Cabrera to launch OATH's newest initiative, administrative justice resources

Cabrera to launch OATH's newest initiative, administrative justice resources

Moses Kuwema

Council Member Fernando Cabrera in his capacity as chair of Governmental Operations, is today (Thursday) expected to launch New York City's Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH)'s newest initiative, administrative justice resource.

Other organizations that will partner with Cabrera's office will be the Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence Program (B.R.A.G.), a program of Good Shepherd Services.
OATH, is the City’s independent administrative law court, where nearly every City agency files civil summonses for hearings.

The Administrative Justice Resource (AJR) program includes a training series administered by OATH to the district office staff of elected officials as well as staff of community-based organizations (CBO’s) that work with youth or criminal justice reform. 

These series cover how these groups can build into their service offerings information about OATH and assist their clients who may have received a summons that was filed at OATH. 

It will also educate these staff members on the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) which went into effect in 2017 and decriminalized low-level, quality of life charges such as open container of alcohol, being in a park after dark, littering, and public urination, to name a few. 

City-issued civil summonses such as those issued by the Departments of Sanitation, Health, Environmental Protection, the Parks Department, NYPD or FDNY, among other enforcement agencies, can have negative financial and other consequences when people fail to appear for their hearings or properly resolve their summonses. 

Now, through AJR, the charges covered by the CJRA can be resolved by completing an online e-learning module which allows individuals to resolve CJRA summonses without having to pay any monetary penalty. 

CBOs can provide clients the ability to use a computer on their premises for individuals to complete the community service requirement.  

“The goal of OATH’s Administrative Justice Resource program is to have people who are trusted sources of information in the community, people who interact with hundreds of constituents or clients each week, trained by OATH staff so that more New Yorkers can be alerted if they have outstanding summonses or summonses that require action. 

"We hope this program provides the know-how and resources to community leaders to assist New Yorkers by helping them avoid the negative consequences that come with ignoring or failing to properly respond to City-issued civil summonses,” said Joni Kletter, Commissioner of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. 

“I’m pleased to launch the Administrative Justice Resource program with OATH and B.R.A.G.  As chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, I have seen OATH develop innovative outreach and programs to ensure fairness, accessibility and justice for all New Yorkers in the City’s independent administrative law court.

"Good Shepherd Services B.R.A.G. is the perfect partner for this program, having worked successfully for many years with our youth as credible messengers in administering the Cure Violence program. 

"Our partnership in this effort will help our community residents to avoid the often long-term negative consequences of failing to appear for a hearing or answer a summons, often because of a lack of resources.  

"The new AJR program, combined with the trust and good will created by Good Shepherd Services in our community promises success,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.

“No one should be penalized because they lack childcare necessary to appear in court or the technology needed to keep track of their summonses,” said Michelle Yanche, Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services.

“At Good Shepherd, we know how costly and challenging it can be for young people and their families to find the time and resources to respond to civil summonses for low-level charges. AJR will make it easier for programs like B.R.A.G. and others to assist the communities we partner with in developing more manageable solutions to address burdensome civil summonses, and we are grateful to be partnering with OATH and Council Member Fernando Cabrera on this important effort.”

The NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) is the City’s independent administrative law court where nearly all City enforcement agencies such as the Departments of Sanitation, Buildings, Health and Mental Hygiene, Parks, Environmental Protection, Fire, NYPD, Consumer Affairs, and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, among many others, file their summonses for hearings.  OATH, however, is not the court that is responsible for holding hearings on parking tickets or traffic tickets. 
Last year, OATH received nearly 870,000 summonses from NYC enforcement agencies and held more than 330,000 hearings and 47% of all summonses that were fought at OATH hearings were dismissed.

The AJR training manual created and distributed by OATH teaches the staff at these outside organizations how to use OATH’s publicly available, searchable databases to see if their constituents or clients have outstanding summonses that need their attention or if they have upcoming hearings.  

Specifically, they are trained on how to search by name and address, how to decipher what summonses are outstanding, resolved, or if a summons requires future action like scheduling a hearing for a summons newly issued or make a payment before a summons gets docketed as an unpaid judgment. 

As part of the program, the CBOs and offices of elected officials are given a dedicated email and phone number for OATH’s Help Center so that they can refer for further assistance any clients or constituents who have summonses that need to be resolved.  OATH staff will then provide a one-on-one Help Center session where the client or constituent will receive case-specific information and options on how to proceed.

The training manual also provides links to helpful online resources such as OATH’s Online Summons Finder where copies of summonses can be viewed, links to City payment websites, the list of cases eligible for community service and a link to the online e-learning community service module, as well as a glossary of terms.