As a daily practitioner of the Family Courts in the five boroughs of New
York City, I have personally witnessed members of the public being denied
access to Family Court courtrooms for one reason or another. Sometimes
those reasons were valid, but most of the time the reasons were simply
made up or not even provided. The fact of the matter is that the Uniform
Rules for the Family Court provides that "the Family Court is open
to the public. Members of the public, including the news media, shall
have access to all courtrooms, lobbies, public waiting areas and other
common areas of the Family Court otherwise open to individuals having
business before the court."
The rule goes on to vest each individual judge with the discretion to limit
entry into a courtroom for various reasons. As a family law attorney,
I come down on both sides of this access issue. On one hand public access
and oversight shines an invaluable light on possible injustices and highlights
the need for change. On the other hand, the Family Court deals with truly
sensitive, personal, and sometimes embarrassing, family-related issues
that should remain private between the family dealing with the problem
and the deciding judge. In a recent article, New York Times journalist
William Glabberson delved into the issue of public access to our New York
State Family Courts. Read the article (November 17, 2011, New York Times Article: New York Family Courts Say Keep
Out, Despite Order) and tell me what you think.
© Copyright 2011, by A. Sheralynn Dow, Esq., With the exception of
the New York Times article, the author reserves all rights to the material
set forth herein.