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.