Few concepts are more fundamental to justice than access to the courts. People go to court to enforce their rights, resolve disputes, and fulfill their civic duties. Yet tens of thousands of people with disabilities in New York cannot even get in the door. NYLPI’s March 2015 Accessible Justice Report documented the widespread inaccessibility of New York City’s courthouses to people with mobility impairments. It detailed a shocking range of barriers preventing access to justice — not only for people in custody, but also for jurors, litigants, court employees, and the public. In response to the report, the City of New York, NYLPI, and four of our clients entered into a groundbreaking Structured Negotiation Agreement in June 2016. Through this process we are addressing a number of topics, including improving the physical accessibility of existing courthouse facilities as well as any new construction, improving training for City employees assigned to work at courthouses, and addressing the City’s data collection processes. Structured Negotiation is an innovative alternative dispute resolution process for resolving complex disputes. To the knowledge of all parties, this is the first time that the City of New York has entered into a Structured Negotiation Agreement of this kind. NYC released a $12M architectural RFP for a full assessment of the accessibility of all court buildings, hired architects, and has publicly committed to making major improvements. We will convene a public meeting to solicit feedback and recommendations from community stakeholders.
Pro bono co-counsel: White & Case