A State Bar Association Task Force designed to address issues related to the Family Court system, particularly its impact on children and families, will convene the second of four statewide hearings Wednesday, January 11, in New York City.

The hearing, for the Appellate Division, First Department, will be held from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New York County Lawyers' Association, 14 Vesey Street, Manhattan. The First Department consists of New York and Bronx counties.

"Family Court finds New York children at their most vulnerable--when are they affected by a break-up of their families, domestic violence or criminal behavior. Addressing the problems of family courts is critical," said Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo, LLP). "When the courts don't have adequate resources to handle a growing caseload, it is children who are affected the most."

Seymour W. James Jr. of New York City (Legal Aid Society), president-elect of the State Bar Association, and Stewart Aaron of New York City (Arnold & Porter), president of the New York County Lawyers' Association, will make opening remarks at Wednesday's hearing.

The task force plans hearings for the Second and Fourth Departments in Long Island and Buffalo, respectively, in March. The first hearing, for the Third Department, was held in Albany on Dec. 1.

 "We collected a tremendous amount of valuable information from the judges, attorneys, government officials and advocates at the Albany hearing. We hope to gain equally enlightening perspectives at the New York City hearing," 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.

Among those expected to testify Wednesday are family court judges and others affiliated with the courts, local bar associations, legal service providers, government officials, private practitioners and organizations serving children, families and battered women. (A complete list of Wednesday's speakers appears at the bottom of this release.) Written testimony can be submitted to the Task Force at One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.

The task force will use the hearings testimony to complement its research and provide additional insight into the problems and solutions. Its preliminary report will be issued in June, the final report in November.  The report will be forwarded to the state's Chief Administrative Judge and others for consideration.

The 35-member Task Force on the Family Court was formed in 2010 to identify key areas for improving Family Court across the state.  Four subcommittees are addressing resources for litigants; resources for the courts; operations, case management, and staffing; and technology.

Family court caseloads burgeoned during the last decade, most notably in the areas of child custody, visitation and child support. The family courts handled 720,850 court filings in 2010, compared to 683,390 in 2001, according to the Office of Court Administration.  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

NEW YORK CITY (New York, Bronx, Kings, Queens and Richmond counties)
Type of Petition  2010  2001
Total Filings   246,266  226,544
Custody/Visitation  53,543  41,027
Support   80,005  47,160
Guardianship   2,878  2,553
Family Offense  26,991  26,927

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

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

The following is a list of confirmed and invited speakers for the New York State Bar Association's Task Force on the Family Court hearing, Appellate Division, First Department, on Wednesday, January 11, 2012, at the NYCLA offices in Manhattan.

• Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, Administrative Judge for New York City Family Courts
• Douglas Hoffman, Supervising Judge, New York County Family Court
• Ana Bermudez, Deputy Commissioner for Juvenile Operations, New York City Department Probation
• Angela Albertus, Deputy Chief Corporation Counsel, Family Court, New York City Law Department
• Kathie E. Davidson, Supervising Judge, Family Court Ninth Judicial District
• Michele Cortese, Center for Family Representation, Inc.
• Melanie Hart, Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT)
• James Purcell, Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA)
• Jane Golden, Council on Children, New York City Bar Association
• George Reed, Jr.
• Janette Cortes-Gomez, Bronx Family Bar Association
• Ronald E. Richter, Commissioner, NYC Administration for Children's Services
• Tamara A. Steckler, Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Division
• Dennis Hawkins, Fund for Modern Courts
• Karen P. Simmons, Children's Law Center
• Emily Ruben, Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Neighborhood Office
• Mary Rothwell Davis, Center for Battered Women's Legal Services, Sanctuary for Families
• Barbara Finkelstein, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
• Pamela Sheininger, Court Attorney Referee, New York County Family Court

• Monica A. Drinane, Supervising Judge, Bronx Family Court
• Kara Finck, Bronx Defenders 

Contact: Mark Mahoney
Associate Director of Media Services