Events & News




Law Day Art Contest

Each year on May 1st, the United States observes Law Day to celebrate our legal system and the freedoms Americans enjoy. The 2021 Law Day theme is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.” This year, in celebration of the spirit of Law Day, the Office for Justice Initiatives invites high school students in New York State, to participate in an art contest inspired by the theme “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.”  

The contest begins on May 24, 2021 and ends on June 25, 2021. The winner will be announced by July 16, 2021. Review the contest rules for more information and complete the registration form to enter the contest. Registration forms and artwork may also be submitted by regular mail

The winning artist will have their artwork featured on the Office for Justice Initiatives’ Law Day website until Law Day 2022. All contestants will receive a certificate of participation. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with events.

For FREE legal advice, information and referrals on a wide range of Civil Court matters, including small claims, consumer debt and name changes, contact the City Bar Justice Center’s Legal Hotline:





Virtual Court Navigator Pilot Program

The Office for Justice Initiatives is thrilled to announce the launch of a Virtual Court Navigator Pilot Program. The program is free and has been designed to help people without an attorney who either have or would like to start a court case in: Erie County Surrogate’s Court, Civil Supreme and Surrogate’s Courts in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties.

Virtual Court Navigators are specially trained, supervised, and available to help court users prepare for virtual appearances, file court forms, organize court papers, get answers to general questions, find community programs and services, refer people to legal service providers, navigate the court’s website, and more. Virtual Court Navigators are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice.

Virtual Court Navigators will be available to meet beginning on June 14, 2021. Schedule an appointment now by completing the online intake form.



New York City Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program

The NYS Unified Courts Office for Justice Initiatives is pleased to announce that effective May 24, 2021, the New York City Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP) resumed services. The program’s volunteer attorneys provide remote (video and telephonic) consultations to people who do not have an attorney already representing them in a custody/visitation, support, guardianship and/or family offense case. To speak with a volunteer attorney for free, complete the Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program intake form.



In June 2020, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore commissioned former President Obama Administration Cabinet member Jeh Johnson to conduct a thorough review on issues of racial bias and discrimination within the New York State court system. The ensuing report from Secretary Johnson and his team at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison set forth 13 distinct recommendations on how we can combat racism within the courts and promote a more fair and equitable justice system for all. Deputy Chief Administrative Judge (DCAJ) for Justice Initiatives Edwina G. Mendelson, who oversees the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI), has been appointed to lead the implementation of these recommendations. DCAJ Mendelson provides detailed information on the Equal Justice in the Courts initiative and work of OJI in her recently released A Call to Action: Advancing Equal Justice in New York’s Courts. The message is being distributed to local affinity groups and judicial and bar associations, as well as internally within the New York State court system. “We welcome all input going forward on our efforts to realize equal justice within the court system.”



Court User Survey

In February 2021, the Office for Justice Initiatives launched a brand new webpage on that is dedicated to providing unrepresented court users with access to a survey created by the NYS Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, Reimagining the Future of the Courts Committee. The survey asks unrepresented court users about experiences they may have had with virtual hearings, technology, understanding the court process, feelings about the outcome of the interaction with the court, and more. The survey is optional, anonymous, and will not be connected to a current or future case that a person may have. It takes about five minutes to complete the survey. The answers provided, will be used by the Permanent Commission to make recommendations to improve future court experiences. If you do not have an attorney and are interested, please complete the survey.



FREE Virtual Uncontested Divorce Volunteer Lawyer Program
A volunteer lawyer program offering virtual assistance with Uncontested Divorces in NYC was launched in December, 2020. This free program prepares divorce papers through video conference for people with no children under 21 whose marriage has been over for at least six months, who have agreed to an uncontested divorce and know where their spouse lives. A stable internet connection, a computer, smartphone or tablet are required to access the program. See the Virtual Uncontested Divorce Volunteer Lawyer Program flyer for more information and to learn how to apply for help.



In celebration of National Pro Bono Week, on October 26, 2020, the Office for Justice Initiatives released an informational webinar titled Accessing Justice During Covid-19.

Content for the pre-recorded webinar was provided by the Bronx County, Erie County and New York County Surrogates Court Help Centers, the Nassau County Supreme Court Help Center and the Office for Justice Initiatives. The webinar provided information on Surrogate’s Court proceedings including Small Estates and Administration proceedings, Supreme Court matters including Adult Name Changes and Uncontested Divorces as well as free online resources. A registration link was provided to enable attendees to receive information about future events directly and to obtain viewer feedback. This project was developed to continue the tradition of Help Centers providing information to court users during National Pro Bono Week, in a safe way in response to the Covid-19 health crisis.

The video is available at




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