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Michael Schwartz to Serve on NYS Committee to Promote Court Access for People with Disabilities

Posted on Friday 9/29/2017
Michael Schwartz

On Sept. 26, 2017, the New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks announced the formation of an advisory panel charged with developing an action plan to improve access to state courts for all persons, including those with visual, hearing, communication, mobility, cognitive and other disabilities.

Serving on the Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities will be Professor Michael Schwartz, Supervising Attorney and Director of the Disability Rights Clinic in the College of Law’s Office of Clinical Legal Education.

“It’s a great honor to be included in such an important group that will advise the courts of the State of New York on improvements to its accessibility for people with disabilities,” says Schwartz. “I look forward to this exciting work. I hope my experiences as a deaf lawyer for more than 35 years will provide some guidance to my colleagues on the committee.”

Schwartz joins state Unified Court System judges, clerks, and administrators, as well as representatives from legal services providers, law firms, and advocacy groups from around New York State. The Committee will be led by Hon. Rosalyn H. Richter, Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, of the New York State Supreme Court. 

The advisory panel will examine a broad scope of issues, including the procedures for requesting accommodations; the availability of sign language interpreters and the quality of remote video interpreting services for the deaf and hard of hearing; the navigability for those with visual and other disabilities of online court programs and services; barriers faced by jurors who have a disability; and training and other needs to ensure best practices in providing access for court users with special needs. 

The Committee will submit its recommendations to the Chief Judge on these issues, among other topics of concern. 

Court users are protected from disability discrimination by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and other statutes. Each courthouse has a liaison to assist in providing reasonable accommodations to litigants, attorneys, and other court users with special needs. The court system employs a statewide coordinator to oversee the facilitation of such requests, offering training, technical, and other resources to the liaisons, as well as to judges and other court staff. 

Advisory committee member Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina G. Mendelson—who heads the courts’ newly expanded Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI), which works to ensure meaningful access to justice for all those who pass through New York’s state courthouses—will work closely with committee members to seek ways the OJI can enhance accessibility for court users with special needs. 

New York Courts’ Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities 

  • Hon. Rosalyn H. Richter, Associate Justice, Appellate Division, First Department 
  • Maureen Belluscio, Staff Attorney, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Disability Justice Program 
  • Anne Callagy, Director of Government Benefits, The Legal Aid Society - Civil Practice 
  • Beth Diebel, District Executive, Third Judicial District, New York Courts 
  • Hon. Vincent DiNolfo, County Court Judge, Monroe County 
  • Hon. Sherry Klein Heitler, Chief of Office of Policy and Planning, NYS Office of Court Administration 
  • Hon. Deborah Kaplan, Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Violence Cases, NYS Office of Court Administration 
  • Kleo King, Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel, NYC Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities 
  • Eve Markewich, Partner, Markewich and Rosenstock LLP 
  • Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, Office for Justice Initiatives, New York Courts 
  • Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, Dean, New York State Judicial Institute 
  • Charles Perreaud, Jury Commissioner and Court Interpreting Coordinator, Seventh Judicial District, New York Courts 
  • Hon. Robert Pipia, District Court Judge, Nassau County 
  • Michael Schwartz, Supervising Attorney and Director, Disability Rights Clinic, Office of Clinical Legal Education, Syracuse University College of Law 
  • Liz Sergi, Senior Social Worker, Helen Keller Services for the Blind 
  • Charles Small, Chief Clerk for Civil Matters, Kings County Supreme Court 
  • Nahid Sorooshyari, Senior Staff Attorney, Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services) 
  • Dan Weitz, Director, Division of Professional & Court Services, NYS Office of Court Administration 
Counsel to the Committee
  • Barbara Zahler-Gringer, NYS Office of Court Administration