The grand opening of the new Nassau County Court Information Center (CIC) took place Tuesday afternoon on the second floor of the Nassau County Supreme Court building.
The Court Information Center was created as a result of a collaboration between the Nassau County Courts, which are part of the New York State Unified Court System, and the Nassau County Bar Association. The center is tasked with helping litigants who do not have access to legal representation.
"We have been in existence for about four to five years but we have this new location so if we have to refer the public to do research in the library, it is right next door," said Associate Court Clerk Mary Gallagher.
According to Judge Fisher, about two million litigants enter the system without legal representation. Fisher was also responsible for creating New York's first Court Resource Center when she was appointed to Administrative Judge of the Civil Courts.
The name of the new office went through several incarnations, including the "Office for the Self-Represented" before eventually deciding that the name "indicated a person is appearing in court without a lawyer voluntarily." Judge Fisher settled on a title with the word "information" in it because, "that is what people need," she said.
"In Nassau County, we can have the most perfect system of justice in terms of what we are ready to provide, but if the litigant is not able to make use of that by virtue of being unable to receive access to it, it means nothing," Justice Marano said.
"We have a lot of people coming in with foreclosures now; a lot of people doing name changes, and people who do not know what to do when they are served with a summons," Gallagher said. "We have procedural information and we give them the answers."
Computers are also present in the center that, among other purposes, are meant to help litigants with name changes. "The new Information Center is a remarkable continuation of Judge Marano's commitment to bringing and keeping the Nassau County judicial system in the twenty-first century and indeed ahead of everyone else," counselor at law Stephen W. Schlissel said.
Although Judge Fisher considers the new CIC in Mineola to be crucial in promoting the access of justice to Nassau litigants, she revealed there are plans to set up additional sites.
"There is no better partner than the Nassau County Bar Association and although we were happy to come up with a little sum of money to help them with their efforts to assist the people of Nassau County who are in trouble," Fisher said, "I am looking to establish more information centers throughout the state."