Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: December 2, 2002

Seal of the Unified Court System
Courts Adopt New Fiduciary Appoinment Rules
NEW YORK - The New York State court system has adopted stringent new rules governing judicial appointments of guardians, guardians ad litem, receivers, referees and other fiduciaries that assist the courts in resolving cases. The new rules - approved by the Court of Appeals after consultation with the Administrative Board of the Courts - are based on the recommendations of the Commission on Fiduciary Appointments, which issued a report to Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye in December 2001 after conducting an exhaustive assessment of the current system. Chief Judge Kaye created the Commission, along with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Fiduciary Appointments, following the release of a controversial letter which highlighted concerns that courts were selecting fiduciary appointees based on factors other than merit.

The new rules establish a comprehensive framework to ensure that selection of fiduciary appointees is merit-based and free of favoritism. The following are the major features of the new rules and procedures that will be put in place:
 . All fiduciary candidates must meet specific training and experience requirements to be included on eligibility lists.
 . Fees will not be paid to fiduciaries unless they have filed all required forms with specially designated court clerks.
 . Fiduciaries may receive only one appointment in a single calendar year paying $5,000 or more.
 . Fiduciaries who reach a cap of $50,000 in aggregate payments from their appointments in a single calendar year will be ineligible for appointments in the next calendar year.
 . Judges who award $5,000 or more to a fiduciary appointee must provide a written justification for the award.
 . For the first time, court examiners, who review the reports and accountings that guardians must file with the court, are subject to the requirements of the rules.
 . The names of all fiduciary appointees, the appointing judges and the compensation awarded will be provided to the press on a quarterly basis and published on the court system's Web site.
 . In receivership and guardianship cases, secondary appointments such as counsel, property managers and accountants must be made by the court and are subject to all the requirements of the rules.
 . Absent a compelling reason, no receiver or guardian (or the receiver's or guardian's law firm) may be appointed as his or her own counsel.
 . Former judges and their immediate relatives are ineligible for appointment, within the jurisdiction where the former judge served, for a period of two years after the judge leaves the bench.
 . State and county political leaders, their immediate relatives and their law firms are ineligible for appointment.
 . Persons who serve as judicial campaign officials, their immediate relatives and their law firms are ineligible for appointment by the judge they served for a period of two years after the judicial election.
 . Misconduct or unsatisfactory performance will result in removal of fiduciaries from the eligibility lists.

Chief Judge Kaye stated, "Court-appointed fiduciaries are entrusted with control of the personal and financial interests of some of the most vulnerable members of society: widows, orphans, incapacitated persons and the elderly. It is imperative that these assignments be made solely on the basis of merit and that the appointees be scrupulous, conscientious individuals with sufficient training and experience to perform this vitally important work. The new rules governing fiduciary appointments  achieve this by establishing strict guidelines for assignments and a more accountable regulatory structure. I am grateful to Chair Sheila Birnbaum and the other members of the Statewide Commission on Fiduciary Appointments, whose instructive report and thoughtful recommendations laid the foundation for these prudent new measures."

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman added, "The new rules governing fiduciary appointments are the latest step in the court system's comprehensive program to reform the fiduciary assignment process in New York. We created the Office of the Special Inspector General for Fiduciary Appointments to investigate individual allegations of misconduct, and we undertook a series of internal measures to improve the monitoring of fiduciary practices across the state. In addition, the Chief Judge appointed the Commission on Fiduciary Appointments, whose outstanding work led to the adoption of these latest measures. The new rules establish rigorous appointment standards and ensure accountability in these assignments."

Most of the new rules and procedures take effect January 1, 2003; the remainder, including the establishment of new, specialized eligibility lists, take effect June 1, 2003.

Judges Kaye and Lippman also announced today, in conjunction with Presiding Justice Milton L. Williams of the Appellate Division, First Department, and Presiding Justice A. Gail Prudenti of the Appellate Division, Second Department, a pilot program in which the court system's internal auditors will serve as court examiners in selected guardianship proceedings in the First and Second Departments. Court examiners review the reports and accountings that guardians, who are appointed to manage the affairs of incapacitated persons, must file with the court.