The mission of the Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI) is to ensure meaningful access to justice for those passing through the doors of every New York State civil, criminal and family court - regardless of income, background or special need, in accordance with NYS Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s Excellence Initiative. The OJI was established in July 2017 to provide leadership and oversight for NYS’s Unified Court System justice-based initiatives, including the pre-existing Access to Justice Program. We continue to use every resource developed by the Access to Justice Program, including pro bono programs, self-help services, and technological tools and outreach programs throughout New York State’s 62 counties. Our existing programs include:
- Community outreach efforts;
- CourtHelp website designed specifically to help litigants obtain easy-to-understand legal and procedural information as well as instructions for managing their court cases
- Court Navigators to assist unrepresented litigants in housing and consumer debt cases;
- Do-It-Yourself forms, programs and technology initiatives;
- Help Centers located in courts throughout the state where litigants receive free legal information and assistance to navigate the court system without a lawyer; and
- Volunteer Attorney and other volunteer programs to provide legal information, advice and representation for those disadvantaged by income, age or disability.
Our new OJI initiatives include:
- Child welfare, juvenile and adolescent justice initiatives, including implementation of recent legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York State;
- Developing and coordinating region specific community outreach initiatives designed to broaden access to and improve public understanding of the legal system; and
- Gaining legislative and public support for the New York State Judiciary’s proposals relating to access-to-justice matters.
The OJI also aims to secure stable and adequate non-profit and government funding for civil, criminal, and family legal services programs. We will continue to partner with the Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities, the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), the Division of Technology, the Forms Committees, the Grants Office, the Office of Language Access, the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, and law schools.