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STATE BAR PRESIDENT STEPHEN P. YOUNGER ANNOUNCES CREATION OF FAMILY COURT TASK FORCE

New Task Force to Provide Road Map to Improve Statewide Family Court Operations

(ALBANY) - With New York State family courts in deep crisis, New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP) today announced the formation of the Family Court Task Force. The task force will comprise top legal minds with expertise in Family Law who will conduct a comprehensive study of the problems in the current system and propose solutions.

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. With a record setting number of statewide court filings last year, there are currently 4,601 filings for every judge. The problem is particularly critical in New York City. From 1991 to the present day, there have been no judges appointed to the Family Court bench in New York City. During this same time, the New York City Family Court total filings increased 23%; from 206,186 to 253,421 in 2009.

In announcing the task force, President Younger noted other alarming statistics that highlight this growing crisis:

• Family court filings reached a record high of nearly 750,000 last year statewide, with filings related to family violence increasing 30 percent in the last two years.
• In the New York City Family Court, each year a typical judge handling child protective cases hears 2,100 cases-up from 1,600 cases in 2005.

Co-chaired by the Honorable Rita Connerton (Supervising Family Court Judge for the 6th Judicial District, Broome County) and Susan B. Lindenauer (Retired Counsel to the President and Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society), the task force will examine and identify key areas to improve family courts across the State. Among the topics it will explore are:   

 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.

"There may be no place where shaping the future and restoring confidence in our government institutions comes together as clearly as in our family court system. To thousands of New Yorkers, family courts are the face of our legal system but, unfortunately, with overcrowded dockets, too few judges, and far too many delays, these courts resemble hospital emergency rooms and our family law attorneys are forced to perform triage," said President Younger.

"Under the leadership of Judge Rita Connerton and Susan Lindenauer, and with guidance from experts on the front lines of our family courts, the State Bar's new task force will tackle the problems faced in operating this important branch of our court system. At the end of the process, we will have a road map that will set a course for us to finally address the most challenging problems and to create a family court system that can protect our children when they most need it," he added.

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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. www.nysba.org