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Suffolk offering guides to legal system

Suffolk court officials are extending a hand to people who have a hard time making sense of the legal system when they find themselves in courthouses dealing with serious issues in their lives.

The Central Islip courthouse will host Community Law Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday.

"The target is every person who walks in the door," said court spokeswoman Marian Tinari, whether they are there because they're losing their home, in a child custody battle or have a criminal matter.

The courthouse's second-floor lobby will play host to a variety of legal services providers, including the Suffolk County Bar Association, Nassau/Suffolk Law Services, the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society and others that can help direct people to the attorneys or legal services that are available.

In the parking lot, there will be a mobile legal help van staffed with attorneys who can offer a free half-hour consultation for people with consumer debt or foreclosure issues. People who want to reserve a session can call 631-853-8396 to sign up.

"It's outreach and access to justice, which is what this is all about," Tinari said. "It's all about navigating the system."

For many people, dealing with the legal system can be overwhelming, she said. "This kind of breaks it down a little bit."

The program was conceived by Judge Fern Fisher, director of the state's Access to Justice Program and the deputy chief administrative judge for New York City courts. She has worked for years trying to make the legal system more accessible and organized the state's first Community Law Day in Albany last year.

Tinari said Fisher approached Suffolk court officials about doing something similar, and they were quick to agree.

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