Further Information David Bookstaver New York State Communications Director Unified Court System Mai Yee, Communication Officer (212)428-2505 Jonathan Lippman Chief Administrative Judge


Release: Immediate, February 24, 1998


Family Court Undergoes Major Operational Restructuring

NEW YORK—Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman today announced sweeping changes in the way the Family Court does business—the latest step in the court system's ongoing Family Justice Program. The new function-based approach to Family Court operations is designed to eliminate unnecessary delays and adjournments, reduce the number of attorney scheduling conflicts and increase the continuity of trials by forging stronger alliances with entities, such as the Administration for Children's Services (ACS), Legal Aid and the New York City Corporation Counsel. The announcement precedes the opening next month of the Family Drug Treatment Court at 60 Lafayette Street in Manhattan. The first of its kind in New York City, the new court will handle exclusively child neglect cases involving parental substance abuse.

"The Family Court, more than any other court in the state, relies on a myriad of supporting agencies to do its job efficiently," said Chief Judge Kaye. "These organizations act as the eyes and ears of the court—responsible for gathering accurate information, completing timely assessments and making well-informed recommendations to the court. Under the Family Justice Program, the court has initiated, in conjunction with the various agencies, new procedures that can shorten the length of time a child may languish in foster care while waiting to be adopted or help a battered woman avoid the anxiety and frustration of unnecessary adjournments, just to mention two examples. In a court where the lives of children and well-being of families are at stake, the interagency partnerships built under the Family Justice Program make good sense and will assist judges in the fair and humane resolution of these most sensitive cases."

The Family Justice Program Phase II calls for the creation of four specialized divisions:

To foster continuity and familiarity for the litigants, each of the specialized divisions will have assigned judges and support staff, as well as designated personnel from ACS, Legal Aid and other relevant agencies.

Chief Administrative Judge Lippman said, "The new operational structure of the Family Court, which centers around the creation of four specialized divisions, is the most sweeping structural redesign of the Family Court since its creation. Under the Family Justice Program, a Family Court judge who must now handle 20 different types of court proceedings will be able to concentrate on just one area of family law and increase expertise in that area, and agencies that interact daily with the court will dedicate personnel to the handling of specific types of cases. These changes, implemented under the leadership of Family Court Administrative Judge Michael Gage, will streamline case processing, reduce delays and result in more continuous trials, and, in the end, will better serve the families that turn to the Family Court for relief."

In addition to the creation of the four specialized division of the Family Court, Phase II of the Family Justice Program includes:

The Family Justice Program Phase II will begin implementation next month in New York City, and specific pilot initiatives will begin throughout 1998 in Family Courts outside of New York City.