N E W S Contact:
New York State Communications Director
Unified Court System Mai Yee, Communications Officer
Chief Administrative Judge
Jonathan Lippman Date: Immediate, June 18, 1997
New Rules on Public and Press Access to Family Court
NEW YORKChief Judge Judith S. Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman today announced that a new set of rules providing public access, including access by the media, to proceedings in the New York State Family Court have been approved, effective September 2, 1997, by the Administrative Board of the Courts.
The Family Court was established 35 years ago, at a time when court proceedings involving children were conducted primarily behind closed doors to protect the privacy of the families and children involved. Since that time, public interest in the Court has grown, as have media requests seeking access to court proceedings. With these rules, the citizenry is provided with a window into the process by which difficult decisions affecting children and families are made, with appropriate protections available for case participants. The new rules complement the court systems family initiatives, which encompass a variety of new approaches to New Yorks family justice needs.
The new rules provide:
·310·The Family Court is open to the public, with members of the public, including the news media, having access to courtrooms, lobbies, public waiting areas and other common areas of the court.·310
·310·A judge may exclude the public on a case-by-case basis only, based upon supporting evidence, considering factors such as privacy interests and protecting litigants from harm.·310
Chief Judge Kaye said, "Todays new rules on access to Family Court constitute an important step in our continuing efforts to ensure that the courts are open to public scrutiny and accountable to the people of New York. Family Court was established as an experimental court that would handle the most pressing family problems facing society. Each year, this Court plays an increasinglyprominent role in the daily lives of our citizens. It is vital that the public have a good understanding of the Court and confidence in the court process. The new rules have been carefully drawn to clarify that the court indeed is open, while at the same time providing important safeguards for families and children."
Chief Administrative Judge Lippman added, "The openness of all of our courts, including Family Court, places New York at the cutting edge of judiciaries around the country. The rules will take effect on September 2, 1997, to allow us to thoroughly review our practices and make operational modifications in the 62 Family Court locations Statewide. Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Barry Cozier will lead our implementation effort, which will include educational forums with judges and support staff. This focus on Family Court, which too often has been considered the stepchild of the system, further reinforces the critical role of the Court in our justice system."
A copy of the rules is attached.