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November 29, 2011
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION TASK FORCE HOLDS
HEARINGS ON FAMILY COURT REFORM
A State Bar Association task force created to help improve the lives of
children and families through reform of the state’s complex and
overburdened Family Court system will convene the first of four
statewide hearings Thursday in Albany.
The hearing will be held Dec. 1 from 10:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bar
Association offices, at One Elk Street, Albany. Subsequent hearings will
be held in each of the three other state judicial departments in January
From foster care to child abuse and neglect, Family Courts deal with
some of the most difficult issues involving New York’s children at
their most vulnerable.
“Ultimately, the need to re-examine Family Court comes down to
doing what’s best for the children who are affected by domestic
violence, the break-up of families and criminal behavior,” said
Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors &
Vilardo, LLP). “An overburdened, under-resourced Family Court
means weeks or months of prolonged uncertainty for kids.”
“The Family Court Task Force is working toward finding
ways to assist the courts and those they serve to address the problems
they face more efficiently and fairly in a time of diminished
resources,” said Susan B. Lindenauer, former counsel to the
president and attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society of New York
City. She co-chairs the Task Force with Broome County Family Court Judge
Mary Rita Connerton.
The list of speakers Thursday includes: Amy Barasch of the New York
State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence; Albany County
Family Court Judge Gerard E. Maney; Paul Lupia of the Legal Aid Society
of Mid-New York; Susan Antos of the Empire Justice Center; Lillian M.
Moy of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NY; Dr. Elizabeth Schockmel
of Capital Psychological Associates; Lisa Frisch of the Legal Project in
Albany; Laurie Case, chief clerk of Cortland County Family Court; and
Ulster County Attorney Beatrice Havranek. Others have been invited to
present written testimony to the task force.
Among the topics to be discussed are: using technology to minimize
and streamline court appearances; assistance for litigants who represent
themselves; mediation; “paperless” court and speedy trial
proposals; the impact of budget cuts; use of probation and social
services; need for translators; and the presence of adolescents at child
custody and child protective hearings.
Anyone wishing to submit written testimony for the task force to
consider, may send submissions to the Family Court Task Force at One Elk
Street, Albany, New York 12207.
The task force expects to use testimony from the four hearings to
complement its research and provide additional insight into the problems
and solutions. It will issue its preliminary report in June 2012 and a
final report in November 2012. That report will be presented to the
state’s Chief Administrative Judge and others for consideration of
The 35-member Task Force on the Family Court was formed in 2010 at
the direction of then-Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger to
identify key areas for improving Family Court across the state.
Four subcommittees have been established that address resources for
litigants, resources for the courts, operation case management and
staffing, and technology.
According to Office of Court Administration statistics, New
York’s Family Courts handled 720,850 court filings in 2010,
compared to 683,390 in 2001. In New York City, the caseload was 246,266
in 2010, up from 226,544 in 2001. The number of custody/visitation cases
statewide rose from 169,111 in 2001 to 205,026 in 2010, and the number
of filings related to child support statewide rose from 217,352 in 2001
to 267,820 in 2010.
Despite rising caseloads--including a record 742,365 statewide in
2009--only four new Family Court judgeships have been created statewide
since 1999, and none have been created in New York City since 1991.
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest state
voluntary bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, it is
celebrating its 135th anniversary this year.
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, ONE ELK STREET, ALBANY, NY 12207 PH: (518) 463-3200 SECURE FX: (518) 463-5993