Recently, the New York State Legislature approved 25 new Family Court Judgeships throughout New York State. The Bill passed almost unanimously, with only two dissenters in the Assembly and one dissenter in the Senate. Governor Andrew Cuomo approved the legislation and signed it into law on Thursday, June 26, 2014.
Under the Bill, nine judges will sit in New York City, who will be appointed by Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Elections with be held in November to elect eleven judges, one for each of the following counties: Albany, Broome, Chautauqua, Franklin, Nassau, Oneida, Oswego, Schenectady, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester counties. Those judges will take office January 1st. The remaining five positions are slotted for November 2015 elections in Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe and Warren Counties, where judges there will take the bench January 1, 2016.
In recent years, long delays have become the norm in Family Courts throughout New York State. These courts have been understaffed for years, while their caseload has only continued to increase. In the past thirty years, cases being filed in the Family Court have nearly doubled: from 366,000 cases per year to over 715,000 cases – and there are only 149 judges sitting statewide to hear all of them. This influx of cases has made the caseload unmanageable for Family Court judges, creating an extreme backlog. More importantly, due to this backlog, children are staying in foster care far longer than necessary as cases are being postponed again and again and again.
The passing of this Bill will hopefully alleviate the caseload, and better protect the safety and welfare of many children and families who have felt the negative effects of an understaffed Family Court.