Do charter schools help NYC children?

In December the New York City Panel for Educational Policy approved three new charter schools, all of which are part of a network of charter schools run by Success Academy Charter Schools, which is run by former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. This decision is part of an initiative undertaken by the New York City Board of Education to house multiple schools within one NYC Department of Education building in order to fill what it sees as underutilized facilities.

Many of these new schools, including these three charter schools, have been opposed by parents and teachers from the schools which are already located in these buildings. Those opposing these “co-locations” argue that the students of the district schools located in the buildings are adversely affected by the addition of the charter schools in the same building. These effects include limited access to facilities such as the gym, library and lunch room, increased class sizes as well as a disparity in the amount spent on the students of each school.<Read More>

Right to Self-Representation in Termination of Parental Rights Proceeding

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a defendant in a criminal proceeding has a constitutional right to refuse their court appointed counsel. A criminal defendant also has a right to represent themselves, provided they have knowingly and voluntarily waived their right to counsel. In New York, before a court may allow a criminal defendant to proceed pro se, (1) the defendant’s request to do so must be unequivocal and timely asserted, (2) there must have been a knowing and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel, and (3) the defendant must not have engaged in conduct which would prevent the fair and orderly exposition of the issues. 

In in re Kathleen K. the New York Court of Appeals addressed whether the Family Court erred in failing to grant the application of appellant Stephen K. to represent himself in a proceeding brought by the Department of Social Services (“DSS”) to terminate his parental rights (“TPR”).   <Read More>

Kinship Guardianship Assistance Progarm (KinGAP)

When a neglect or abuse petition results in a child being removed from their parents’ custody, the Department of Social Services (“DSS”) and Family Court are charged with achieving permanency for the child as quickly as possible.  Where returning such a child to their parent is not a viable option, adoption becomes the alternative means for achieving permanency. Prior to the institution of the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP), which went into effect in New York on April 1, 2011, no legal alternative existed for achieving permanency for children in foster care who were living with family members but for whom returning to their parents or adoption were not options.

 KinGAP is a program established with the goal of promoting permanency for children living in the foster home of a relative. Under this program, a relative guardian can receive a monthly payment and other benefits for foster children who have been discharged from foster care. <Read More>

Child’s Right to End Visitation with Non-custodial Parent

Siblings Nicole and Jordan witnessed their father physically and emotionally abuse their mother on many occasions. Often the children intervened to protect their mother from their father’s abuse. In 2003, Nicole’s father beat her after she told her mother that her father had removed some documents from her mother’s car. This incident resulted in the issuance of a full stay away Order of Protection. In the eight years since that incident, the children have seen their father on less than ten occasions.

In in re J.R. v. N.R. Nicole and Jordan’s father petitioned for visitation. Nicole was seventeen and Jordan was thirteen at the time the petition was filed. From 2002 until the case was decided, the father filed at least sixteen petitions in Family Court against the mother.  Both children vehemently opposed any relationship with their father.  The Family Court denied the father’s application for visitation and held that no further petitions for visitation could be filed by the father without the permission of the Court.

In deciding to prevent further petitions for visitation by the father, the Court in found that forced visitation with their father would not serve the children’s best interest and would instead cause them great anxiety.  The Court made the right decision but why did it take almost a decade for these children to be given a chance to move on with their lives?

Custody and visitation proceedings represent some of the most contentious and difficult cases that come before the Family Courts. These cases frequently drag on for years and have a detrimental effect on the children caught in the middle of legal battles between their parents.<Read More>

How Will Budget Cuts Affect the Family Court?

After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized the judicial branch for not agreeing to a ten percent reduction in spending this March, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman submitted a revised budget which cut $100 million from the $2.7 billion budget he had originally submitted. After the Governor and the Legislature worked out the final details of the State budget, which was announced on March 27th, an additional $70 million had been cut from the state’s judiciary budget.

Although the exact impact of the cuts is not yet known, Judge Lippman has stated that the cuts will require reductions in programs and hundreds of layoffs, including courthouse personnel.  “It will have a tremendous impact on the system,” Judge Lippman said, the cuts will cause “delays in the administration of justice, without question.”

While these cuts will have an effect on the entire State court system, the impact on the State’s Family Courts could be devastating.  A 2010 report released by the New York State Unified Court System entitled Plan for the Future of the New York City Family Court, acknowledged the “ever-expanding caseloads of the Family Court” and the fact that the Family Courts remained “under-resourced.”<Read More>