Kids and Families Still Can't Wait - The Urgent Case For New Family Court Judgeships

 

This report examines Family Court’s urgent need for new judgeships to address surging dockets, and concludes that speedy action is essential to ensure the quality of justice for New York families.

FINDINGS

  1. Huge dockets are overwhelming Family Court and edging the family justice system toward danger. Family Court dockets are larger and growing faster than in other trial courts. In 2009, Family Court appearances are growing at an annualized rate of 26% and now exceed 2.5 million.
  2. Difficult economic conditions are clogging Family Court calendars with cases, affecting the safety and stability of millions of New York families. At the same time, federal and state laws have expanded Family Court’s jurisdiction and administrative duties. The result is that Family Court must hear an increasing number of cases that themselves are increasing in complexity.
  3. For decades, the state has not created Family Court judgeships commensurate with dockets, even as other trial courts have grown substantially. New York City hasn’t received a single new Family Court judgeship in 20 years, while Family Court dockets have soared. Family Court in some suburban and upstate counties also is critically overburdened.
  4. Family Court is working hard to make the best of a bad situation. Despite their diligence and the Judiciary’s laudable short-term fixes to stay ahead of docket growth, Family Court workloads has exceeded the ability of stopgap measures to address them.
  5. The lack of adequate Family Court judgeships jeopardizes the quality of justice for vulner-able families, violence victims, and children. Owing to docket congestion, some cases are delayed for a year, and hearings vital to child welfare may receive only five minutes before a judge.
  6. Docket-related delays jeopardize federal funding and raise local social service costs. Delays exacerbated by Family Court’s impossibly large calendar are among the reasons that New York fails federal performance audits, which risks federal funding under the U.S. Adoption and Safe Families Act. These delays also increase NYC and county costs in providing social services.
  7. These trends are not sustainable and require immediate redress.

 

The attached pdf contains the full report.