Ava S. Raphael, Surrogate Onondaga County
Onondaga County Surrogate's Court Staff
Maria Alibrandi, Tamara Dauphin, Heather Yaroski, Patti Romano, Alberta Raab, Karen Demartino, Mary Ellen Sofinski, Chief Clerk Ellen Weinstein, Judge Fern A. Fisher & Judge Ava S. Raphael.
Surrogate Ava S. Raphael and the Onondaga Surrogate's Court staff received the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program's DIY Star Award on April 13, 2010, at a ceremony held at the Onondaga Surrogate’s Court in Syracuse, New York.
NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Director Judge Fern A. Fisher, Fifth Judicial District Deputy Administrative Justice Donald Greenwood, District Executive Michael Klein, Esq., and NYS Courts Access to Justice Program Chief Counsel Rochelle Klempner, all spoke about the recipients’ outstanding efforts furthering equal access to justice for unrepresented litigants. Judge Greenwood read a commendation letter from Administrative Judge James Tormey.
Surrogate Raphael is a DIY Star because of her valuable contribution to the development and implementation of the Small Estate Affidavit DIY Form program. Judge Raphael can be credited as the "founder" and one of the primary authors of this DIY program. Her efforts to create the program to assist litigants who cannot afford an attorney and her work to ensure the program’s use in the courthouse are greatly appreciated.
The Onondaga Surrogate's Court staff (which includes Chief Clerk Ellen Weinstein, Esq. and Mary Ellen Sofinski, Karen Demartino, Alberta Raab, Tamara Dauphin, Heather Yaroski, Maria Alibrandi, Patti Romano), are also DIY Stars because of their commitment to facilitating usage of the Small Estate Program. In the first quarter of 2010, over 59% of unrepresented litigants starting a voluntary administration proceeding used the DIY Form program in Onondaga County!
Additionally, Onondaga Surrogate's Court staff are DIY Stars because of their insightful attention to the UCMS statistical analysis. As a result of team brainstorming, Chief Clerk Weinstein and her wonderful staff, in particular Heather Yaroski, pointed out that the total DIY filings should only be measured against total unrepresented filings, since DIY Forms are not for attorneys. Based on their observations, the state-wide UCMS stat collection reporting and review for Surrogate's and Family Court have been changed.
Onondaga Surrogate's Court staff also furthered the assessment and review of the DIY program by returning the litigant User Surveys. "Onondaga Surrogate’s Court personnel often meet litigants who have lost a loved one and are dealing with the difficulty of resolving financial affairs. The staff’s tireless efforts to assist unrepresented litigants is commendable and most deserving of this award," said Justice Fisher. Many of the comments in the User Surveys call attention to the high level of support and compassion they received from staff members. A sampling of what litigants had to say about their DIY experience is below.
View the photo gallery of the awards presentation.
Read a sampling of what litigants had to say about their DIY experience in the Onondaga County Surrogate's Court
"Wonderful program. Very helpful staff. Nice to know it was available for people who pass away with no will & loved ones need paperwork to settle their estate." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, March 19, 2010
"The court clerks were very helpful in filling out the form. Couldn't have done it without them!" - Small Estate Affidavit Program, March 16, 2010
"Much easier than I thought. The ladies working here were extremely helpful and compassionate." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, February 26, 2010
"Everyone was very helpful and kind. Their help was greatly appreciated." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, February 19, 2010
"Very helpful staff." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, February 18, 2010
"Very helpful." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, January 28, 2010
"Very helpful personnel." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, January 25, 2010
"Alberta was so very helpful! Couldn't have done it without her!" - Small Estate Affidavit Program, January 19, 2010
"She was very nice and helpful" - Small Estate Affidavit Program, January 5, 2010
"Very helpful, pleasant people to work with. They made this experience very easy for me and made me feel very comfortable." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, January 4, 2010
"Very helpful." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, December 18, 2009
"This office is efficient and the staff extremely personable and helpful." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, December 8, 2009
"Very helpful!!!! Thank you Alberta." - Small Estate Affidavit Program, July 7, 2009