The Senate Democratic Majority passed legislation (S5968A/Sampson) that will establish 21 new Family Court judgeships throughout the state, including New York City and several counties.
This legislation represents the first major infusion of new Family Court judges in more than three decades.
New York’s Family Court system is reaching a state of crisis. With just 153 Family Court judges statewide to handle 728,000 cases and projected appearances exceeding 2.5 million this year alone, a system meant to protect children and families is leaving many of them without the full measure of guidance they need to navigate a complex legal process, avoid repeat appearances, and ensure family safety and stability.
And as a result of the current state of the economy, the system is at a breaking point. In a good economy, some Family Court judges can carry daunting dockets of 8,000 cases. Caseloads have since ballooned in all parts of the state -- placing the quality of justice for children and families in jeopardy.
This legislation would establish 21 new Family Court judgeships, as follows:
- One new judgeship in each of the following fourteen counties, effective January 1, 2011: Albany, Broome, Chautauqua, Chemung, Erie, Monroe, Nassau, Niagara, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Schenectady, Suffolk and Westchester.
- Seven judgeships in New York City, effective January 1, 2011.
Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead sponsor said, “Family Court cases typically involve children, and the protecting their best interests is something we must all support, especially when difficult economic conditions put already at-risk children and families in harm's way.”
Senator Sampson continued, "It has been fully 20 years since a single Family Court judgeship was created for New York City, and in many upstate counties the local Family Court is also reaching a breaking point. It is long past time to make this critical investment in the lives and wellbeing of children and families who often have nowhere else to turn."
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D/WF-35th District) said, "Increasing the number of family court judges in Westchester County, and across the State, is a necessary step in reducing the bureaucracy of the family court system, which has been overwhelmed to the point where many families endure prolonged legal processes that are detrimental to all of the parties, especially to children impacted by these issues. Addressing the need for additional judgeships on the Family Court bench, and working to repair this system to better serve our most vulnerable must continue to be one of our top priorities."
Senator Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) said, "Expanding the number of family court judges is essential to ensuring the best outcomes for the families going through the court system. This is going to be especially helpful in Suffolk County which has a growing population and growing caseload. This is an important step but there is still more to be done to reform the system."
Senator Antoine Thompson (D-parts of Erie & Niagara Counties) said, “Children are our most precious resources for the future and the protection of their rights and welfare must be a priority. This bill will ensure that there is an increase in the number of family court judges available to fulfill the needs of the children and families in New York State."
Senator Neil D. Breslin (D-Albany) said, “The events dealing with a case in Family Court are detrimental to the lives of children and families and there is no need to add unnecessary steps to the process. By adding judgeships throughout the state—especially in Albany—we ensure families are provided with all the tools needed to continue to have safety and stability in their lives.”
For more information about this legislation visit:http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5968A