A State Bar Association task force studying New York's Family Court system, placing particular emphasis on its impact on children and families, will convene the last of four statewide hearings on Thursday, March 29, in Buffalo.

The Task Force on Family Court hearing, in the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the United States Courthouse, 2 Niagara Square, Buffalo.

During the past decade, family court workloads have been rising as the number of cases involving child custody, visitation and child support has increased.

"The growing burden placed on our Family Court system is having a direct impact on our most vulnerable population - our children," said Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo). "With these hearings, we are collecting information from a variety of experts that we hope will lead to improved conditions for children and the courts."

The task force previously held hearings in Albany, Manhattan and on Long Island.

"We were impressed with the depth of information we received during the first three hearings, and we expect to gain further insights from the Buffalo forum," said task force co-chair Susan B. Lindenauer, retired counsel to the president and attorney-in-chief of The Legal Aid Society of New York City.

"The testimony will be very valuable in shaping our recommendations for improving the Family Court system," said Broome County Family Court Judge Mary Rita Connerton, who also co-chairs the task force.

Among those expected to testify on March 29 are family court judges and others affiliated with the courts, local bar associations, legal service groups and organizations that serve children, families and battered women. Confirmed speakers include:

• Carla Palumbo, director, Civil Division, Legal Aid Society of Rochester, Inc., Rochester
• Adele Fine, assistant public defender, Monroe County Public Defender's Office, Rochester
• Elaine M. Spaull, director, Center for Youth, Rochester
• Amy E. Schwartz, senior attorney, Empire Justice Center, Rochester
• Lisa Bloch Rodwin, judge, Erie County Family Court, Buffalo
• John J. Aman, deputy chief support magistrate, Erie County Family Court, Buffalo
• Susan Vivian Mangold, professor, University at Buffalo Law School, Buffalo
• Susan Kay Griffith, supervising attorney, Hiscock Legal Aid Society, Syracuse
• Allison O'Malley, executive director, Safe Journey, Rochester
• Pamela Neubeck, chief attorney, Attorneys For Children Unit, Legal Aid Bureau, Buffalo
• Keith Morgenheim, supervising attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services, Buffalo
• Robert Lonski, administrator, Aid to Indigent Prisoners Society

The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, is comprised of 22 counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates. Written testimony can be submitted to the Task Force on Family Court, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.

The 35-member Task Force on Family Court, created in 2010, has four subcommittees that address: resources for litigants; resources for the courts; operations, case management and staffing; and technology. The task force will issue its preliminary report in June 2012 and a final report in November 2012. That report will be presented to the state chief administrative judge and others for consideration.

According to the Office of Court Administration, 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 the 226,544 in 2001.

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 in New York City since 1991.
Family Court's Growing Burden

Type of Petition  ...     2010   ...    2001
Total Filings  ... 720,850 ... 683,390
Custody/Visitation ... 205,026 ... 169,111
Support   267,820 ... 217,352
Guardianship     ...  4,791   ...   4,313
Family Offense  ...  65,874  ...  59,137

Source: New York State Unified Court System, Report of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, 2010, 2001

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation.  It was founded in 1876.


Contact: Mark Mahoney 
Associate Director, Media Services & Public Affairs