Courts Do-It-Yourself Resources for the Public

On Thursday, July 9 Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern Fisher will be in Syracuse to introduce new-web based resources for the public at an event beginning at 1 p.m. at the Onondaga County Criminal Courts Building, Jury Assembly Room at 505 South State St. These DIY (Do-It-Yourself) programs ask straight-forward questions to

help users prepare individualized court forms and instructions. New Yorkers can access the programs from any computer through two Web sites: CourtHelp (nycourthelp.gov)

and LawHelpNY (lawhelp.org/ny). The three state-wide DIY programs are the Support Modification Petition Program for Family Court, the Small Estates Affidavit Program for Surrogate's Court, and the Adult Name Change Petition Program for Supreme Court.

Almost two million New Yorkers appear without lawyers in New York State courts each year. "These programs are part of our continuing effort to make the courts more accessible to the ever growing number of New Yorkers who are unable to afford an attorney," Justice Fisher said.

The New York State Unified Court System partnered with Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), Legal Services NYC, LawHelp/NY, and Pro Bono Net in this project, which was funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and the State Justice Institute (SJI). The Chicago-Kent College of Law provides the A2J Author (R) software used to create these programs, and the National Public Automated Documents Online (NPADO) Project of Pro Bono Net provides servers and Internet support.

Free, online document creation systems hosted by NPADO are used in 26 states and generated 111,000 documents in 2008.

The July 9 court event is co-sponsored by the 5 Judicial District Pro th Bono Action Now Committee, an initiative of the Court's Access to Justice Program committed to meeting unmet civil legal services needs through expanded pro bono involvement of the private bar.

The committee is made up of judges and lawyers from Onondaga, Oswego, Oneida, Lewis, Jefferson and Herkimer Counties and is co-chaired by 5th Judicial District Administrative Judge James C. Tormey, III and attorney Robert Smith a partner at the law firm of Costello Cooney &

Fearon. The Committee supports several initiatives including a free hospital based legal clinic for patients at Upstate and Crouse Hospitals, a pro bono bankruptcy project in conjunction with the Central New York Bankruptcy bar, the free legal clinics associated with the Say Yes to Education project as well as many other pro bono efforts throughout the 5th Judicial District.

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