On Friday, Sept. 14, the New York State Bar Association and the New York State Unified Court System will mark the 50th anniversary of New York's Family Court.
In Albany, a ceremony and panel discussions will examine the impact of the 1962 restructuring of the court system that created a statewide Family Court to deal specifically with issues related to children and families.
Among the matters assigned to the then-new Family Court were cases of child abuse and neglect, family violence and abuse, paternity, custody and visitation, foster care and child delinquency.
"For the past half century, Family Court has played a vital role in resolving issues that so deeply affect children, parents and caregivers," said New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr. "It's important to recognize its positive impact over the years and to continue to take steps to improve the services it provides."
Judge Paula Hepner, supervising judge of Kings County Family Court, weighed in on the significance of Family Court.
"The 1962 restructuring of the court system consolidated the fragmented system of various courts having jurisdiction over family matters. The restructuring expanded Family Court’s jurisdiction allowing the court to provide families with a full panel of relief. Prior to the creation of Family Court, there was a notion that only the courts knew what was best for a particular familial matter,” she said.
“Now, there has been a shift allowing parents and children to possess and directly exercise their due process rights. Now that we have expanded Family Court's jurisdiction, we can provide a forum for persons to protect themselves, for example, from physical and verbal domestic abuse or from abusive dating relationships.”
Given the important role that Family Court plays in the lives of individuals, many members of Brooklyn’s legal community are pushing for more resources to be distributed to Family Court.
Brooklyn Law School Professor Marsha Garrison notes that “Family Court is an important institution designed to ensure that families can find friendly and expert court personnel as they navigate the court system. The remedies provided by Family Court are essential.”
As such, and “given the proliferation of family law cases, Family Court needs more resources if it is to remain the relevant institution that it is today,” she said.
The New York State Bar Association will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Family Court with programs on Friday. The first portion of the program begins with a ceremony at the Court of Appeals in Albany. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman will make opening remarks, followed by a panel discussion entitled, "New York State Family Court Past and Present." Hon. Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, administrative judge of the Family Court of the City of New York, will moderate the discussion.
The program then moves to the State Bar Center on Elk Street, where former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye will discuss the future of the Family Court.
Chief Judge Lippman, Hon. Judith Kaye, and Hon. Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson will also participate in the New York City Bar Association’s commemoration event on Thursday, September 20, 2012.