Contact: Andrew Rush
Director, Media Services & Public Affairs

July 9, 2008


Will Prepare Recommendations on How to Make Courthouses More User-Friendly

New York State Bar Association President Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox, LLP) today announced that a new Task Force has begun work and will prepare a series of recommendations on how to make courthouses in New Yorkmore user-friendly for clients, lawyers and judges.

The Task Force on the State of Our Courthouses, made up of members of the Association's Commercial and Federal Litigation Section, held its first meeting yesterday. They will begin by conducting a survey of members of the bar, judges and their staffs and visiting a representative sampling of courthouses throughout the New York. Based on their findings they will prepare a report with recommendations on how to improve conditions for everyone who uses these facilities.

"Courthouses have a direct impact upon peoples' lives, the delivery of justice, the rule of law and the legal profession," Leber said. "For many people, a courthouse can be an intimidating place and this new Task Force will examine the conditions that currently exist - from whether there is adequate meeting space for confidential discussions to whether there is basic information available to people as they walk in the door -- and provide recommendations on how to improve on the conditions that currently exist."

The Task Force is being chaired by Gregory K. Arenson (Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP) of New York City , Hon. Melanie L. Cyganowski (Otterbourg, Steindler, Houston & Rosen, P.C.) of New York City and Sharon M. Porcellio (Lippes, Mathias, Wexler & Friedman, LLP) of Buffalo. The report is expected to be completed by next spring and will examine the following issues:

  • Whether adequate facilities exist for lawyers to have private and confidential communications with their clients and each other;
  • Whether courthouses provide judges and their staffs with appropriate facilities for meetings, lunch, conferences, etc;
  • Whether there are safe, accessible and clean public accommodations, such as chairs, restrooms, water fountains, coatrooms, and lunch facilities;
  • Whether there are sufficient and obvious personnel and signage available to assist people to their destinations and with questions;
  • Whether there is adequate lighting and sound systems to make the courthouses less intimidating;
  • Whether it is possible to make public court documents available electronically and have other computer availability in the courthouse; and
  • Whether there are other improvements that could make courthouses more user-friendly and efficient given the security and other systemic concerns.

The 74,000 member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New Yorkand the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.