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November 4, 2010

LIFT WELCOMES NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION TO FAMILY COURT JUDGE FOR A DAY

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) welcomed New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP) and Susan B. Lindenauer (Retired Counsel to the President and Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society), as participants in the LIFT Family Court Judge for a Day program at the Bronx Family Court.

Conducted in partnership with the New York City Family Courts, and now in its tenth year of operation, the LIFT Judge for a Day program offers leaders from the private and public sectors access to a seat few ever get to fill: the Judge's bench. Participants sit side-by-side with a Family Court Judge and witness proceedings that strike at the heart of a family's stability, including custody, neglect, abuse, foster care, and family violence. The program also features a behind the scenes tour of the courthouse, a visit to LIFT's court-based programs, and a lunch discussion facilitated by Melissa M. Beck, LIFT's Chief Executive Officer, and Hon. Monica Drinane, the Supervising Judge of the Bronx Family Court. The overarching purpose of Judge for a Day, which is held five times a year, is to create partnerships that will bring resources to the Family Court and LIFT.

"We are so thrilled Mr. Younger and Ms. Lindenauer could join us for Judge for a Day," says Beck, "Their participation underscores the State Bar's commitment to calling attention to a vast, under-resourced system used by some of New York's most fragile families, and our shared goal of improving access to justice for all Family Court litigants."

"The 'Family Court Judge for a Day' initiative is an excellent resource that provides community leaders with an important view of the current state of New York's Family Courts," said President Younger. "Our Family Courts are in desperate need of attention, and the outstanding work provided by organizations such as LIFT helps to shed light on a critical component of our justice system. I want to thank everyone at LIFT for inviting Susan and myself to be participants in such a worthwhile program."

Earlier this summer, President Younger announced the formation of the Family Court Task Force. Co-chaired by the Honorable Rita Connerton (Supervising Family Court Judge for the 6th Judicial District, Broome County) and Lindenauer, the Task Force is examining and identifying key areas to improve Family Courts across the State.

The Task Force comprises top legal minds with expertise in Family Law who are conducting a comprehensive study of the problems in the current system with the goal of proposing solutions to address these problems. Topics being explored by the task force include:

• what additional Family Court resources are needed and, in what areas;
• what improvements are required in case management and utilization of staff;
• what new technologies can improve efficiency; and
• what operational improvements are needed to better serve our state's families.

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Launched in 1996, Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) is an award-winning nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering unrepresented litigants with legal information and compassionate guidance so that they can successfully advocate for themselves in the Family Court system.  LIFT's court- and community-based programs ensure that all families - no matter what their income level or ability to hire a lawyer - have the ability to access justice. LIFT serves nearly 50,000 families annually. Learn more at www.LIFTonline.org.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and 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. For more information, please visit www.nysba.org.