New York State Bar Association President David M. Schraver today called on the Legislature to promptly authorize 20 new Family Court judgeships to give potential judicial candidates adequate time to gather designating petitions.
While the approved state budget includes money for the additional judgeships, the Legislature still must enact a bill authorizing them. In New York City, Family Court judges are appointed by the mayor. Elsewhere in the state, they are elected by voters.
In a letter to the legislative leaders, Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody) noted that candidates seeking to run in the November election must circulate and file designating petitions between May 29 and July 10. However, Family Court candidates cannot begin to circulate petitions until the Legislature passes a bill authorizing the new judgeships.
"In order to have those offices filled by January 2015, candidates must file their petitions by July 10. Therefore, with each passing day, there is less time for qualified candidates to obtain a position on the ballot," Schraver wrote in a May 27 letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein.
Schraver noted that authorizing the Family Court judgeships is the State Bar Association's "highest priority for the remainder of the legislative session."
The current shortage of judges contributes to delays in resolving cases that affect the well-being of children. Such delays often leave children in limbo while their cases drag on. For example, delays affecting custody and visitation rights need to be resolved quickly to provide children with greater stability in their lives.
Family Court also handles adoptions, cases of child abuse, neglect and family violence, and other legal matters involving children.
In 2013, the State Bar Association’s Task Force on Family Court issued a report. It cited numerous reasons for the extensive delays in Family Court proceedings and identified the inadequate number of judges as the first and most important problem that needs to be addressed. The report is available at www.nysba.org/familycourtreport.
In his letter, Schraver wrote legislative leaders, "You and your colleagues have exhibited strong commitment to addressing the conditions in Family Court. I urge you to take necessary steps to pass authorization legislation promptly." A copy of the letter is available here.
The 75,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
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