Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program; Ann Elizabeth Lewis and Vania Ming Tseng for service in the Housing Volunteer Lawyer Program: and Thomas Jeffrey Giles and Stuart C. Adler for service in the Guardian Ad Litem Program.
All of the Access to Justice Program honorees performed over 50 hours of pro bono services in a court-based program throughout 2016. See the Reception Program for a complete list of all the volunteers who were recognized for their outstanding pro bono service. A photo gallery from the event is posted on the Access to Justice Program Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NYCourtsVLP.