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Overview


"No issue is more fundamental to the courts’ constitutional mission than ensuring equal justice for all. The availability of affordable legal representation for low-income New Yorkers is indispensable to our ability to carry out that mission.” -- Hon. Jonathan Lippman

The Permanent Commission on Access to Justice was established in 2015, with the enactment of Part 51.1 of the Rules of the Chief Judge (22 NYCRR § 51.1), to continue the vital mandate of the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York. The Task Force was established in 2010 by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman as part of a comprehensive effort to provide counsel to low-income New Yorkers in civil cases.

The change in status of the Task Force to a Permanent Commission was made in recognition of the Task Force’s significant contributions towards increasing the availability of civil legal services, while acknowledging the work that remains to further remove barriers to justice for all New Yorkers (See Chief Judge Lippman’s 2015 Press Release establishing the Permanent Commission).   

The Permanent Commission’s mission is two-fold. It provides support for the preparation of the Chief Judge’s annual hearings to assess the unmet needs for legal representation in civil legal proceedings involving fundamental human needs, as well as providing assistance in developing the Chief Judge’s report and recommendations to the Legislature and the Executive about the level of public resources necessary to meet those needs.

The Permanent Commission’s mission also concerns the expansion of access to civil legal services and the improvement of access to justice generally. The Permanent Commission has ongoing responsibility to study, analyze and develop recommendations on all aspects of civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers; to issue recommendations providing for improved and increased access; and to collaborate on access to justice issues, including expanded pro bono services and help for unrepresented litigants, with Hon. Fern Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts, who also holds statewide responsibility for the court system’s access to justice programs.