NY Bar Association president marks Law Day with plea for better court funding

This just in from the New York State Bar Association:

In the historic chambers of the state’s highest court, State Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III today stressed the vital importance of a fully funded and operational court system.

“In matters large and small, the Judiciary is the foundation of our freedom,” he said. “The courts defend our fundamental rights, protect public safety and facilitate the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he said. “When the courts suffer, the pain is felt throughout society.”

Doyle delivered his remarks at Law Day ceremonies at the state Court of Appeals where Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman opened the session attended by members of the Court of Appeals, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other elected officials.

Doyle’s speech reflected a central theme of Law Day being echoed in the legal community across the nation: “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”

Doyle cited a Bar Association report in January that revealed the impact of 2011 budget cuts on the state court. Among the report’s findings: reduced courthouse hours were limiting citizen access to courts and resulting in delays in resolving cases; the jury selection process potentially was being compromised by the prospect of lengthier trials; delays were resulting in criminal suspects spending more time in jail before trial; staff reductions were affecting the ability of the courts to efficiently and effectively dispense with cases; and less assistance was available to litigants who represent themselves in family court and other civil cases.

The report is available at www.nysba.org/CourtFundingReport.

Doyle said the State Bar Association understands that “government resources are not unlimited,” but when setting spending priorities, elected officials must recognize the fundamental role of the Judiciary in establishing the rule of law.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association, founded in 1876,  is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country.

White Plains lawyer to testify at hearing on Family Court challenges

Mary Grace Ferone, a managing attorney at the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in White Plains, will be among the speakers this Thursday at a New York State Bar Association hearing about how New York’s Family Court system impacts children and families.

The hearings, held around the state, were convened to address the rising workloads in the family courts during the past decade, particularly child custody, visitation and child support cases.

“The growing burden placed on our Family Court system is having a direct impact on our most vulnerable population — our children,” said State Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III. “With these hearings, we are collecting information from a variety of experts that we hope will lead to improved conditions for children and the courts.”

The latest hearing will take place at the Nassau County Bar Association in Mineola. The task force previously held hearings in Albany and New York City. The final hearing is scheduled for March 29 in Buffalo.

Among those expected to testify on Thursday are family court judges and others affiliated with the courts, local bar associations, legal service groups and organizations that serve children, families and battered women.

The 35-member Task Force on Family Court, created in 2010, will issue a preliminary report in June and a final report in November. That report will be presented to the state chief administrative judge and others for consideration.

According to the state Office of Court Administration, family courts handled 720,850 court filings in 2010, compared to 683,390 in 2001. In New York City, the caseload was 246,266 in 2010, up from 226,544 in 2001. Despite rising caseloads — including a record 742,365 statewide in 2009 — only four new Family Court judgeships have been created statewide since 1999 and none in New York City since 1991.

Court funding to be focus of state Bar meeting

Court funding cuts and the effect those cuts have had on New York’s justice system will be among the key topics for discussion at the New York State Bar Association’s 135th Annual Meeting in Manhattan, which starts on Monday.

The week-long conference will include forums on immigration, court funding, representation of veterans, diversity in the legal community and the impact of the Bernie Madoff fraud case on international litigation. More than 5,000 lawyers are expected.

Among those scheduled to address the conference are William Robinson III, president of the American Bar Association; Jack Rives, executive director of the American Bar Association; state Chief Judge Jonathan Lipmann; state Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti; former state Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and former Governor David Paterson. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be presented with the Gold Medal, the Bar Association’s highest award, for lifelong excellence in the legal profession and his civic contributions.

On Wednesday, the conference will feature a panel on the crisis in state court funding across the United States. The Bar Association this week released a report that identified problems with the court system in the wake of state budget cuts, including long delays and postponements in civil and criminal cases, overcrowded court calendars, problems with jury selection and jury service, limited citizen access to legal services and overworked court employees, among other issues. Former state Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye (now of counsel with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom), will moderate a panel of state and national experts on the topic. American Bar Association President William T. Robinson’s keynote address also will focus on court funding.

For a complete listing of speakers, program and events, go to www.nysba.org/am2012. Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest state bar association in the country.

Want legal ethics advice? There’s an app for that

The New York State Bar Association has introduced a mobile app that gives judges, lawyers, law students and the public at large instant answers to legal ethics questions on their smartphones.

The app contains more than 900 searchable ethics opinions, dating back to 1964, on legal issues in categories from acceptance of employment to zoning board issues. Decisions can be searched by keyword, category or opinion number.

“Ethics questions can arise in many different contexts. The NYSBA Mobile Ethics App will allow judges, lawyers and others to access the opinions of the Association’s Professional Ethics Committee on the spot from the convenience of their mobile devices,” Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III said in a statement. “The State Bar is pleased to provide this service to its members and the legal community.”

This is the Bar’s latest foray into making the law accessible online. Last year, it launched the eLAP website, a secure portal for accessing lawyer assistance information and services. The Bar also improved its website’s search engine and offered its members discount subscriptions to Clio, a cloud-based practice management system designed for solo practitioners and small law firms.

The Ethics app is available on Apple’s App Store, the Android Market, BlackBerry’s App World and on the state bar website at www.nysba.org/ethicsapp.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association,  founded in 1876, is the largest voluntary bar association in the nation.

State Bar creates task force to tackle Family Court crisis

An overwhelming rise of family court cases has prompted the New York State Bar Association to create a Family Court task force to find ways that the justice system can best handle the heavy caseload.

According to the bar association, family court filings in New York State reached a record high of nearly 750,000 last year, with filings related to family violence increasing 30 percent in the last two years. On average, it said, there are 4,601 filings for every judge.

The new task force, announced today, will study what and where more family court resources are needed, how to better manage cases and staff, how technology can make family court more efficient, among other improvements. A Broome County Family Court judge and a top state Legal Aid lawyer will lead the investigation.

“To thousands of New Yorkers, family courts are the face of our legal system but, unfortunately, with overcrowded dockets, too few judges, and far too many delays, these courts resemble hospital emergency rooms and our family law attorneys are forced to perform triage,” new bar association president Stephen P. Younger said in a statement.

“At the end of the process, we will have a road map that will set a course for us to finally address the most challenging problems and to create a family court system that can protect our children when they most need it,” he added.

Family courts deal with child custody and visitation issues, foster care, child abuse and neglect, among other related issues. A recent state report criticized overcrowded court facilities in Yonkers and New Rochelle. To read more on the problems in Yonkers and New Rochelle Family Court, click here.

Westchester DA helps police tape interrogations

Seven police departments in Westchester will be getting money to record interviews with suspects and others in police custody.

The DA’s office got a grant from the New York State Bar Association to buy DVR equipment for the cops.

The grant, according to the DA’s office, will “enhance the overall investigative and prosecutorial processes” and “improve both the quality of police interviews and interrogations and protect the rights of the individuals being recorded.”

“Recording ensures the integrity of the fact-finding process by preserving accurately the entire course of an interrogation. The recording of statements will reduce false claims that incriminating admissions were made or obtained by coercion or intimidation. Additionally, it will protect the rights of the individual being interviewed and help to increase the accuracy of the criminal justice system,” the DA’s statement said.

Bedford, Croton, Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, Ossining village and Pelham police departments will get the grant money.

Wrongful conviction panel

My colleague Noreen O’Donnell sent this to me today, and I thought you might like to know about it, especially if you’ve followed the Jeffrey Deskovic saga in The Journal News and on LoHud.com:

NYSBA News Advisory

                        Friday, February 13, 2009 – 9:30 a.m.


On Friday, February 13th at 9:30am, the New York State Bar Association will hold a hearing to explore the findings of a new report issued by its Wrongful Conviction Task Force, chaired by the Honorable Barry Kamins. The report studied dozens of cases from around New York State in which defendants were convicted and later exonerated.  It found that misidentification by witnesses and government practices were the two leading causes of wrongful convictions.  The hearing will also explore recommended changes to policy, procedure and legislation that would help prevent these miscarriages of justice.  The hearing is being held at the New York City Bar headquarters (42 W. 44th Street).
Among those expected to testify are: Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., president, New York State District Attorneys Association; Richard A. Brown, District Attorney, Queens County; Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of The Innocence Project; Morris Zedeck, Ph.D.; among others.
Testimony will also be heard from three exonorees:
·        Jeff Deskovic (Westchester County) – Exonerated of murder and rape after serving 16 years in prison.
·        Scott Fappiano (Brooklyn) – Exonerated of rape, sodomy, burglary after serving 21 years in prison.
       Al Newton (Bronx) – Exonerated of rape, robbery, and assault charges after serving 21 years in prison.  

The full report can be found at: http://www.nysba.org/wrongfulconvictions

WHAT:          Three men – wrongly convicted, who spent a total of 58 years in prison – will testify at a hearing held by the New York State Bar Association Wrongful Conviction Task Force.  The hearing will explore the findings and recommendations of a new report issued by the Task Force which concluded that misidentification by witnesses and government practices were the two leading causes of wrongful convictions. Also expected to testify are law enforcement officials, representatives from the Innocence Project, forensic experts and others.

WHEN:          Friday, February 13, 2009 — 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:        The Association of the Bar of the City of New York
42 West 44th Street  – between 5th Avenue & Avenue of the Americas
CONTACT:    Josh Salter – (212) 575-4545; Day of: (914) 629-0444
Linden Alschuler & Kaplan, PR


The 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation.  Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years. www.nysba.org <http://www.nysba.org/

Joshua Salter
Linden Alschuler & Kaplan Public Relations
1251 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 940
New York, New York 10020
212.329.1425 (direct line)
212.575.4545 (main phone)
212.575.0519 (fax)