December, 1998
The Fund for Modern Courts, Inc., 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1200, New York, New York 10036.
Telephone: (212) 575-1577. Fax: (212) 869-1133. E-Mail: [email protected]

December, 1998
The Project ..........................................................................................................................1
II. The Family Court in New York State.................................................................................4
III. The Monroe County Family Court.....................................................................................9
IV. Judges................................................................................................................................10
V. Hearing Examiners ...........................................................................................................20
VI. Judicial Hearing Officers ..................................................................................................23
VII. Attorneys ...........................................................................................................................28
VIII. Social Service and Support Agencies...............................................................................32
IX. Other Court Personnel......................................................................................................34
Court Operations ...............................................................................................................37
XI. Court Facilities ..................................................................................................................41
XII. Recommendations .............................................................................................................44
Acknowledgements ...........................................................................................................49

Court Monitoring in New York State
The Fund for Modern Courts is a
nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to
improving the administration of justice in New
York State. Since 1975, Modern Courts has
sponsored court monitoring programs around the
State, in which groups of citizens observe and
evaluate their courts, report their findings, and
issue public recommendations for improvement.
Today, groups of court monitors are active in 16
Over the years, court monitoring has
proven highly successful at:
safeguarding the public's interest in the courts;
creating and maintaining an ongoing,
meaningful dialogue between citizens and their
making the courts more accountable and
sensitive to the needs of the communities they
educating citizens about the daily workings of
their courts;
publicizing problems that exist in the courts;
successfully urging those responsible for the
courts (including court administrators, state
legislators, local government officials, and
others) to make improvements, particularly in
how the courts serve the
public and how their personnel treat the
public; and
creating a constituency of citizens who
understand the problems facing the courts and
who are supportive of the courts' efforts to
obtain the resources necessary to do a satis-
factory job.
In a monitoring project, volunteers
observe proceedings in a particular court for a
period of several months. The monitors use
specially-designed forms that ask them to evaluate
all aspects of the court's performance, from the
demeanor of the judges to the physical conditions
under which the court operates. Modern Courts
then publishes the monitors' findings in a detailed
report which is sent to the judges and court
personnel observed, the administrators of the state
court system, State and local legislators, the news
media, and other interested parties.
Monitors come from all walks of life, and
many have no prior experience with the legal
system. The monitors are asked to look at the
court from an outsider's viewpoint, which
provides a fresh, common-sense perspective on
how the courts can be improved.
Modern Courts' citizen court monitoring
program has been influential in solving many of the
problems that ordinary citizens face in the courts.
For example, monitors' comments about litigants
with young children in the Family Court have
helped lead to the establishment of in-court child
care facilities in numerous courthouses across the
State. In other courts, the implementation of a
"staggered" calendar, modeled directly on
monitors' recommenda-tions, has drastically
reduced both waiting time and overcrowding.
Monitors' repeated calls for decent housekeeping

and maintenance in the state's courthouses have
led to a renewed commitment to courthouse
upkeep by local governments and to major
improvements in recent years. Monitors were
also helpful in persuading the State Office of
Court Administration to introduce a mandatory
"civility training" program for all non-judicial court
On a larger scale, monitors' reports were
instrumental in encouraging the State legislature to
pass the Court Facilities Act of 1987, which has
led to construction of desperately needed new
court facilities around the State. In the Ninth
Judicial District, for example, a new courthouse
for the Dutchess County Family Court opened in
1997, replacing a deplorable facility that was
decried by monitors in several reports. Other
new courthouses are scheduled for construction
over the next several years. Monitors' reports
also influenced recent reforms to make jury
service less burdensome.
Overall, citizen court monitoring has
improved communication between citizens and the
judiciary, heightened the court system's sensitivity
to public needs, and helped to ensure that those
needs are met.
The Monroe County Court Monitors
For over 25 years, the Rochester Chapter
of Church Women United (CWU) has conducted
a citizen court monitoring program through its
Task Force on Courts. In 1975, the Task Force
on Courts began its association with the Fund for
Modern Courts.
Sue Soper of Church Women United fills
a dual role as Modern Courts' local coordinator
and as coordinator of CWU's Task Force on
Courts. Modern Courts provides project
materials and other assistance; it also writes and
publishes the final report, with editorial assistance
from the Task Force monitors. Previous reports
that Modern Courts has issued in conjunction with
the Task Force on Courts include a report on the
Town and Village Courts of Monroe County in
October, 1996.
For their latest project, the Monroe
County monitors chose to evaluate the conditions
in Monroe County Family Court. The Family
Court deals with some of society's most serious
problems, involving children and families in crisis.
Because it is positioned near the bottom of New
York State's hierarchical court system, it operates
with fewer resources than the other "superior"
courts. Moreover, little public attention is paid to
the workings of the Family Court, since it often
operates as a "closed" court (although recent rule
changes have been instituted to open Family
Court proceedings to the public and press; these
are discussed later in this report). Thus, the
Family Court has not received the same level of
public scrutiny as other courts, and the result is
that the need for improvements is not broadly
recognized. Only by making the public aware of
the actual conditions in the Family Court will
needed reforms be instituted. This is the task
upon which the citizen court monitors of Modern
Courts and CWU's Task Force on Courts
embarked in January, 1998.
At the outset of the project, monitors
were asked to sign a statement of objectivity,
certifying that they had not been a party to a case
in the Family Court. In January, 1998, a project
orientation meeting was held, which included
presentations by the Honorable Ann Marie
Taddeo, Supervising Judge of the Monroe County
Family Court; Assistant District Attorney Tamara
Guglin; Probation Department Supervisor
Christine Hinds; Law Guardian Edward Orlando;
and Department of Social Services attorney
James Paulino. Modern Courts' staff explained
the monitoring process and distributed materials
for the project, including Modern Courts' Family
Court Monitoring Handbook and copies of the
evaluation forms that monitors complete after each

observation. Approximately 40 monitors
participated in the Family Court project.
The following report is based on
approximately 285 total observations by the
monitors over a six-month period. Monitors were
present in courtrooms every week from January
to July, 1998. These regular observations gave
the monitors sharp insight into the shortcomings
that affect the Family Court's ability to serve the
public properly. Monitors thus were able to
suggest ways to increase efficiency and reduce
delay, to lessen inconvenience to the public, to
increase the apparent sense of "fairness," and to
deal with the large numbers of children who
accompany adults to court.

In 1962, the New York State
Legislature passed the Family Court Act, which
created a statewide Family Court. The Family
Court replaced the Domestic Relations Court of
the City of New York and the Children's
Courts outside New York City.
The Family Court was given jurisdiction
over many issues involving children and families,
including paternity, custody, visitation, child
support, child abuse and neglect, and violence
and abuse among family members. The Family
Court does not have jurisdiction over divorce,
separation, or annulment proceedings, which
are heard in Supreme Court. Jurisdiction over
adoptions is shared with the Surrogate's Court,
which also oversees inheritances.
Unlike other courts in the New York
State justice system, Family Court is not
adversarial. It also is not a criminal court, and
is not designed to mete out punishment for
criminal offenses. Rather, it is a "remedial"
court, in which a judge uses the professional
staff of the court and of other governmental and
private agencies to devise programs to resolve
family problems. This distinctive approach is
reflected in the unique terminology used in
Family Court. Plaintiffs, complainants, and the
prosecution are called "petitioners"; defendants
are called "respondents"; trials are designated
"fact-finding hearings"; and sentences are
known as "dispositional orders." There also are
no jury trials in the Family Court.
Public Access
Although the Family Court technically is
an open court (and has been since its
inception), the sensitive and confidential nature
of proceedings has led many judges and court
administrators to operate as though it were a
closed court. In addition, most Family Court
courtrooms are small and unable to
accommodate large numbers of spectators.
In June, 1997, the Office of Court
Administration issued new rules reaffirming that
the Family Court is an open court, and directing
that the public and press be given broad access.
The rules, which became effective on
September 2, 1997, provide 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.
Judges may exclude the public only on a case-
by-case basis.
The issue of public access to Family
Court proceedings received heightened scrutiny
during a recent and highly-publicized case in
Westchester County, which involved a twelve-
year-old boy, Malcolm Shabazz, who was
accused of setting a fire that resulted in the
death of his grandmother, Betty Shabazz. The
media petitioned for access, while attorneys for
the child and the County Attorney's Office
sought to exclude the media on the grounds that
the child was psychologically fragile. The judge
who heard the case excluded cameras from the
courtroom, but permitted two pool reporters to
attend the proceedings, declaring:
Justice cannot prevail under a veil of secrecy
or behind closed doors that do not open.
Darkness must give way to light. In order to
preserve the integrity of public proceed-ings,
avoid the dissemination of misinformation,

enhance public confidence in the court system
and promote a better understanding of the
Family Court, these judicial proceed-ings must
be open to the press.
On appeal, the ruling was unanimously upheld
by the Appellate Division, Second Department.
When the Family Court began
operations in 1962, no one foresaw such
upcoming factors as the substantial increase in
the divorce rate, the drug abuse epidemic of the
1970s and 1980s, and the emergence of child
and domestic abuse as pressing societal
problems. These and other conditions have
contributed to an explosion in the Family
Court's caseload. In 1995, 591,577 cases
were filed in the Family Court statewide; in
1996, the number rose to well over 600,000
for the first time. Just ten years earlier, in 1985,
only 391,322 cases were filed. While a
staggering number of drug-related cases
flooded the family and criminal courts in the late
1980s (the so-called "crack years"), more
recently, the growth of Family Court filings has
been spurred by increases in cases involving
child custody, child support, and termination of
parental rights.
Family Court Judges
Eligibility: Outside of New York
City, Family Court judges must be residents of
the county in which they serve. (In New York
City, they must be residents of the City.) All
Family Court judges must be attorneys admitted
to the bar for at least ten years before assuming
Method of Selection: All Family
Court judges outside of New York City are
nominated in countywide, partisan primary
elections and then elected in a countywide
general election. (In New York City, Family
Court judges are appointed by the Mayor by
means of a merit selection process.)
Tenure: Family Court judges serve
ten-year terms. If a judge is unable to complete
a term, the governor appoints a judge to fill the
vacancy until the next general election. Family
Court judges may serve until a mandatory
retirement age of 70, in contrast to Supreme
Court justices, who may serve an additional six
years, with biannual certification of mental and
physical fitness.
Salaries: Salaries of Family Court
judges are paid by the State of New York, but
they vary from county to county. Family Court
judges in Monroe County earn $103,800.
However, their counterparts in New York City,
Long Island, and Westchester County earn
Despite action by the New York State
Legislature in 1993 that substantially raised
judicial salaries, these disparities linger, harking
back to the period prior to 1977 when
municipalities, rather than the State, were
responsible for the costs of court administration.
In 1997, over 670,000 cases, covering
20 different types of proceedings, were heard in
Family Courts across New York State.
Currently, 263 judges and hearing examiners sit
in these courts, which means that each judicial
officer hears an average of more than 2,500
matters per year.
There are currently five full-time judges
in Monroe County Family Court. Due to
overwhelming caseloads, judges, court officials,
and other interested parties have lobbied
vigorously in recent years for the creation of a
sixth judicial post in Family Court. Until May,
1998, such efforts went unheeded; in recent
years, this reportedly has been due, in large

part, to Monroe County Executive John D.
(Jack) Doyle’s opposition to adding a sixth
judge until the court became more efficient.
After the Monroe County Juvenile
Justice Council issued a report in mid-May
outlining the magnitude of rising Family Court
caseloads, Mr. Doyle finally agreed to support
legislation to create the sixth judgeship, and
State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio introduced a
bill to create the position, which would have
taken effect January 1, 1999. However, the
legislation failed once again. As reported in the
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Demo-
cratic legislators blamed the demise of the bill
on Mr. Doyle’s insistence that it be linked to
two unrelated and controversial measures: One
would have created a Greater Rochester Sports
Authority; the other would have exempted
Monroe County from state bidding laws for its
upcoming $49.4 million jail expansion program.
Mr. Doyle is reported to have denied
promoting any such linkage.
In any event, plans reportedly still exist
for an interim appointment of a sixth Family
Court judge, to take effect in early 1999.
However, the New York State Legislature first
must pass a bill creating the sixth judgeship; the
bill then must be signed by Governor Pataki. At
that point, Governor Pataki could appoint an
interim judge to hold the position until the next
general election on November 2, 1999. To
date, however, the Legislature has yet to pass
legislation creating a sixth judgeship.
Hearing Examiners
The position of Family Court Hearing
Examiner was established by the New York
State Child Support Enforcement Act of 1985
in response to federal funding regulations aimed
at increasing and expediting collection of
support payments.
Hearing examiners are not judges, but
they are authorized to hear and make decisions
on support and uncontested paternity matters.
Decisions made by hearing examiners are
binding. However, litigants dissatisfied with a
hearing examiner's decision may object, and a
resolution of the objection will be handled by a
Family Court judge. Hearing examiners are not
authorized to issue warrants or to hold
individuals in contempt of court; they must
forward requests for such actions to a judge.
Hearing examiners have greatly eased
the burden on judges by hearing support cases,
which can be time-consuming and tedious, and
put growing demands on the court's time. The
position also has proved to be a "training
ground" for judges: Hearing examiners often
advance to judicial office. Supervising Judge
Ann Marie Taddeo began her tenure at
Monroe County Family Court as a hearing
Eligibility: The Uniform Family Court
Rules of the State of New York mandate that
hearing examiners "shall be attorneys admitted
to the practice of law for at least five years and
shall be knowledgeable with respect to Family
Court procedure, family law, and federal and
state support law and programs."
Method of Selection: Candidates are
appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge of
the State of New York, after screening in each
judicial district by a commission consisting of
the district administrative judge, a Family Court
judge, and a representative of the Chief
Administrative Judge.
Salaries and Tenure: All hearing
examiners in New York State earn $75,828
annually. They serve three-year terms, with
reappointment at the discretion of the Chief
Administrative Judge.

There are four hearing examiners in Monroe
County Family Court.
Judicial Hearing Officers
As a means of handling the large
caseload of the court and increasing efficiency,
Monroe County Family Court utilizes personnel
known as judicial hearing officers, or JHOs.
JHOs are former and retired judges who are
designated by the Chief Administrator of the
New York State court system to serve as
"quasi-judicial officers" of the court. They are
assigned to a particular court on a per-diem
basis, where they fill limited roles. In Family
Court, JHOs may preside over custody and
visitation cases, contested paternity
proceedings, and domestic violence cases.
Eligibility: Only former and retired
New York State judges are eligible to serve as
judicial hearing officers.
Method of Selection: Judicial hearing
officers are appointed by the Chief
Administrative Judge of the State of New York.
Salaries and Tenure:
Hearing Officers are compensated at a rate of
$250 per day.
At the time of monitors’ obser-vations,
there were four judicial hearing officers in
Monroe County Family Court. However, since
the end of the project, Hon. Charles L. Willis
has joined the court as a fifth judicial hearing

Appeals Process
An appeal from Family Court is heard
in the Appellate Division of Supreme Court.
(New York State is divided into four Judicial
Departments; appeals from the Monroe County
Family Court are to the Appellate Division,
Fourth Department.) Further appeals are
brought before the Court of Appeals, New
York State's court of last resort.

The Population It Serves: Monroe County
Monroe County is located in western
New York State. It is bordered on the east by
Wayne County, on the south by Ontario and
Livingston Counties, on the west by Genesee
and Orleans Counties, and on the north by the
province of Ontario in Canada. It has an area
of 663.21 square miles.
Monroe County's estimated popula-tion
for 1998 is projected at approximately
750,000, an increase from the 1990 census
population of 713,968. Its county seat is
Rochester, the third-largest city in New York
State. As of 1996, Rochester's population was
221,594, a 3.8% drop from its 1990
population of 230,356.
The Structure of the Monroe County
Family Court
The court currently has five judges, four
hearing examiners, and four judicial hearing
officers. Judges and hearing examiners serve
rotating Intake Terms, which are divided into 2-
week periods for judges and 4-week periods
for hearing examiners. During the assigned
term, the Intake judge or hearing examiner
presides over all first appearances and
schedules subsequent proceedings. Intake
judges and hearing examiners also handle
emergency cases, such as requests for
temporary orders of protection, emergency
child protective hearings, detention hearings,
and issuance of warrants.
The Monroe County Family Court is
located on the third floor of the Hall of Justice in
Rochester's Civic Center Plaza. The court
comprises five courtrooms and four hearing
rooms, distributed over the second and third
floors of the courthouse. The office of the five
hearing examiners double as hearing rooms.
Reflecting statewide trends, the
caseload of the Monroe County Family Court is
climbing steadily. A total of 25,126 petitions
were filed in 1997. The five Family Court
judges presided over 14,777 of these petitions,
resulting in an average of 2,955 cases per
judge. The Family Court also reports that at
least 80% of litigants are not represented by
attorneys, which compounds the workload for
judicial personnel.
There also have been particularly steep
increases in the number of specific kinds of
petitions filed in the Monroe County Family
Court. The number of custody and visitation
cases filed in 1997 increased 10% over the
number filed in 1996, and the number of PINS
cases increased 15%. For the same period,
there was a 29% increase in foster care review
cases, and guardianship cases increased 53%.

Following are the monitors' evaluations
of each judge in the Monroe County Family
Court. Monitors did not evaluate the judges'
decisions or legal knowledge. Rather, they
focused on their demeanor; their attitude
toward litigants, attorneys, and court personnel;
their efficiency in carrying out their duties; and
their ability to maintain control of the
proceedings. This section includes biographical
and caseload data on each judge and
summaries of the monitors' findings. The
Honorable Ann Marie Taddeo, Supervising
Judge of the Monroe County Family Court, is
listed first. Thereafter, judges are listed
alphabetically by last name.
Hon. Ann Marie Taddeo
Hon. Ann Marie Taddeo is a graduate
of the University of Rochester and the
University at Buffalo Law School, which is part
of the State University of New York. From
1979 to 1980, she served as a Genesee County
attorney, and from 1980 to 1982, she worked
for the New York City Law Department's
Office of the Corporation Counsel. From 1982
to 1985, she was an Assistant District Attorney
for Monroe County.
Judge Taddeo was appointed as a
hearing examiner for Monroe County Family
Court in 1985, and she remained in that post
until 1991, when she was elected to the position
of Family Court Judge on the Republican ticket.
She was named Super-vising Judge of the
Monroe County Family
Court in 1994, and in 1995, she was named
Acting Supreme Court Justice for the Seventh
Judicial District. Judge Taddeo currently holds
both titles.
Judge Taddeo was observed by 30
monitors on 37 different days.
Monitors generally felt that Judge
Taddeo was "patient" and "compassionate," and
that she "listened well."
Many monitors praised Judge Taddeo's
approach to litigants. She creates a
"comfortable atmosphere -- tries to put
petitioners at ease"; and "she exhibited
competence and authority while remaining
compassionate." Monitors were "impressed
with her patience and considerateness in trying
to accommodate persons needing to appear
again." One monitor reported, "She got
excellent marks for conducting sessions with
patience [and] toughness." In describing one
case, a monitor observed, "when dealing with
an agitated [litigant] who had language
difficulties and who seemed not entirely to
understand the proceedings, [she] displayed
skill in letting him say his piece until he had
exhausted some of his anger. Then she ruled
Monitors also were impressed with
Judge Taddeo’s willingness to involve outside
agencies in helping litigants resolve their
problems. In one case, she sent for a
representative from a substance abuse agency
to help a family engaged in a custody battle. In
another visitation case, a monitor praised her
approach when an unrepresented litigants
expressed an interest in having counsel
appointed: She halted the proceedings and sent
for a public defender. After an “initial
interview” between the parties, the public
defender, and the respondent’s private
attorney, “all parties returned and expressed
interest in mediation – all within an hour!”

However, other monitors were quite critical of
Judge Taddeo's demeanor and ability to
maintain control. Several monitors criticized her
for appearing too casual: "This court seems
more casual than others -- not smoothly carried
out. It did not seem efficient or as effective as
other [Family] Courts I have observed." As
one monitor commented, "this wasn't the best
organized session I have attended." Another
monitor concurred, finding "rather loose
maintenance of order and control of court
proceedings." During a case involving a
"contentious couple, [she] had difficulty
maintaining order and control of a verbal
Several monitors commented that Judge
Taddeo "appeared not involved in matters" and
"treated cases as though [they were] routine;"
one monitor described her as "looking bored
and uninterested." Another monitor felt that she
"appeared a bit indifferent to the parties
involved." Still another monitor noted that she
"speaks clearly, listens well, etc., but I had the
impression she was somewhat detached on this
particular day." However, the monitor
continued, "the trial was a long one . . . so
perhaps this was the reason." On one day a
monitor found her "quite perfunctory in the
manner in which she carried out the
proceedings," noting that she simply told two
juveniles, "'Okay, you're free to go.' There was
no attempt to communicate with them directly
about the importance of the judicial process and
the need to cooperate with Probation." Some
monitors also "did not feel she always explained
rulings clearly enough."
Several monitors were very concerned
that Judge Taddeo "appears to be bored."
Others felt that she "does not have a take-
charge manner" and "doesn't show much
enthusiasm for the job." One monitor felt
strongly that there was "no dignity" in the
courtroom, adding that "she has a rather flippant
manner about her." Two monitors noted that,
on one day, "she walked into the courtroom
carrying a mug and had a styrofoam cup
nearby, also, and sipped from time to time.
During a short recess, she sat quietly, looking
into 'space' as if there was nothing to be done."
One of these monitors felt that, "in general, her
affect was bland, and she often supported her
head on her hand"; the other noted that "she
yawned and at times appeared bored." On a
subsequent day, another monitor reported that
she "entered the courtroom carrying a glass of
water, which is much less offensive than her
usual large coffee mug, but which still seems
none too professional." Yet another echoed
this criticism, remarking, "[I] wish she would not
enter court with a cup of coffee in her hand."
Instead, they urged, court staff should have
water placed at the judge's bench before the
courtroom opens.
Monitors were divided on Judge
Taddeo's audibility and clarity. Some monitors
felt that she "speaks clearly"; according to one
monitor, "everyone can hear her." Another
noted that she "speaks loud enough, but not
always clearly." In observing that "it wasn't
easy to hear" her, one monitor reported that
even a lawyer asked her to speak up. Several
commented that "she speaks very softly." One
monitor observed, "Judge Taddeo does not
enunciate -- therefore sometimes I do not hear
her clearly." During a subsequent observation,
this same monitor reported, "I still find [her]
difficult to hear."
Overall, however, the monitors felt that
Judge Taddeo performed well. She "speaks
clearly to everyone," "explains rulings clearly," is
"in complete control," and uses "easy-to-
understand terms." Several monitors
emphasized her demeanor in dealing with young
people. For example, she "spoke at length to a
juvenile delinquent" and "spoke directly to one
[teenager] about not messing up, so [he] could
be allowed back into the community." One
monitor observed, "She seemed concerned

about youth appearing before her." Another
concluded, "She obviously cares greatly about
the children who come before her. She's as
good as the other judges I have observed --
and that's high praise."
Hon. Anthony F. Bonadio
Hon. Anthony F. Bonadio is a graduate
of the University of Rochester and Albany Law
School. From 1960 to 1978, he was in private
practice. From 1968 to 1972, he was first trial
counsel for the Monroe County Department of
Social Services, handling all child abuse and
neglect cases in Monroe County. From 1976
to 1978 he served as a Monroe County
legislator, and in 1979 he was elected to his
current position of Family Court Judge on the
Republican and Conservative tickets. In 1988,
he was reëlected to the same position. Judge
Bonadio plans to retire from the bench at the
end of 1998.
Judge Bonadio was observed by 28
monitors on 36 different days .
Several monitors had high praise for
Judge Bonadio's patience and understanding.
He "was very patient with a Vietnamese lady
who needed explanations;" and "made sure that
the Asian parents of a delinquent understood
English, and what had transpired during the
hearing." In a case involving a hearing-impaired
child who needed a sign-language interpreter, a
monitor observed, "I was pleased to see the
judge so patient during the 'signing.'" Still
another reported that he "listened to the parents
of an infant -- I was surprised at how much they
were allowed to say their feelings." Other
monitors pointed out that he "was especially
compassionate and concerned when addressing
the youth before him." "He is great when
children are involved in the courtroom -- I have
seen him put them at ease in what could be a
threatening situation." Judge Bonadio stresses
to parents the importance of "putting their
children first."
However, several monitors expressed
concern about Judge Bonadio's demeanor
toward litigants. One described his
performance as "mechanical," noting that he
"demonstrated inconsistent eye contact and
spent much of the time reading the related
paperwork. There was little feeling of
'connecting' with the litigants."
Many monitors felt that Judge Bonadio
did not "appear concerned or compassionate,"
and several others reported that he seemed
impatient and "abrupt" with litigants. "At one
point, he seemed to lose patience as a hearing
was coming to an end and the litigants
continued to confer with their attorneys. He
said, 'You can talk with your attorneys later.
I've got to get going here.'" In another case,
"when a [litigant] asked a question, he
responded with, 'Talk with your attorney.' He
did not seem to be patient with [litigants] and
seemed to want to hurry the proceedings
A monitor reported, "As the trial was
progressing today, at about 11:55, he said, 'I
want this trial over today. No one goes home
until it's done.' As one observer commented,
"He seems impatient and not willing to put up
with any inconvenience in the court
proceedings." In a trial involving a young boy,
he "wanted an admission of wrongdoing in a
short amount of time, but because the boy was
not doing this, a trial was recommended." After
a recess, "the boy came back and tearfully
admitted the gist of the wrongdoing."
Several monitors emphasized their
impression that "Judge Bonadio showed little
compassion." One recounted a case involved a
missing 16-year-old girl; her mother was
"distraught" and "in tears." Judge Bonadio
responded, "You can have her arrested," which

a monitor found "indifferent" and "totally
unsympathetic." On the same day, another
monitor observed that he "appeared almost
disinterested, commenting, 'I'm judge and I said
so.'" Also on the same day, a monitor reported
that, when women asked for orders of
protection, he responded, "Not today -- see
your P.D. [public defender]"
Monitors also remarked that Judge
Bonadio "did make light of some situations,"
and occasionally made "flip" comments. For
example, one monitor observed a case in which
both parents were incarcerated, and other
relatives were petitioning for custody of the
child. The judge "took a quick look as they
entered the courtroom -- said, 'The whole
family's in jail!' I felt the judge was totally
lacking in compassion with this family, who
were so distressed with the problems of their
lives." This same monitor concluded, "I felt
Judge Bonadio does not enjoy or find
rewarding his job as a Family Court judge.
He's overtaxed for sure!"
One monitor expressed concern about
Judge Bonadio's approach: "He relies heavily
on the lawyers' argument/counter-argument,
etc. -- does not control proceedings well,
especially in contests." The monitor added,
"The judge will not guide proceedings. All is
well if the litigants know what they're doing.
But if there is a question or confusion, this judge
is not going to clear it up." Another commented
that he seemed to be "gruffer than most [other
judges] when threatening jail if the respondent
didn't cooperate. However," the monitor
concluded, "the case merited tougher handling."
On the other hand, one observer found
Judge Bonadio's approach to be particularly
proactive in a case involving a juvenile who
needed transport to a facility: "His comment
was, 'This mother came to the system for help;
now give it to her.'" This monitor also observed
that he "had excellent control of his courtroom.
This was the first judge I have observed that
has taken time to directly address the juveniles
before him."
Monitors generally felt that Judge
Bonadio "spoke clearly and audibly." One
monitor was able to hear "except when [he]
glances downward at his desk." Another
reported, "It is difficult to hear the judge when
he reads in a fast, low voice." Still another
observed, "Judge Bonadio speaks so softly that
all I hear is a mumble." This monitor continued,
"He speaks as if he is deliberately trying to keep
observers from hearing." However, one
observer pointed out that "he does not use a
mike, which makes it difficult to hear everything
he said, but he improved after asking us if we
Finally, several observers praised Judge
Bonadio's sense of fairness. He "did
particularly well in assuring fairness and
impartiality in these cases." One monitor
described him as "a very impressive judge,"
with "outstanding command presence," while
another noted that he "has a lovely sense of
humor. I am sorry that he is retiring. I believe
that it will difficult to find a judge who has his
particular combination of qualities."
Hon. Joan S. Kohout
Hon. Joan S. Kohout graduated from
Skidmore College and Albany Law School.
From 1974 to 1976, she was in private
practice. From 1976 to 1980, she served as a
staff attorney for the Monroe County Public
Defender’s Office, and from 1980 to 1988, she
was the supervising attorney for the Family
Court Section of that office. She received an
interim appointment as Monroe County Family
Court Judge in June, 1988 by then-Governor
Mario M. Cuomo; she was subsequently
elected to a full term in November, 1988, on

the Democratic ticket.
Judge Kohout was observed by 29
monitors on 35 different days.
Monitors consistently praised Judge
Kohout as "calm," "patient," "considerate," and
"firm." They commented frequently on her
"concern for the people, especially the children,
involved." Judge Kohout was "equally
courteous to court personnel and to everyone
appearing before her," "never appears hurried"
and "takes time to explain." As one monitor
stated, she "talked clearly to teenagers but
firmly explained the rules." Another monitor
confirmed this, observing, "When she speaks to
children directly she makes sure they
understand what is happening. She also
compliments them if they are doing well." Yet
another monitor noted, "She especially took
pains to explain to a 'PINS child' his rights." In
another PINS case, a monitor noted that "she
addressed the young man and his mother
directly, asking for suggestions to deal with the
problem. She also made concrete suggestions."
The monitor added, "The judge spelled out
guideline rules for the young man in a
straightforward, non-emotional way." As
another monitor put it, "When dealing with
youth, she was patient, considerate and gave
them voice."
Monitors also consistently praised
Judge Kohout's sense of fairness in dealing with
litigants. "One had the impression she tried to
make the right decision, even though each case
presented many complex problems." "She was
scrupulous in preserving every party's rights,
even those who were absent." While she
"made it clear she could not take sides," she
ensured that the rights of all parties were
observed, in one case "insist[ing] that a father,
accused of a serious abuse charge, get counsel,
explaining that anything he said could be used
against him later in criminal court." She
postponed another case "because she felt the
respondent . . . did not know enough English to
follow the proceedings well. She said she
would obtain a Spanish-speaking attorney."
However, in a different case involving a
Spanish-speaking litigant, a monitor reported
that "she seemed a little bit impatient" when the
litigant "only nodded. 'You have to speak to
me,' she said. When the woman continued to
nod her head, the judge didn't push further,"
despite the fact that litigants are required to
respond audibly for the record.
In one case Judge Kohout "showed a
high level of compassion toward a mentally ill
woman whose family was filing an order of
protection against her. She allowed the woman
to express her feelings while applying the law
fairly." Judge Kohout "tries very hard to explain
to the people before her that by law she cannot
always help them get the answers and solutions
they want." As one monitor reported, "When
she dismissed a petition, she explained fully the
laws involved and why, with the evidence
presented, the case was dismissed," and told
the losing litigant what "her options" were.
Judge Kohout was also commended for
being "flexible" in trying to accommodate
litigants' employment schedules, asking "when it
is convenient for people to come back." And
she "addressed all participants by name,
acknowledging those who were there (but not
'on stage') by name and relation to [the
Monitors praised Judge Kohout's
control of her courtroom: "Especially good was
her combination of firmness and patience,"
noted one, while another observed that she
"demonstrated quiet strength and good eye
contact." This monitor reported that "when a
father became angry and agitated, she was firm
and calm . . . thus maintaining good control."
Another monitor observed, "She made herself
very clear without employing a scolding tone of

In a case involving an "estranged couple
[who] were very hostile to each other"; Judge
Kohout "did not allow them to argue in court.
She controlled a volatile situation very well." In
a PINS case involving a teenage girl who
monitors described as "out of control," noting
that she "became violent" in the courtroom and
that it "took 4-5 deputies to restrain her"; Judge
Kohout saw to it that "order was maintained
even under difficult circumstances." In one
case, however, a monitor expressed concern
that the judge appeared to be falling asleep:
"The judge almost dozed off on the bench
during a trial." The monitor added that her
"eyes [were] heavy" and her "head nodding."
Finally, monitors commended Judge
Kohout's willingness to explain proceedings to
them. She "was very aware we were in the
courtroom," and during recess, she "asked us if
we had any questions." "Judge Kohout
acknowledged the presence of the observer
and invited questions and discussion of the
court process." After speaking with her, one
monitor reported that "Judge Kohout feels the
new judicial hearing officers will not solve all the
problems," since litigants now may have to split
their time between the second and third floors
of the courthouse, which may cause "extra
Most monitors were able to hear Judge
Kohout clearly, although "there were times
when she lowered her voice, and it was difficult
to hear her." She is "very soft-spoken, but her
demeanor engenders a calmness in her
courtroom not found in all courts." Concluded
one monitor, "For the first time, I could hear all
the proceedings, as she speaks clearly and
audibly and expects all to do so."
Hon. Michael J. Miller
Hon. Michael J. Miller is a graduate of
Syracuse University and Syracuse University
College of Law. From 1974 to 1989, he
served as a Councilman for the Town of
Brighton, and from 1986 to 1988, he served as
Chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party.
In 1990, Judge Miller received an interim
appointment as Monroe County Family Court
Judge by then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo,
and was subsequently elected to a full term on
the Democratic and Conservative tickets.
Judge Miller was observed by 29
monitors on 39 different days.
Monitors consistently described Judge
Miller as "patient," "respectful," "firm," and
"fair." Judge Miller also got high marks for his
demeanor in addressing litigants. One monitor,
who described him as "fatherly," commented,
"In my opinion, Judge Miller is the most
compassionate, considerate judge I have ever
observed," adding, "he lets them know he
cares." Others noted that he "enters the
courtroom with a smile for everyone," and
"everyone in his courtroom is treated with
respect." Monitors were "impressed by his
courtesy, thanking respondents for coming to
court." He "expressed gratitude to those who
gave support to victims;" and was "very
supportive of all the [litigants] regardless of their
Monitors were "very impressed by his
sincere manner with young people. He is firm,
but is concerned about their welfare." They
also were "pleased to hear him strongly
recommend the PEACE [Parent Education and
Custody Effectiveness] program several times
and explain it well each time." Judge Miller
"tries to do the best for the child;" in fact,
according to one monitor, "it is apparent that
the child before him is viewed as his own. He
tries everything to save these young lives." This
was echoed by another monitor, who felt that
he "acts as if the child standing before him is a
family member." He "always spoke directly to
children," and he "tries to fit all the many pieces

together to come up with a reasonable
disposition which is in the best interest of the
One monitor described a PINS case
involving a child who was a student at the
School of Arts. Judge Miller discovered that
the child studied drawing. After praising the
child's ability, Judge Miller asked, "'Would you
please draw something for me, and I will hang it
in my chambers?'" The monitor reported that
the child "was all smiles and waved to the judge
as he left." Another monitor commended Judge
Miller for going "out of his way to facilitate
attendance at schools," and observed that he
was "also personally clearly touched by the
adoption of an 11-year-old boy by a neighbor
who had been caring for the child after his
parents' death and grandmother's illness."
Judge Miller was praised for his
handling of the teenagers who appeared before
him. He "especially tries to break through the
barriers with the teenagers" and he "recognized
the teenagers, rather than speaking just to the
law guardians." Judge Miller "talked directly to"
teenagers, and "explained his decisions to
them." As one monitor observed, he "spoke to
the young man in a respectful way, not talking
down to him." In one case, monitors reported
that he congratulated a teenager, said he was
"so proud of him," and "asked the deputy to
present him with a sweatshirt the judge had
brought"; this was a "high point for the entire
courtroom!" Judge Miller "has a personal pride
in many of the youth who appear before him,
and is intensely interested in their welfare and
One monitor did appear to be mildly
surprised at the bluntness of Judge Miller's
language in dealing with juveniles: He told one,
"'You don't seem to give a damn," and told
another, "'You'll end up either dead or in prison
. . . . You're not doing a damn thing with it.'"
However, another noted that although Judge
Miller became a bit irate at a juvenile's attitude,"
"I could understand why."
Monitors described Judge Miller as
"inherently fair" in his rulings and were "very
impressed with the speed and efficiency with
which he dispatched his cases -- without
sacrificing fairness, and allowing all to speak."
He "treats individuals as individuals" and
"preserves the rights of all parties at all times."
Judge Miller "gave adequate time and
opportunity for [litigants] to consider options
and their ramifications," explaining complicated
issues such as DNA testing in great detail.
Judge Miller "does an excellent job with
the complex, emotionally-charged cases that
come before him." As one monitor concluded,
"I am much impressed with Judge Miller . . . he
really connects with the people in his court, eye
to eye, and explains in simple ways what is
happening and what they are agreeing to." This
monitor added that Judge Miller "always
explains why he cannot necessarily do what the
petitioner wants." Only one monitor expressed
specific criticism in this regard, reporting that,
with requests for orders of protection, he
"sometimes did not look at the woman," but
appeared simply to go "through a legal ritual . . .
. Although courteous, it was a very 'pro forma'
Monitors reported that Judge Miller
was, "clear and audible." They also noted that
he "always announces the number of the case
clearly," and identifies "all the persons present,"
"including clients, witnesses, attorneys, and legal
representatives." Monitors also observed that
he "spoke to each [litigant] by name, including
family members, [and] called attorneys by
On the whole, monitors had consistently
high praise for Judge Miller's performance,
describing him as "a great role model" and "an
outstanding judge." In one case Judge Miller
"took it upon himself to ask the deputy to look

into why a woman did not show up. She had
been severely beaten once and he feared she
was harmed again." Throughout busy days in
court Judge Miller "continues to impress with
his kindness and consideration of those before
him." As one monitor stated, "It was a pleasure
to observe in his courtroom," and another
concluded, "Judge Miller was just perfect in all
Hon. Anthony J. Sciolino
Hon. Anthony J. Sciolino graduated
from Columbia College and Cornell Law
School. From 1972 to 1976, he was an
Assistant District Attorney for Monroe County,
and from 1979 to 1986, he served as a
member of the Rochester City Council. He
was first elected to the Monroe County Family
Court bench in 1987 as a Republican, and was
reëlected in 1996.
Judge Sciolino was observed by 27
monitors on 34 different days.
Monitors generally found Judge
Sciolino to be "patient," "considerate,"
"supportive" and "compassionate." He "spoke
clearly and firmly, yet in a gentle manner,
showing caring and respect," and was
"especially good at explaining rulings clearly.
He waits for the person to respond positively
that they understand . . . . He appears
especially patient and considerate and shows
respect for all. He is firm and remains in
control, however." As one monitor put it,
Judge Sciolino is "patient and never hurries,"
and he "talks to litigants with dignity and
Judge Sciolino "gave thorough,
understandable explanations." He was
described by monitors as "concerned but firm,"
"patient," "supportive and encouraging to
petitioners and respondents" and "at times,
'fatherly.'" One monitor stated that "in all cases
he was kind, concerned, compassionate but
firm and strict as needed, but treated [litigants]
all with respect and dignity." Echoing this,
another monitor noted that Judge Sciolino "is
very compassionate. He listens very intently,
asks questions and makes sure all parties
understand what is happening. He is very
'fatherly' and speaks very slowly, clearly, and
points out the problems the parties could face."
Judge Sciolino "was very direct in
explaining to both petitioners and respondents
what their responsibilities were in working out
some of the issues." One monitor observed,
"He allowed adequate time for all parties,
especially when many members of a family
were involved." Another concluded, "It is
always a pleasure to be in Judge Sciolino's
courtroom. He is respectful of [everyone]
involved, explains in language everyone with
average intelligence can understand, is patient,
yet knows how to 'cut through' the extra
embellishment some respondents use."
Monitors also praised Judge Sciolino's
approach in cases involving children. He "is
genuinely concerned about the children" and
"explains everything to children especially . . .
thoroughly." He "cares about the children --
talks to them -- encourages them -- praises
good reports from agencies." As one monitor
put it, he "was very patient and considerate of
each child brought before him."
In juvenile delinquency cases, Judge
Sciolino "talked directly to the [respondents]
and required responses from them." A monitor
commented, "I liked the way in which he talked
to the juveniles about their responsibility, the
implications of their offenses, and the possible
Several monitors confirmed Judge
Sciolino's dedication to the best interests of
children, observing, "as children appear before

him he talks with the child about the child's
responsibility for his or her behavior. He also
talks with parents about their responsibility for
the child. He practices tough love." Judge
Sciolino was found to have "a very concerned
and sympathetic approach to young people in
court. He spoke to them kindly, encouraging
them to follow rules and congratulating those
who had successfully participated in court-
appointed programs." In PINS cases, he
"listened to the children, praised them for
behaving, and explained rulings." Monitors also
reported that he urged parents to obtain
counseling, both for themselves and for their
children. They noted that he "lectured parents
on the responsibilities of parenting and strongly
urged them to enroll in the PEACE program;"
"he also complimented couples who were
cooperative and flexible in arranging visitation
A number of monitors observed one
case involving three children, who Judge
Sciolino planned to interview privately in his
chambers, without the warring parents present.
One noted, "I was particularly impressed by his
strong statement to adversarial parents about
their responsibility to respect their children's
rights and the privacy of his forthcoming session
with them." Another added, "Judge Sciolino
has developed a handout for parents going
through divorce -- excellent!" "He is very
concerned about the children he sees every day
in court," this monitor concluded.
Some monitors observed proceedings
on "Bring Your Child to Work Day," and noted
that "several children attended court" with their
attorney parents. "Judge Sciolino took a few
minutes to explain Family Court and answer
their questions. It was well done."
Monitors also commended Judge
Sciolino's handling of adult litigants. He was
"very patient with a gentleman who obviously
was intellectually impaired -- he rephrased his
questions until the man understood what he was
asking." In one case, the judge "congratulated"
a woman who had remained drug-free for three
months. "He was very supportive of her
efforts." In another case, Judge Sciolino "was
especially considerate of a young father."
Several monitors observed a case
involving a "disturbed" woman "whose infant
child was taken from her permanently by court
order. [Judge Sciolino] listened, gave her time
to argue, but was compassionately firm with
her." In another case, he "handled a near-
violent incident with quiet efficiency." And in a
case in which the respondent "indicated he
thought about committing suicide," Judge
Sciolino "talked at length with him and in depth,
which had a calming effect on the young man."
A monitor reported that Judge Sciolino
"was especially effective with an overheated
[respondent] who represented himself and
insisted on speechifying. The judge warned:
'Don't use your size to intimidate people. The
[respondent] replied, 'Don't I get a chance to
speak? This is all bull. You're telling me how
to behave?' Judge Sciolino then remarked,
'Just relax, Don't raise your voice. I'd hate to
see you when you're excited.'"
Some monitors did criticize Judge
Sciolino's demeanor in dealing with litigants.
"At times he was impatient" and "made sarcastic
remarks." Monitors noted that Judge Sciolino
sometimes "editorialized," as when he
commented to one set of adversarial parents
that "'peace negotiations with Vietnam were
Overall, monitors praised Judge
Sciolino's performance. "He seemed to care"
and was committed to doing "the best he can."
As one monitor concluded, his "courtroom was

Following are the monitors' evaluations
of each hearing examiner in the Monroe County
Family Court. As in their review of the judges,
monitors focused on qualities such as
demeanor, attitude, efficiency, and ability to
maintain control of the proceedings. Hearing
examiners are listed alphabetically by last name.
Margaret M. Boldt, Esq.
Ms. Boldt graduated from St. John
Fisher College and Duquesne University School
of Law. From 1983 to 1994, she was a staff
attorney and assistant law guardian with the
Legal Aid Society of Rochester, and from 1994
to 1998, she served as a Deputy County
Attorney in the Children’s Services Unit of the
Monroe County Law Department. In January,
1998, she was appointed as a hearing examiner
in the Monroe County Family Court by the
Chief Administrative Judge of the State of New
Ms. Boldt was observed by 20
monitors on 20 different days.
Monitors described her as "friendly,"
"respectful," and "courteous" to litigants, noting
that she "spoke clearly in plain, understandable
English." She "was relaxed and maintained a
friendly, respectful tone in spite of a heavy
calendar," and was commended for having
"good eye contact and
a caring, patient attitude." Ms. Boldt "never
appeared to be condescending." In two
"difficult cases where the respondents were
hostile verbally, she conducted proceedings
with dignity, compassion, and respect for all
parties." As one observer put it, "She runs a
tight ship. She is friendly, respectful, and gives
an air of efficiency while being very patient and
considerate." Monitors did note, however, that
"she could speak more clearly in stating the
case and the names of the people present."
Monitors were especially impressed
with her willingness to accommodate
employment schedules so that litigants "would
not need to lose more time from work." Ms.
Boldt "always asked if employment was a
problem with getting to court," adding that she
"tried to work around the [litigant's] schedule.
She also staggers the times cases are scheduled
so that all litigants don't arrive at 9:00 AM.
In addition, Ms. Boldt earned high
marks for sharing "child support payment charts
with the respondents." One monitor added,
"I'm not sure if everyone does this, but I do
think it's a good idea for them to have a copy."
Another monitor noted that she explained the
paternity testing "procedure and payment policy
Monitors were also pleased to hear her
"thank parties at the end of each case." Ms.
Boldt's "courtroom was dignified and
professional at all times." "Her courtroom was
very much in order throughout the day." As
one monitor concluded, "She does a good job."

Ruben M. Garcia, Esq.
Mr. Garcia did not respond to Modern
Courts’ request for biographical data.
Mr. Garcia was observed 21 times by
21 different monitors.
Several monitors felt that Mr. Garcia
"appeared rushed" and "frustrated." He "kept
pointing to the number of files he had to process
and pushed to complete each case." Indeed,
Mr. Garcia remarked to one monitor "about
bureaucracy and passing the buck to him"; this
monitor felt that Mr. Garcia was "impatient with
petitioners." Nevertheless, other monitors
described Mr. Garcia as "a very compassionate
person," "extremely patient," and "extremely
Two monitors, however, felt strongly
that Mr. Garcia should keep more to the point.
"He has a slight tendency to lecture people on
their failings," which the monitor found "not very
effective." Describing him as an "interminable
talker," another found it very inappropriate that
Mr. Garcia "extolled the military experiences of
his son" in the Gulf War for a full ten to fifteen
minutes during open court.
Monitors recommended that Mr.
Garcia "speak more slowly and articulate more
clearly in order to make himself better
understood." Nonetheless, monitors noted that
he "explained in detail" what was happening
during proceedings, and "he made sure he was
Diana M. Irizarry, Esq.
Ms. Irizarry graduated from Wesleyan
University in Middletown, Connecticut, and
Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C.
From 1979 to 1980, she worked for Monroe
County Legal Assistance Corporation, and
from 1981 to 1987, she worked for the Legal
Aid Society of Rochester, Inc. From 1987 to
1991, she served as Ombudsman and Legal
Representative of the New York State Division
for Youth. In 1991, Ms. Irizarry was
appointed by the New York State Worker’s
Compensation Board as an Administrative Law
Judge, a position she held until 1995. In 1995,
the Chief Administrative Judge of the State of
New York appointed her to her current
position as hearing examiner for the Monroe
County Family Court; in 1998, she was
reäppointed to a second three-year term.
Ms. Irizarry was observed by 18
monitors on 16 different days.
Monitors consistently described Ms.
Irizarry as "efficient," no-nonsense," "very
clear," and "in charge." Overall, they also found
her to be "patient," "knowledgeable," and "a
very good listener."
Monitors praised Ms. Irizarry for
keeping proceedings "to the point" to prevent
parties from arguing with each other. However,
Ms. Irizarry "recognizes that she can sometimes
appear abrupt," one monitor noted. Another
monitor felt that her method was "'pro forma'
and didn't make for any change in the parties'
behavior." This monitor felt that "her formal,
Monitors gave Ms. Irizarry high marks
for maintaining audibility by "repeatedly asking
respondents to speak up," since the
proceedings were recorded. However, noting
that she concluded each case by saying,

"You're off," or "We're off" (referring to the
taped record), one monitor observed that this
"was not explained to litigants, and seemed to
confuse them." Another monitor reported that
Ms. Irizarry referred to every female litigant as
"Miss," which the monitor found "strange and
Roy H. Lockwood, Esq.
Mr. Lockwood is a graduate of
Dickinson University and American University
School of Law. From 1975 to 1980, he served
as a part-time arbitrator for the American
Arbitration Association in New York. In 1975,
he was appointed for a one-year term as a
part-time hearing examiner by then-Family
Court Judge Donald J. Corbett, Jr. In 1985,
Mr. Lockwood was appointed to his current
position as hearing examiner in the Monroe
County Family Court by the Chief
Administrative Judge of the State of New York.
Mr. Lockwood was observed by 17
monitors on 16 different days.
Most monitors found Mr. Lockwood to
be very patient with litigants. Despite a large
docket, "each case was handled timely and
professionally. At no time did he rush anyone."
As one monitor observed, "As I looked over
the docket, he had 74 cases in the morning . . .
and he was still patient with the afternoon
litigants." However, one monitor noted, "I do
not feel that he has a compassionate or
concerned demeanor. He seems burned out."
Another reported that he "demonstrated very
little eye contact with the [litigants]. He
appeared to be totally engrossed in his
paperwork throughout the morning."
Monitors gave Mr. Lockwood high
marks for his detailed explanations to litigants.
"He was especially thorough in explaining
(several times) the limits of his jurisdiction." Mr.
Lockwood "makes it clear what he can and
can't deal with, legally." He also referred
litigants "to appropriate offices and then had
them return to his room so that their business
was completed in a single morning."

Following are the monitors' evaluations
of each judicial hearing officer (JHO) in the
Monroe County Family Court. As with their
observations of the judges and hearing
examiners, monitors focused on such qualities
as demeanor, attitude, efficiency, and ability to
maintain control of the proceedings. Judicial
hearing officers are listed alphabetically by last
name. Because judicial hearing officers are
former or retired judges, the title "Judge" is used
to refer to each JHO in this section.
Hon. Leonard E. Maas
Hon. Leonard E. Maas graduated from
the University of Rochester and from Syracuse
University College of Law, where he was a
Contributing Editor to the Syracuse Law
Review. From 1953 to 1981, he was a partner
at Maas, Weinstein, Hutchings & Vullo in
Rochester. He was first elected to the post of
Monroe County Family Court judge in 1981,
and from 1988 to 1991, he served as
supervising Judge of the Monroe County Family
Court. After retiring from service as a full-time
judge, he was appointed a judicial hearing
officer by the Chief Administrative Judge of the
State of New York. Among other current
professional activities, Judge Maas is a member
of the Chief Judge’s Permanent Commission on
Justice for Children and a member of OCA’s
Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee.
He also has engaged in a significant number of
professional activities and associations in the
past: He was President of the Monroe County
Bar Association in 1978, a member of the New
York State Bar Association’s House of
Delegates from 1978 to 1983, and Chair-man
of the New York State Bar Association Civil
Rights Committee from 1962 to 1963.
Judge Maas was observed by nine
monitors on seven different days. Several
monitors praised Judge Maas's performance,
describing him as "courteous," "unhurried with
the litigants," "not threatening," and "very
gentlemanly." "Businesslike" and "no-
nonsense," he "did an excellent job of running
the court" and was described by one monitor as
"above average." In one case, he was
commended for "listen[ing] to the child" and
"prais[ing] her for behaving." Monitors also
reported that Judge Maas consistently "opened
court punctually" and "gave reasons for delays."
However, one monitor felt that Judge
Maas performs his duties in "an impersonal
manner." The monitor noted that "he does not
introduce himself by name, eliminates greetings
such as 'Good morning,' and does not indicate
that he is a retired judge functioning as a
[judicial hearing officer]." Another monitor,
while acknowledging that Judge Maas "uses
court times effectively," also thought he "seems
a little impatient when the flow of cases is
interrupted." One monitor felt that Judge Maas
was ineffective "in moving cases along," noting
that "every single case" on that day was
adjourned "to be handled by Judge Taddeo at a
future date." However, in a response to a draft
copy of this report, Judge Maas noted that, on
the day in question, he had substituted for Judge
Taddeo, who was attending a meeting related
to her duties as Supervising Judge; all cases
were adjourned because they involved
questions regarding the authority of a JHO to
preside over the case.

Hon. Paul I. Miles
Hon. Paul I. Miles is a graduate of the
University of Buffalo and the University of
Buffalo College of Law. He also attended
graduate school at the University of Buffalo,
majoring in philosophy. From 1950 to 1978,
Judge Miles was in private practice, and from
1953 to 1976, he also served as a part-time
village justice in Medina, New York. From
1976 to 1976, he was the Orleans County
Attorney, and in 1978 he was appointed by
then-Governor Hugh Carey as a County Court
Judge in Orleans County. In 1978, he was
elected to the same post on the Republican line,
and was reëlected in 1988. In 1990, Judge
Miles was appointed by the Chief
Administrative Judge of the State of New York
to his current position as a judicial hearing
officer in the Monroe County Family Court, and
subsequently has been reäppointed every two
years. Judge Miles also participates in various
other community activities: He is a member of
the Medina Memorial Hospital Board, the
Genesee Community College Foundation
Board, and the Lakeside Hospital Board; he is
President of the Albion Rotary Club; and he is a
warden at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in
Judge Miles was observed 29 times on
24 different days.
The monitors found Judge Miles to be
"good in all respects" and "a very good judge":
"He is very fair, listens well, has a sense of
humor that serves him well. I could not find a
fault with him or his court." Monitors praised
his approach to litigants, noting that he "stressed
the need for the parties to talk in several cases:
lawyer to lawyer, petitioner to respondent."
This approach benefited one couple who,
although initially planning to go to trial over
custody, agreed to go to the Center for Dispute
Settlement instead.
Monitors reported that Judge Miles "speaks
clearly and audibly," "tends to speak plainly,
slowly and patiently," and uses "clear and easy-
to-understand language." He appeared
"involved with participants," "showed great
concern for these families," and "seemed very
interested in the welfare of children." "He
stresses that he is there to help determine the
best interests of the children." One monitor
reported that, in deciding a custody petition, he
"left no stones unturned" in questioning the
child's father.
While noting that he "still shows respect
for everyone," some monitors reported that "he
shows signs of impatience." He "seemed to
hurry through some cases. He told one of the
respondents, 'We don't have much time; we
have a busy courtroom.' Though he did explain
his rulings, when he had to repeat them his
voice indicated impatience and annoyance." As
a result, "the atmosphere in the courtroom
seemed to suggest that the parties involved in
the cases were not worth spending a lot of time
on." One monitor reported that, "after talking
to the [litigants] briefly, he said he couldn't
spend any more time with them. They seemed
to be asking legitimate questions."
On one occasion, Judge Miles became
angry with a respondent who wanted a different
lawyer, saying, "'You are going to have him [the
respondent's current lawyer]; I will not permit
wasting of taxpayers' money!'" A monitor
added that he "went on about having been a
judge for 28 years." Although Judge Miles was
normally calm, on one day he "flared out" on
three occasions, becoming upset at 4:15 PM
"because he likes to leave at 4:30." Monitors
pointed out that Judge Miles had an extensive
backlog: On one day, his total pending
caseload was 610 cases; on another, it was
602. According to one monitor, he "appears to
be more of a paper-shuffler than a case
disposer. Everything -- all 30 cases -- were
adjourned without any effective action being
taken, although there were many opportunities
to dispose of cases."

Judge Miles received high marks for his
willingness to explain proceedings to two high
school students who were observing in court
one day.
Hon. Glen R. Morton
Hon. Glenn R. Morton graduated from
the National Judicial College at the University of
Nevada, the University of Buffalo College of
Law, and the United States School of Naval
Justice. His Juris Doctor was retroactively
conferred in 1968. From 1967 to 1996, Judge
Morton served as both County Court Judge
and Surrogate for Genesee County. First
elected in 1967, he was reëlected in 1977 and
1987 on the Republican ticket. In 1996, he
was appointed by Governor George Pataki as
Supreme Court justice in the Eighth Judicial
District, and in 1998, he was appointed by the
Chief Administrative Judge of the State of New
York to his current position as judicial hearing
officer in the Monroe County Family Court.
Judge Morton was observed by 19
monitors on 12 different days.
Monitors consistently found Judge
Morton to be "patient," "respectful," and clear in
his explanations. One monitor described him as
"human and kind, yet firm and fair," adding that
"he appears to be a thinker who gives every
benefit of the doubt to both parties."
Monitors praised Judge Morton's ability
to deal with litigants in difficult situations. "He
was especially convincing when he told one
[respondent] that the purpose of the court was
not to punish, but to see the behavior 'does not
happen again.'" He told one litigant, 'You're not
paying attention. You're probably going to
have a hearing whether you like it or not.'" The
monitor who observed this added, "He was
able to say this in a calm fashion without 'losing
his cool.'"
Monitors reported that Judge Morton
"handled each case with full attention and
concern," and was "willing to take all necessary
time to resolve disputes and bring cases to a
satisfactory conclusion." He tries hard to get
the parties to reach an agreement; a monitor
described his style as "exceptionally good."
Another monitor commended his handling of a
"walk-in" petitioner was visibly upset as sought
a temporary order of protection. Judge Morton
sat her "next to the bench, which made for a
more personal and quiet contact" than simply
seating her "in the middle of the courtroom."
However, some monitors felt that Judge
Morton "could have done a better job in
explaining allegations in several cases and
explaining rulings." According to one monitor,
he sometimes used "legal terms" that litigants
"did not always understand." And while one
monitor found that he "appeared to be very
competent [and] was easy to understand, he
showed little personality." The monitor asked
"Was he bored?" However, this monitor noted
that Judge Morton "did do a very thoughtful
thing, running past 12:00 in order to
accommodate parents who had their children
with them."
While some monitors found Judge
Morton's voice to be clear and audible, several
described him as "soft-spoken" and had
difficulty hearing him at times. One monitor
reported that, during the first five cases on the
calendar, the litigants "told the judge they
couldn't hear." Another observed that "he had
a tendency to lower his head and review notes
while speaking. He also often raised his hand
to his face as he spoke." When speaking
directly to litigants, he sometimes turned his
body toward them and then "would lower his
voice to a conversational level." Several
monitors suggested that Judge Morton use a

Hon. Maurice E. Strobridge
Hon. Maurice E. Strobridge graduated
from Syracuse University and Albany Law
School. Judge Strobridge began his legal
career in private practice with the law firm of
Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle in
Rochester, and eventually joined a colleague in
private practice in Newark. In the 1960s, then-
Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed him as
Wayne County District Attorney, and he was
subsequently elected to a full term in that
position. In 1986, Judge Strobridge was
elected on the Republican ticket as a County
Court Judge in Wayne County, a post he held
until 1995, when he retired; as County Court
Judge, he also served as Acting Supreme Court
Justice for the Seventh Judicial District. In
1996, he was appointed by the Chief
Administrative Judge of the State of New York
to his current position as judicial hearing officer:
Judge Strobridge serves as a judicial hearing
officer both for Supreme Court and for Family
Court in Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Yates, and
occasionally Steuben Counties, as well as for
the New York State Retirement Systems.
Judge Strobridge was observed by 17
monitors on 16 different days.
Monitors found Judge Strobridge to be
"friendly," "relaxed," and "compassion-ate."
They described him as "an ideal judge. He
displayed all of the attributes that you would
expect from someone in this position." "He
makes everyone feel at ease. He is a good
listener and also shows much compassion." He
"runs a 'tight ship' with patience, clarity,
calmness, politeness and dignity." In two
instances where litigants were abrasive and
rude, "[he] was able to keep order in a quiet,
firm fashion." As one monitor commented, "He
is a superb Judicial Hearing Officer."
However, one monitor felt that he "did
not seem to be as concerned about the children
as other judges," and was also concerned that
"he did not suggest any kind of counseling some
of these couples obviously needed. Perhaps
that is not his role . . . but I felt some advice
might have helped."
Judge Strobridge generally "explained
rulings clearly and repeated to make sure they
were understood" and he "explained
procedures well"; one observer characterized
his efforts as "superb." However, some
monitors were concerned that he still was not
clear enough. One noted that, because the
judges and hearing examiners are so familiar
with the legal terms, "I think that it is hard for
them to understand how some of the litigants
have difficulty coping with what they are being
told." Another felt that "orders of protection
could have been explained more thoroughly,"
and noted that although "the term 'refrain from
criminal activity' was used," it was "not always
Other monitors expressed concern
about Judge Strobridge's approach to orders of
protection generally. One monitor contended
that litigants "had to insist that they be
protected." Two others witnessed a case
involving a child with urgent medical needs, and
reported that it seemed that Judge Strobridge
"was not aware of the importance of getting the
medical care and the medical card from the
father." Both monitors later spoke with Judge
Strobridge, and discovered that he had not
been given information regarding how ill the
child actually was. They suggested that he
amend the order to include a command to
provide the medical card, and they reported
that he "took the suggestion readily," and had
the order issued that same day. In a written
response to a draft copy of this report, Judge
Strobridge noted that before an order of
protection can be granted, a petitioner must
show “good cause.” He added that, in those
“few cases” where a petitioner has not been
able to make such a showing, he tries to explain
the reasons why he is unable to grant the order
of protection.

However, other monitors praised Judge
Strobridge's approach. For example, during his
"gentle questioning" of a "walk-in" petitioner
seeking an order of protection, the woman
mentioned that she saw her alleged abuser in
the building. Judge Strobridge "asked if she
would like to be escorted out of the building,"
which she accepted. Another monitor noted
that the orders of protection were available in
"10 to 15 minutes."

During the course of the project,
monitors observed a variety of attorneys at
work in Family Court, including law guardians,
court-appointed attorneys, deputy county
attorneys, assistant district attorneys, and
attorneys in private practice. Overall, the
attorneys received high praise for their efforts to
provide proper representation under extremely
difficult circumstances. As one monitor noted,
"Family Court is a circus for attorneys . . . .
We are fortunate in having such attorneys."
However, as will discussed later in this report,
attorneys were frequently late or inadequately
prepared, resulting in lengthy delays and a
adjournments. In evaluating all of the attorneys,
both public and private, who appear in Family
Court, the monitors had two specific and
consistent criticisms. While addressing the
court, many did not speak loudly enough, or
spoke too quickly to be understood. When not
involved in a case, the attorneys then engaged in
loud personal conversations at the back of the
Law Guardians
Under Section 249 of the New York
State Family Court Act, the court "shall appoint
a law guardian to represent a minor . . . if
independent legal representation is not available
to the child. In Monroe County, a law guardian
supplied by Legal Aid is assigned to each
courtroom. If an assigned law guardian has a
conflict of interest, another is appointed from a
panel of lawyers who have been approved by
the Appellate Division, Fourth Department.
By protecting the legal rights of
children, law guardians play an essential role in
Family Court proceedings. Monitors were
generally impressed with the law guardians they
observed in Monroe County Family Court,
describing them as "well-prepared," "very
knowledgeable about their cases," and "very
good in representing the child's interests." One
law guardian was described as "in tune with the
youth" he represented; another "does a terrific
job" and "puts the kids at ease." Singled out for
their exceptional performance were Carol
Eisenman, Edward Orlando, John Rivoli,
Donald Scardino, and Brian Strait.
However, monitors did have some
criticism of the law guardians. Several were
faulted for conducting personal conversations in
the back of the courtroom while other cases
were being heard. Monitors also disapproved
of a seeming lack of professionalism in the
courtroom demeanor of one attorney: “He
does not speak directly to the judge at the
bench. When speaking to his client, his gaze is
down or to the side.” Of this same attorney,
another observed, “I was somewhat surprised
to notice that [his] jacket did not match his
trousers. I had expected more from attorneys
while in a courtroom.”
Finally, a monitor objected to one law
guardian's tactics, reporting that he "made a
recommendation which was a 'dirty trick'." In a
case involving a child who preferred to stay in a
foster home, rather than to return to his own
home, the law guardian suggested that the court
simply transfer the child to yet another foster
home, in order to make his own home seem
more attractive. The monitor noted that the
judge rejected the suggestion.
Overall, however, monitors were
impressed with the law guardians' work. As a
whole, they "were particularly articulate and on
top of their cases." As one monitor concluded,
"Law guardians do good work for the children."

Other Assigned Counsel
Under Section 262 of the Family Court
Act, indigent adult respondents are entitled to
counsel in cases involving paternity, custody,
visitation, family offenses, and termination of
parental rights, in foster care and child
protective proceedings, and in cases in which a
citation for contempt of court is sought. In
addition, indigent adult petitioners are entitled to
assigned counsel in cases involving custody,
visitation, or family offenses. The Assigned
Counsel program is administered by the County
of Monroe, and many of these attorneys are
from the Monroe County Public Defender's
Office and the Legal Aid Society. In addition,
some attorneys are appointed by the court from
a list approved by the Appellate Division.
Office of the Public Defender
The Family Court Bureau of the
Monroe County Public Defender’s Office
represents indigent litigants in a wide variety of
Family court proceedings. Public defenders
may be assigned to represent respondents in
paternity actions, in child abuse and neglect
cases, in custody and visitation cases, in
support violation matters, in guardianship
matters, and in contempt actions. They provide
counsel to petitioners in revocation of
guardianship proceedings, and in custody and
visitation cases where the petitioner is the
natural parent. They represent petitioners and
respondents in family offense proceedings and
writs of habeas corpus. Finally, public
defenders represent parents in cases involving
termination of parental rights, and natural
parents in adoption and foster care cases.
When a public defender is assigned to represent
a litigant in Family Court, that public defender
will continue to represent the client through any
As a general matter, monitors felt that the
attorneys representing indigent litigants in Family
Court performed extraordinarily well in the face
of onerous conditions. As one monitor put it,
"Public defenders amaze me. They are handed
cases and are expected to represent people
with a few minutes' consultation. They seem to
do a good job with what they have." Another
added, "The attorneys try issues by the seat of
their pants, after a short conference with the
client." After observing a case in which the
public defender had just been assigned, a
monitor asked, "How adequately can a client
get legal representation after 20-30 minute
conferences in the hall with attorneys?"
Monitors recounted numerous instances
in which public defenders were required to
represent clients on little or no notice. On one
occasion, the assigned public defender was ill
and another attorney substituted; as a result,
"she was not informed regarding the cases, and
under the circumstances, did a good job." In
another instance an attorney who was "literally
'pulled in' for a case said, 'I need roller skates.
I'm covering three courtrooms!'" Certain
attorneys received special praise, including
Pamela Bayer, Kathleen Detwiler, Tamara
Guglin, and Brian Wirley.
The monitors' main criticism was not
that the quality of the attorneys’ performance is
inadequate, but rather, that they are simply
stretched far too thin to represent their clients
effectively. For example, a monitor noted that
on one day, "nine of the twelve cases we heard
had to be adjourned because either the public
defender wasn't prepared and needed more
time or the law guardian hadn't had a chance to
talk with one of the parents."
Another monitor described the
following scenario, noting that it is a common
occurrence in Family Court:
9:00 AM: 6 cases scheduled -- no
activity in the courtroom. 9:35 AM: The

deputy indicates the wait is for attorneys. One
attorney is meeting with a client; the deputy
asks him to see another client at the same time.
Client B waits. 10:15 AM: The law guardian
can't respond -- hasn't looked at the papers.
10:27 AM: Waiting for [a law guardian].
10:40 AM: The deputy says, 'Judge, we can't
find [the public defender].' Also missing a law
guardian's report.
Monitors repeatedly observed some variation
on this situation, noting that court-appointed
attorneys have too many clients assigned to
them, are expected to be in too many
courtrooms simultaneously, and have too little
opportunity to meet their clients, much less to
become familiar with their cases.
Government Attorneys
Attorneys from the Monroe County
Attorney's Office represent the Monroe County
Department of Social Services, or the County
generally, in a variety of cases: child abuse and
neglect; foster care; juvenile delinquency;
PINS; termination of parental rights; and child
support and paternity cases where the children
involved receive public assistance. Deputy
county attorneys also may represent petitioners
in child support and paternity cases.
Generally, monitors found that the
deputy county attorneys did a good job; some
were especially impressed with Deborah
Owlett, David Van Varick, and Scott
A monitor described one deputy county
attorney as "very pleasant to all concerned" and
"periodically, appropriately humorous." The
monitor added that he "explained in detail how
the amount of the support payment was
determined." Another described him as
"respectful," noting that he "doesn't preach," and
"gives everyone as much of a break financially
as possible." Another deputy county attorney
was described as having a "warm personality,"
and as being "very patient and considerate" and
"respectful." Monitors observed that he "often
explained the mathematics of the support
orders," and one monitor added, "He even
explained some decisions to me when the
parties were not present." However, one
monitor felt that he "had a very hard-nosed,
aggressive attitude in getting all he could for the
county." This monitor noted that one
"respondent became angry and upset when he
couldn't get a specific answer" from the attorney
regarding how to prove disability.
One deputy county attorney
consistently received high praise from monitors.
In describing her work in Hearing Examiner
Boldt's room, a monitor commended her for
displaying "clarity, patience, kindness, and
efficiency too." This same monitor continued,
"For the first time, I heard an attorney explain
the concept of 'personal service.' These two
people, working together, show that quantity of
cases can be matched with civility and caring.
What a team!" Another observed that the
attorney was "gracious, smiled frequently,
explained things in detail, and complimented
fathers for having the required information.
Monitors had only one major criticism of this
attorney: Numerous observes reported that she
spoke too rapidly to be understood. As one
monitor put it, "Granted that she had a lot of
information to give out; still, I felt many of the
[litigants] had no idea what she was talking
In contrast, another deputy county
attorney, was described as "very intense,"
"abrupt," and having a "scowling demeanor."
According to this same monitor, she "wrote
furiously without looking at clients and rarely
spoke to them except to bark out a demand."
Another monitor agreed, observing that she
"never looked up or made eye contact when
introduced to the respondents." This observer

added that the attorney was "writing continually,
and only occasionally spoke to the respondents,
talking quickly, with minimal eye contact, almost
as if the litigant was not there." In her defense,
however, another monitor noted that she was
covering for others, and described her as
"overworked" and "hounded."
Private Attorneys
Family Court litigants often cannot
afford to retain private counsel. Occasionally,
however, private attorneys will represent clients
in Family Court.
Overall, monitors found that private
attorneys represented their clients well. One
noted, "They seemed to be very well-prepared
-- unusually so. They were very good at
negotiating compromises." In one case,
however, "a private attorney stated that she did
not have access to needed documents prior to
court"; in another, a "lawyer was chided for not
getting important information to the
respondent's lawyer before appearing. The
judge told him important court time was being
wasted while the information was being read."
Finally, although most private attorneys
were generally well-behaved, a monitor
reported an "exception" who "was rude, feisty,
gum-chewing, and sometimes speaking out of
turn. He had to be reprimanded by the judge."

The goal of Family Court is to help
children and families in crisis overcome their
problems. To accomplish this objective, Family
Court relies on numerous governmental and
non-governmental agen-cies to assist troubled
families. During this project, monitors observed
representatives from many of these agencies at
work in Family Court, acting as advocates for
parties involved and providing progress reports
on children and others who have been placed
under their supervision.
The primary County agencies
represented in Monroe County Family Court
are the Department of Social Services (DSS),
the Child Support Enforcement Unit (which is
part of the Monroe County Finance
Department), and the Department of Probation.
Department of Social Services
DSS representatives appear in court in
a variety of capacities. DSS is responsible for
child protective services: It investigates
allegations of abuse or neglect, and if it finds
intervention necessary, it petitions the Family
Court on the child's behalf. DSS also assists
the court in cases involving adoption or foster
care placement, and its Child Support
Enforcement Unit aids persons seeking
determinations of support and helps to collect
support payments.
Monitors generally found DSS rep-
resentatives to be "professional," "well-
prepared," although one monitor observed
that one representative to be "clearly over-
whelmed." Overall, however, they received
high marks for accomplishing much with few
resources. One monitor concluded, "They do a
significantly good job, with little preparation,
and represent the interests of parties involved
too often in 'lost' lives." Another added, "all
agency representatives showed professionalism
and respect in the courtroom."
Department of Probation
In certain cases, the Department of
Probation assists the Family Court with
"intake." Before filing a petition, a petitioner is
instructed to speak with a representative of the
Department of Probation, who can either
attempt to resolve the case informally or refer it
to mediation, thereby avoiding commence-ment
of formal hearings. If the case cannot be
resolved informally, the representative may
assist in preparing the petition. In addition,
Probation representatives screen litigants
seeking orders of protection and send them to
the judicial hearing officers.
The Probation Department also
supervises those persons who have been
sentenced to probation, and provides the court
with reports on offenders' behavior, in order to
assist the judge in determining the proper
disposition of the case.
Monitors generally commended the
performance of Department of Probation
representatives. One monitor noted, "They
seemed very concerned with the clients' welfare
in most cases." Another concluded, "All
appeared to be familiar with each case, were
articulate, and did a competent job."

Private Agencies
Several private agencies and groups
play roles in the Family Court; some directly
assist the Family Court in resolving litigants'
problems, others provide special services and
resources for litigants in need, and still others
perform evaluative and protective functions.
Examples include Alternatives for Battered
Women (ABW), the Center for Dispute
Settlement; Court Appointed Special
Advocates (CASA), the Hillside Non-Secure
Detention Facility, the MEN's Group (Men's
Education for Nonviolence), PEACE (Parent
Education and Custody Effectiveness), and St.
Joseph's Villa. An alcohol abuse evaluator,
furnished by the National Council on
Alcoholism, is also on the staff of the court.
Monitors generally commended the
work performed by these organizations, noting
that their efforts serve an integral function in the
Family Court's mission to aid families and
children in crisis.

Non-judicial court personnel have an
enormous impact on the public's perception of
the Family Court, and on the quality of justice
that is dispensed. A typical litigant spends
much time outside the courtroom, dealing with
petition clerks, court officers, and other court
In most courtrooms, one to three court
clerks, one or two court officers, and
sometimes a court reporter are present.
Occasionally a foreign language or American
Sign Language interpreter is available.
Generally, monitors found their behavior to be
"very pleasant," "efficient, helpful, and polite."
However, in one case, a monitor found it "highly
inappropriate" that a court assistant and a
trainee "showed obvious signs of sympathy
toward one of the respondents" and "verbally
expressed this after the case was adjourned."
Court Clerks
Family Court clerks are an integral part
of the court's operations. Part clerks sit with
the judges in the courtrooms and are
responsible for scheduling and other case
management duties. Petition clerks staff the
intake desks where litigants come to file
petitions, and assist them in the preparation of
petitions. A petition is a written document that
forms the basis for a Family Court proceeding,
and it is essential that they be prepared quickly
and accurately.
Generally, the monitors found the clerks
to be very "helpful" and "courteous."
However, they were disturbed by the
appearance of one young college intern who
was assisting a clerk, reporting that she was
"inappropriately dressed" in a "very short tight
skirt and tight revealing tank top"; monitors felt
that this did not convey "a very good impression
of court dignity." In a written response to a
draft of the this report, Chief Clerk Robert
Norton confirmed that the intern, who worked
at the court only a short period of time, was not
an employee of the Monroe County Family
Court. He also noted that the employees of the
Clerk’s Office at the Monroe County Family
Court always dress in a dignified manner
appropriate to the Family Court environment.
This is supported by the observations of the
monitors themselves, who found the intern’s
attire to be a departure from that of Family
Court employees.
Court Officers
Uniformed court officers are
responsible for providing security in the
courtrooms and waiting areas. They also assist
with clerical duties. It is a court officer's
responsibility to keep track of the parties who
have appeared for a hearing, and to gather the
participants when the case is called.
Monitors were generally impressed by
the conduct of the court officers; several singled
out Officers Anthony Stirpe and David Merrick
for particular commendation.
One monitor reported that an officer
"went out of his way to make sure I knew what
case was being heard and what was
happening." Another added, "They were very
welcoming to us." One monitor described an
encounter between an officer and a young
Latino man: The officer "told the young man
that he had taken Spanish in high school and he

was working hard to pronounce the boy's name
correctly. He joked, 'I want to impress the
judge.' He really seemed to be connecting with
the young man." The monitor added that this
officer is "always friendly, courteous, helpful --
he takes his work seriously and seems to relate
well to everyone."
However, monitors did find some cause
for criticism. One officer "couldn't maintain the
flow of people." Another "walked around but
never announced which case was being heard.
He seemed unaware that he had any particular
duties." In addition, because officers
"continually went in and out of the courtroom to
round up parties," the result was "a banging
door every 30 seconds." Monitors also
criticized officers for talking in the courtroom:
"The judge did admonish one deputy for
carrying on a conversation with someone in the
back of the courtroom. She was asked to
continue the conversation outside of the
One monitor severely criticized the
officer for his behavior in two separate
incidents. In one case, a warrant was issued for
a woman who was not present when her case
was called at 3:00 PM, although the monitor
had seen her try the door at 1:30 PM. The
monitor informed the officer that she had seen
the woman trying to get in, to which he
responded, "'I hope she didn't break her arm!'
Everyone heard him." On another occasion, the
officer saw the same monitor trying the door of
the courtroom at 1:45 PM, when the first
afternoon case was scheduled. According to
the monitor, the officer said, "'You can keep
right on trying the door. It won't be open until I
get all the attorneys.'" The monitor concluded,
"His attitude is questionable. I detected
In a written response to a draft of this
report, Peter Gentile, Supervisor of Court
Security, noted that during the course of the
project, officers were forced to respond
twenty-one separate security incidents in the
Family Court facilities. Such incidents included
felony warrant arrests, criminal misconduct,
physical assaults, other disruptive and unruly
conduct, resisting arrest and criminal contempt,
medical emergencies, and threats made to
judicial personnel and attorneys in the court.
Officers must also be available on a daily basis,
he added, to maintain order and security and to
help calm agitated or frightened litigants and
children in an often volatile and intimidating
environment. The monitors’ findings supported
this analysis: they found most officers to be
generally both responsible and responsive to the
needs of the litigants and the court.
Court Reporters
Court reporters are responsible for
producing official transcripts of court
proceedings. Not all judicial personnel in
Monroe County Family Court utilize court
reporters; some courtrooms are equipped with
microphones to record proceedings.
Electronic Recording: Taping of
court proceedings has been permitted in New
York State since 1992, when it was introduced
as a two-year experiment in the Court of
Claims and the Surrogate's Court. The
experiment has since been extended and
expanded to other courts, including the Family
Court. Under the current statute, certain Family
Court proceedings cannot be taped; court
reporters are required for juvenile delinquency,
PINS, and family offense cases.
Monitors generally had little to say
about the reporters, although one observer did
note that one "court reporter was constantly
yawning and made no attempt to turn away or
put a hand in front of his mouth." Monitors
generally were much more concerned with the
electronic recording system. The system

sometimes malfunctions, and the "recording
device occasionally has to be reset and the case
reheard." In addition, the system's occasional
inoperability can delay the opening of court.
One monitor asked, "Are litigants informed that
the proceedings are being recorded? In writing,
ahead of time? This is not done orally, except
on occasion to ask petitioners to speak into the
Court Interpreters
Foreign-language and American Sign
Language interpreters are often utilized to
translate court proceedings. The Monroe
County Family Court also provides translating
services for litigants who do not speak English
or are hearing-impaired. There is one full-time,
Spanish-speaking interpreter on the Family
Court staff, and the court occasionally will
“borrow” another interpreter from the City
Court. With one day’s notice, interpreters for
other languages usually can be provided.
Family Court staff have expressed their hope to
hire a second full-time foreign language
interpreter within a year.
Generally, monitors reported that
interpreters were available when needed. Most
often, parties needed a Spanish-speaking
interpreter. Occasionally, however, interpreters
were needed for other languages. In one
instance, a monitor observed proceedings
involving a Sudanese couple where the
interpreter "knew both parties." The monitor
noted that "he stated he would interpret literally"
but wondered "if he would truly be unbiased
and translate back to the court and attorneys
Monitors also reported a few instances
where a sign-language interpreter was provided
for hearing-impaired participants. Monitors
found most inter-preters' work to be
"excellent." However, several reported delays
while interpreters were found, and one
"interpreter left before the scheduled time and
the case had to be postponed." According to
Family Court staff, arrangements for hearing-
impaired litigants can be made with advance
notice. Judge Bonadio’s courtroom contains
“assisted listening devices” for litigants with only
some impairment. For those who are unable to
hear at all, the court will arrange for an
American Sign Language interpreter.

As noted in Section III, the Monroe
County Family Court handles an extremely
large caseload. In 1997, a total of 25,126
petitions were filed, and the five Family Court
judges presided over 14,777 of these petitions,
resulting in an average of 2,955 cases per
judge. According to the Monroe County
Family Court’s own analysis, at least 80% of
litigants appear pro se – in other words, they
are not represented by attorneys.
In 1997, there were substantial
increases over 1996 figures for the total number
of petitions filed for certain kinds of
proceedings. Custody and visitation cases filed
in 1997 increased by 10% over 1996 figures,
while PINS cases increased 15%. For the
same period, there was a 29% increase in
foster care review cases, and guardianship
cases increased 53%.
Case Assignment
Since 1986, the New York State
courts have operated under the Individual
Assignment System (IAS). Under this system,
the judge who presides over a case at intake
generally will handle the case through
disposition. The rationales for this system are
efficiency and familiarity: The judge who
presides at intake is likely to be more familiar
with the circumstances of the case, and thus is
likely to issue a better-reasoned decision. In
Family Court, the IAS is taken yet another step:
Not only does one judge handle a
particular case from start to finish; if a family
returns to court with other business, the new
matter usually will be assigned to the same
judge who handled the previous case.
In the Monroe County Family Court, an
"Intake Term" has been established. Judges
and hearing examiners serve rotating Intake
Terms. The Terms are divided into 2-week
periods, during which the current Intake judge
or hearing examiner presides over all first
proceedings, and handles emergency cases,
such as requests for temporary orders of
protection and the issuance of warrants.
The judges, hearing examiners, and
judicial hearing officers vary in their approach to
case disposal. Some regularly adjourn cases in
which a party fails to appear, while others
dismiss them outright. Some judges adhere to
the traditional practice of scheduling all cases at
9:00 AM and working through them case by
case throughout the day. Others have adopted
some variation of a staggered calendar,
scheduling some cases at 9:00 AM, some at
10:00 AM, etc. Monitors were very critical of
those judges who have failed to adopt
staggered calendars, and gave high praise to
those who have implemented them.
Delays and Adjournments
Monitors reported that delays and
adjournments were rampant in Monroe County
Family Court. Monitors found that there were
two fundamental causes of delays and
adjournments: lateness or failure to appear by
litigants, and lateness or failure to appear by

For example, during an observation in
Judge Taddeo's courtroom, one monitor noted
that the "court officer explained (outside of
court) that none of the six scheduled cases was
ready, as the law guardian was still busy
interviewing the respondents." Another
monitor, observing in Judge Bonadio's
courtroom, reported that the deputy informed
the judge that "the people were all present at
court but they weren't quite ready to come in -
- still talking with lawyers in the hall." The
monitor added that Judge Bonadio responded,
"'Get them in here even if they aren't ready!'"
One monitor attributed some of the
delays to the fact that parties are not aware that
they can be represented by counsel, and
observed: "I question why parties were not
informed prior to the hearing." However, the
monitor was informed that petitioners were told
of the right to counsel at the time of application.
Apparently, concluded the monitor, many
petitioners decide they want an attorney once
they are at the hearing and the opposition is
represented by an attorney.
However, even when delays were due
to litigants themselves, monitors noted that this
was not always their fault. One monitor was
informed by a deputy that "jurors are allowed
through the metal detectors before litigants, so
while litigants may be 'on time,' they may not
make it into the courtroom for quite awhile."
This same monitor reported that a clerk also
attributed the delays to a "lack of public
defenders." Another monitor reported the
complaint of one attorney: "'All of the other
courts start on time; Family Court never does.
Attorneys hate to come here, and that's why
Family Court gets a bad rap.'"
Monitors also were quick to point out
that not all delays were the fault of litigants or
their attorneys. One monitor reported that
there were "no reasons given for what I believe
was a total failure of punctuality, which
engenders disrespect for the court by parties.
Virtually no respondents appeared in court . . . .
Nevertheless, court should start promptly."
This monitor noted that this "lack of promptness
in opening court," which was common in most
courtrooms, "leads to a lack of respect for
judges and lawyers by people, many of whom
have had to leave work to attend court."
Another monitor commented, "As I sat in the
courtroom waiting for the session to start, one
officer was sitting in [Judge Morton's] chair,
looked at me, and said with disgust something
like, "Put in your notes that the judge isn't here."
This monitor added, "In addition to being 50
minutes late, when told [only] five minutes were
needed before the next case would be ready,
the judge left for 17 minutes."
Delays occasionally resulted from other
circumstances. In Judge Kohout's courtroom,
monitors reported significant "delays in
transporting prisoners" to the courthouse.
"Judge Kohout says this is a big problem -- she
said there are not enough sheriffs to transport
Delays also occurred due to equipment
malfunction. For example, in Judge Maas's
courtroom, a monitor reported that "the judge
was ready to begin at 9:15 AM, but the
recording machine was inoperable. The deputy
stated that they had the same problem last
time." In Judge Strobridge's courtroom, "there
was a computer malfunction that delayed the
hearings for approximately twenty minutes."

Monitors reported that some delays
were explained. For example, on some days it
was explained that Judge Sciolino was presiding
over adoption proceedings in his chambers
before opening court. Monitors noted that he
or other court personnel consistently explained
these and other delays.
At the time of monitors' observations,
the domestic violence court had begun partially-
computerized operations on a trial basis. For
litigants seeking orders of protection, clerks
used a computer to generate orders within a
half hour of the party's hearing. All temporary
orders of protection are now generated by
computer in the courtroom.
Currently, the court is working with the
Monroe County Support Collection Unit, which
eventually will install its case management
system software in the Monroe County Family
Court. Once it is installed, all orders will be
available either the same day or the next day.
The Monroe County Family Court also is part
of a Joint Application Development (JAD)
project, co-sponsored by the Office of Court
Administration and the New York State Child
Support Enforcement Unit. Under this project,
the Family Court has been designated a “Child
Support Management System (CSMS) pilot
court”: CSMS is purchasing personal
computers and software to be installed in the
hearing examiners’ rooms. With this system,
hearing examiners will be able to access
litigants’ certification of arrearages, payment
histories, etc.
In addition, all courtrooms are
equipped with networked computers. Judges
have access to the Internet, the court’s intranet,
Westlaw, research software on CD-ROM, and
Wordperfect. Litigants’ histories are also on
file, accessible electronically by each judge’s
court clerk. Judicial hearing officers do not
have computers that are linked to this network,
but do have personal computers with access to
Westlaw. The court also utilizes Advanced DB
Master (ADBM), which is database software; it
currently runs a DOS-based version of ADBM,
but is in the process of upgrading to a Microsoft
Windows NT version, which will provide
greater flexibility. Finally, Family Court staff
also hope to initiate an electronic filing system,
and estimate that such a system could be
available in approximately three years.
Domestic Violence Part
In March, 1998, the Monroe County
Family Court established a domestic violence
part, which handles family offense cases
exclusively. Formerly, when people came to
court to request an order of protection, they
were sent to the intake judge on duty. Now,
they are directed to a separate area of the
courthouse that is devoted expressly to the
domestic violence part. In addition, they are
given a folder containing detailed information,
including the proper forms, a copy of The
Family Court & You (a guide to navigating the
Family Court), and the location of shelters for
victims of domestic violence.
Since the monitors completed their
observations, the domestic violence part has
been expanded and relocated to the second
floor of the courthouse. It includes a courtroom
used solely for family offense cases, which is
assigned its own clerks and court officers who
serve that court exclusively. The courtroom
also contains a computer used to generate
temporary orders of protection while the
petitioner waits. Petitioners now leave the
courthouse with temporary orders in their
hands, and the orders are filed with the central
registry within 24 hours.

The domestic violence part also includes an
office staffed jointly by representatives from
Legal Aid and Alternatives for Battered
Women (ABW), an organization which aids
victims of domestic violence in the Rochester
area. In addition, outside the courtroom is a
separate “petitioners’ waiting room,” reserved
exclusively for petitioners in family offense
cases: This segregates victims of domestic
violence from their alleged abusers, limiting the
possibility that they may be intimidated by the
respondents, and reducing the potential for
tension and violence. In addition, advocates
from Legal Aid and ABW can now be sure that
every person in the waiting room is a petitioner
in a family offense case, and can more efficiently
referral these persons to other organizations that
aid victims of domestic violence.
Supervising Judge Taddeo presides
over the domestic violence part on Mondays,
and judicial hearing officers share duties on a
rotating basis during the remaining four days per
week. On a given day, judicial personnel may
process as many as 25 re-quests for orders of
protection. According to ABW’s Legal
Advocate, the total number of family offense
petitions has increased by roughly 30% over the
number filed at this time last year.
Monitors did express some concern
about the new domestic violence part. Often, a
person seeking an order or protection must also
resolve custody, visitation, support, or other
issues. Monitors noticed that some petitioners,
after receiving a temporary order of protection
in the domestic violence part, were then shuffled
to other areas of the court to take care of such
related issues.
However, the separate domestic
violence part is likely to help to ensure that
petitioners and their families will be protected.
The domestic violence part was designed to
streamline the process for petitioners who need
only an order of protection, or who need
temporary relief until they can resolve other
issues, such as custody and visitation.
Moreover, the judicial personnel who preside in
the domestic violence part have the authority to
address certain related issues when granting
temporary orders of protection: They may
issue orders establishing temporary custody of
children, temporary visitation rights, and
temporary support. In addition, when a
petitioner who appears in the domestic violence
part already has a case pending in the Family
Court, the clerks in that part will coordinate
with the other judge, hearing examiner, or JHO
assigned to the case, who may decide to
assume jurisdiction over the order of protection
as well.
The monitors voiced the belief that
adding a sixth full-time Family Court judge
would permit more efficient allocation of cases,
and would provide additional staffing resources
for the domestic violence part.

Monitors were continually frustrated by a
lack of audibility during court proceedings. While
they reported being able to hear all or most of the
time in the rooms of Judicial Hearing Officers
Maas and Morton and Hearing Examiner Boldt,
they found that inaudibility was still a frequent
problem in other courtrooms: Participants are
often soft-spoken, and attorneys and litigants
frequently must address the court with their backs
to the public area of the courtroom. The monitors
felt that judges should encourage participants to
speak louder, noting, for example, that Judge
Taddeo "never encouraged anyone to speak up";
they also urged that litigants and their attorneys be
provided with microphones.
Monitors also pointed out that while the
hearing examiners' rooms are equipped with
microphones to record proceedings, they are not
used to amplify. Monitors repeatedly
recommended that microphones be used for
amplification by all parties in all rooms.
Other factors also impaired audibility. In
several courtrooms, monitors reported "too much
background noise from opening and closing doors
constantly." In some cases, "the waiting room is
just outside the door and the people waiting are
very noisy." In some courtrooms, the door itself
"bangs loudly." One monitor summarized the
situation in Judge Taddeo's courtroom: "This is a
large courtroom
with many distractions -- paging in the waiting
room, noises in the waiting room, the phone
ringing, the fan from the heating system
blowing, people entering the courtroom, lawyers
whispering in the back of the courtroom, and the
door slamming whenever anyone enters or leaves.
It is difficult to hear in the back of the room."
Monitors also criticized attorneys, court
personnel, and litigants for conducting personal
conversations during court proceedings.
General Physical Facilities
Monroe County currently is planning
significant renovations to the Hall of Justice; the
projected completion date is May, 2000. The
County put the project up for bid on October 13,
1998; if a bid is approved, workers will begin to
move courtrooms and offices on December 4,
1998. Scheduled changes include the follow-ing:
addition of small rooms to serve as private
conferencing space for attorneys and clients;
improved noise control; additional magnetometers
and queuing space at the main building entrance;
construction of a new entrance pavilion; addition
of a fully-accessible restroom on the third floor;
and addition of running water to and relocation of
the Children's Corner. Once the renovation is
completed, there will be seven courtrooms on the
third floor; facilities for five hearing examiners and
their staff, two offices to be shared by the four
judicial hearing officers, a waiting room, a records
room, and the clerk’s office all will be located on
the second floor. However, at the time of the
monitors' observations, the renovation project
was still in the planning stage.
The five judges of the Monroe County
Family Court hear cases in courtrooms, as do the
judicial hearing officers. Hearing examiners must
preside over cases in rooms which also function
as their own offices. While all of the hearing
examiners’ rooms are the same size, some appear

smaller than others, due to the arrangement of the
furniture in the respective rooms.
Monitors described Judge Taddeo's
courtroom as "large," "well-lit," and "clean."
However, several noted that its large size created
audibility problems. Judge Bonadio's courtroom
seats 48 people; monitors also had difficult
hearing in his courtroom. However, Judge
Bonadio had added plants, an aesthetic touch
which pleased some of the monitors: "This is by
far the most attractive courtroom. Windows and
many plants add to its atmosphere, and make it
seem less threatening." Similarly, Judge Sciolino's
courtroom, on the other hand, was described as
"pleasant," "well-lit," and "well-appointed," with
"enough seating for all." Both Judge Bonadio's
and Judge Sciolino's are located away from the
public waiting area, which reduces noise, and both
have windows, which provide good natural light.
Both Judge Miller and Judge Kohout have
courtrooms with adjacent "semi-private" waiting
areas, which monitors found "loud" and
"distracting." In addition, "the flushing of toilets
can be heard" from the bathroom next to Judge
Miller's courtroom. Monitors also raised concerns
about safety and accessibility: There were "two
large cuts in the carpet where everyone walks,"
with "strings hanging out," and the armchairs
presented difficulties for large people.
Monitors described Ms. Boldt's hearing
room as "small, yet adequate for the purpose
served" and "comfortable." It is "a very 'roomy'
and pleasant room compared to some of the other
rooms of hearing examiners." Because the room
double's as Ms. Boldt's office, one monitor noted,
she "stated that it was difficult to complete desk
work with the constant interruptions."
Mr. Garcia's room, on the other hand,
was described as "small," "warm," and "airless."
One felt that "it appeared somewhat cluttered,"
while found it "uncomfortable to be that close to
Ms. Irizarry's room is also "small." While
one monitor found that its size made it appear
"less intimidating than courtrooms," two others
noted that it made it difficult for a woman in a
wheelchair to navigate to the table.
Similarly, Mr. Lockwood's room was
described as "very tight." Monitors also noted
that the glare from the "long windows" behind Mr.
Lockwood's seat places his face in "silhouette,"
"making it difficult to see his facial expressions."
One monitor also reported, "Mr. Lockwood feels
he needs a private office so when he gets a phone
call he can respond."
Monitors generally described Judge
Maas's room as "good," but one monitor noted
that "the seats are badly in need of recovering."
While Judge Miles's courtroom is "small," most
monitors felt that it is "adequate" and
"comfortable." However, noise from the waiting
area outside filters into the courtroom. One
monitor also noticed that "three overhead lights
were out."
Judge Morton's courtroom is "spacious" -
- "more than needed, actually," was how one
monitor characterized it. Another monitor
observed that this "courtroom is not as traditional
as other courts," although some felt that was an
advantage, as domestic violence cases are heard
Judge Strobridge's courtroom was also
described as "very large," "well-lit," and
"comfortable." Monitors were pleased to report
that "it is easier to hear in this courtroom because
people who are waiting are not directly outside
the room. There is a hallway separating the court
from the waiting facilities."
Monitors consistently found the court's
restrooms to be inadequate. The women's
restrooms were frequently characterized as "dirty"
and "in terrible condition," and the toilets,

occasionally, as "nonfunctional." There often is no
toilet paper. Toilets often are difficult or
impossible to flush, and several stalls have no
latches on the doors. As one monitor put it, "If
there are not funds to redo the ladies' room, at
least they could put locks on the doors, and clean
and repaint it." Another monitor observed, " It
gives me the impression they don't care about the
public -- women do not like to use a stall you
can't lock." Other monitors noted that they had
reported the problems to court personnel, who
"seemed not to take it seriously." In June, a
monitor reported that the door locks in the
women's restroom finally had been replaced.
Monitors also found problems with the
men's restroom: Throughout the project, a
"flushometer valve" on one urinal needed to be
"repaired or replaced," and periodically, it was
"not clean."
Monitors had an additional complaint
regarding restroom facilities: The Children's
Center has no running water whatsoever. Several
monitors noted that "hand washing is very
important" for young children, and expressed
concern that no toilet facilities are available for
them. However, as part of the County's
renovation of the Hall of Justice, it has promised
that the Children's Center will be relocated to an
area next to the women's restroom, and running
water will be installed.
Access for the Disabled
Monitors observed that while some areas
of the Family Court appear to be accessible to
those with physical disabilities, other areas do not.
In Ms. Boldt's room, there was "plenty of
room for a wheelchair to pass through the door."
Another who observed in Judge Maas's room felt
that there was access, but noted that "it would be
a long walk for someone who was on crutches or
has to use a cane."
Monitors pointed out that Judge Miles's
courtroom is the "best court of all, since it is on
the first floor," and "is close to the Fitzhugh Street
entrance . . . where there is an elevator from the
garage up to the first floor." Still other monitors
reported that a participant in a wheelchair was
"brought in with no delay" to the courtroom.
Monitors disputed the accessibility of all
courtrooms, however: One felt that while the
courtroom itself was accessible, "gaining the floor
from the garage or ground floor was not;" another
felt that it was "accessible but difficult." They
observed that all third-floor rooms appear to be
roughly equal in terms of accessibility; the biggest
challenge lies in reaching the third floor. Several
monitors also reported that the women's restroom
was not sufficiently accessible; one observed that
"none of the stalls would accommodate a

1. County Executive Jack Doyle and the
New York State Legislature should
immediately fulfill their commitment
to create a sixth Family Court judge-
ship. Monitors consistently found that the
Family Court judges were overextended.
Despite the presence of hearing examiners
and judicial hearing officers, many issues
can be heard only by a Family Court
judge. Ever-expanding caseloads force
the judges to dispense “assembly-line jus-
Earlier this year, Mr. Doyle, who
had previously opposed the creation of a
sixth judgeship, dropped his opposition,
agreeing that “the number of Family Court
judges in Monroe County should be in-
creased from five to six.” The State Sen-
ate thereafter approved the creation of the
judgeship, and the Assembly was ex-
pected to do likewise. However, Senator
Michael Nozzolio of Seneca County, who
introduced the legislation, subsequently
asked the Senate to reconsider its vote,
and the bill was abandoned.
As reported in the Rochester
Democrat and Chronicle, Democratic
legislators blamed the demise of the sixth
judgeship on Mr. Doyle’s insistence that
the bill be linked to two unrelated and
controversial proposals: One would have
created a Greater Rochester Sports Au-
thority, and the other would have ex-
empted the county from state bidding laws
when its $49.4 million jail expansion pro-
ject is put up for bid. Mr. Doyle is re-
ported to have denied promoting any such
Regardless of where the fault lies,
the bottom line is that the sixth judgeship
is long overdue and desperately needed.
The monitors urge Mr. Doyle and state
legislators to stop holding the children and
families of Monroe County hostage to
politics, and to work together to create
the sixth judgeship immediately.
2. The New York State Legislature
should enact Chief Judge Judith S.
Kaye’s court restructuring proposal.
New York State Chief Judge Judith S.
Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge
Jonathan Lippman recently proposed a
constitutional amendment to the State
Legislature. The amendment would raise
the status of the Family Court, so that its
clientele would no longer be forced to suf-
fer the indignities, inconveniences, and
lack of attention that result from its current
position, in which it is treated as the
“stepchild” of the court system. The
amendment would replace the current
complex maze of courts of limited juris-
diction with a much simpler and less hier-
archical structure. It would reduce the
number of trial courts to two, from the
current total of nine. The Family Court
would be merged into Supreme Court,
and a Family Division of Supreme Court
would be created. By raising the status of
family matters, the proposal would ensure
that such cases would no longer be rele-
gated to a “lower” court. Like all pro-
posed amendments to the State Constitu-
tion, the Kaye plan must be passed by
two consecutive State Legislatures; it then
must be ratified by the voters in a state-
wide referendum.

In 1997, the Office of Court Ad-
ministration implemented a “Family Court
Action Plan,” designed to remedy many
of the problems endemic to the Family
Court as it is currently constituted. The
monitors commended OCA’s efforts, but
see court restructuring as an essential next
step in resolving these issues. Because
the Family Court, which serves families
and children in crisis, addresses some of
New York’s most pressing societal prob-
lems, the Senate and Assembly should re-
introduce the Kaye plan and give it first
3. The New York State Legislature
should pass a constitutional amend-
ment providing for nonpartisan merit
selection of Family Court judges. Ju-
dicial elections tend to reward political
connections rather than qualifications, and
create the potential for conflicts of interest
and the appearance of impropriety. A
genuine merit selection system would help
to ensure that the Family Court, which has
a great impact on the lives of ordinary citi-
zens, is staffed with the best-qualified ju-
dicial personnel available.
4. The New York State Legislature
should increase compensation for as-
signed counsel, and the County
should hire additional public defend-
ers. Court-appointed attorneys are paid
a mere $40 per hour for in-court work,
and only $25 per hour for out-of-court
work. These rates have remained un-
changed since 1986. It is especially im-
portant that attorneys be compensated
adequately for the time spent outside of
court preparing a case. This is particularly
true in Family Court, where much of a cli-
ent's case may depend upon out-of-court
work and research. In addition, there are
far too few public defenders to handle the
court’s enormous caseload; monitors urge
that funding be increased both for hiring
new public defenders and for providing
adequate compensation to assigned coun-
5. All Monroe County Family Court
judges, hearing examiners, and judi-
cial hearing officers should imple-
ment staggered calendars to reduce
waiting time. While some judicial per-
sonnel have already implemented stag-
gered calendars, most still require all liti-
gants to arrive at 9:00 AM. Thus, some
parties whose cases are scheduled for
9:00 AM find that their cases are not
heard until later afternoon, or worse, ad-
journed to another date. As monitors re-
peatedly noted, most Family Court liti-
gants must arrange to take time off work
to appear, and being forced to wait all
day or to return is a significant hardship.
Monitors recommend that all judicial per-
sonnel implement a staggered calendar for
both morning and afternoon session, so
that litigants can better budget the time
they need to allocate for court.
6. The Monroe County Hall of Justice
should post at least one additional
metal detector at the front entrance,
to reduce waiting time and speed
processing. Monitors reported that the
Family Court's consistent delays stemmed
in part from the problems of gaining en-
trance to the Hall of Justice itself. At the
time of monitors' observations, only one
metal detector was in place at the door to
the front entrance. People were forced to
wait in long lines outside the building, re-
gardless of the weather, while people filed
into the Hall of Justice one at a time, and
the doors were not opened until 9:00
AM. Thus, while litigants often arrived
well in advance of a 9:00 AM appoint-
ment, they might not even enter the build-
ing until much later, resulting in significant

delays for court proceedings. As part of
the renovation project, the County
has promised that there will be a "gener-
ous queuing area," as well as
7. Sheriff Meloni should work with the
Family Court to coordinate efficient
transfer of litigants who are in secure
detention. Monitors repeatedly found
that significant delays occurred due to
problems with transporting respondents
who are being held in secure detention.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Department
is responsible for transporting detainees to
Family Court to appear. However, the
Sheriff’s Department’s budget has been
cut, while the court’s transport needs are
growing. The Department also must pick
up detainees from a variety of locations;
inevitably, these parties rarely arrive at
court at the appointed time. This results in
lengthy delays and frequent adjournments
which adversely affect the court, the at-
torneys, and other parties involved.
Monitors recommended that the County
provide the Sheriff’s Department with ad-
ditional funding to provide for adequate
transport, and that Sheriff Meloni work
with the Family Court judges and staff to
reconcile scheduling of cases involving
parties in secure detention. For example,
the Sheriff's Department might arrange to
transport detainees at a particular time of
day, and the judges and clerks might cal-
endar cases involving prisoners only at
those times.
8. In conjunction with the Community
Legal Intake and Referral Project, the
Family Court should provide an in-
formation desk and personnel avail-
able to provide information to the
public. Many members of the public ar-
rive at Family Court without counsel and
with no idea where they must go or what
they must do. Monitors recommended
that the Family Court work with the
Community Legal Intake and Referral
Project to set up an area in the lobby of
Family Court devoted specifically to pro-
viding guidance to the public. Monitors
also suggested that the information desk
provide basic, jargon-free information on
how to file a petition, on obtaining coun-
sel, on how to obtain an order of protec-
tion, etc. They also recommended that
maps of the Family Court facility be made
available, we well as a general user's
guide that litigants can take with them.
9. Representatives from the Department
of Probation and the clerk’s office
should screen petitioners more thor-
oughly to ensure that they are as-
signed to the proper judge, hearing
examiner, or judicial hearing officer.
Petitioners who already have a case
pending in Family Court often will return
for a related matter; instead of being as-
signed to the judge handling the earlier
matter, such petitioners frequently are as-
signed to a different judge (or, in the case
of those seeking orders of protection, to a
judicial hearing officer), who then must
transfer the case. Monitors recom-
mended that court personnel conduct
more in-depth screening to ensure that
petitioners are assigned properly the first
time, thus reducing adjournments and de-
10. To discourage “no-show” litigants, if
petitioners who fail to appear do not
provide a valid excuse, they should be
charged a nominal fee to refile a peti-
tion. Currently, no fee is charged to file a
petition in Family Court. While monitors
agree that Family Court proceedings must
remain accessible to those in lower in-
come brackets, they repeatedly observed
that the lack of a filing fee encourages

people to treat their court dates cavalierly.
While monitors generally support the cur-
rent policy of charging no fee to file a peti-
tion in Family Court, they urge that this
policy should apply only to a party's ini-
tial filing. If the party fails to show and
cannot provide a valid reason, at least a
nominal fee should be charged for any
11. Additional waiting area and confer-
encing space should be constructed to
provide waiting litigants with privacy
and to prevent noise from the hall-
ways from interfering with court pro-
ceedings. Participants are forced to wait
outside the courtrooms in cramped wait-
ing rooms or open hallways until their
cases are called, and noise from these
waiting areas filters into the courtrooms
themselves, making it difficult to hear pro-
ceedings. Unfortunately, these waiting ar-
eas generally are the only areas available
for clients to confer with their attorneys.
Not only do clients have no assurance that
their "privileged" conversations with attor-
neys are truly private, but they are often
forced to discuss their cases with their ad-
versaries sitting only a few feet away. As
part of the renovation of the Hall of Jus-
tice, the County has promised to create
small private conferencing rooms. The
monitors urged the County to keep its
promise to construct the rooms. They
also recommended that the Family Court
judicial personnel enforce use of the new
space by refusing to permit conferencing
12. Courtroom doors should be replaced
or repaired so that they close quietly.
Family Court courtrooms generally are
very small, with little seating capacity.
Dozens of cases may be calendared for
one day, and often each case involves
multiple parties, all of whom are forced to
wait in the waiting rooms and hallways
outside the courtrooms. Every time a
court officer calls a new case, and every
time a party, attorney, or other participant
enters or leaves a courtroom, the heavy
courtroom doors bang shut, disrupting the
proceedings. Monitors recommended re-
placement of the doors, or, failing that, in-
stallation of some sort of muffling device.
As part of the overall renovation of the
Hall of Justice, the Monroe County Main-
tenance Department is evaluating the
problems created by the doors, and has
stated that its plans include provisions for
noise control.

13. The Monroe County Family Court
should take additional steps to improve
Currently, hearing officers’
rooms are equipped with microphones for
recording purposes only. In other rooms,
no microphones are available. Monitors
recommended that microphones be in-
stalled in all courtrooms and hearing
rooms to amplify proceedings, and that
they be provided not only to judicial per-
sonnel but to attorneys and litigants, as
well. They also urged that judicial per-
sonnel consistently require all participants
to speak loudly enough to be heard.
14. Restroom facilities, including a sink,
should be added to the Children's
Corner. Currently, there is no running
water at all in the Children's Corner.
Monitors have repeatedly noted that this
presents a significant health hazard for
children: Not only are there no bathroom
facilities immediately available, but there is
no means for them to wash their hands.
The County has stated that, as part of its
plans to renovate the Hall of Justice, the
Children's Corner will be relocated to an
area next to the women's restroom, and
will have running water.
15. Adult restroom facilities should be
properly maintained and repaired.
Throughout the project, monitors com-
plained about the condition of the bath-
room facilities. In the women's restroom,
several stalls did not latch, and the toilets
themselves were difficult or impossible to
flush. In the men's restroom, the flushom-
eter valve on one urinal needed repair or
replacement. Latches in the women's
restroom were not repaired until June (al-
though monitors had reported them to
court staff consistently since January); the
County is reportedly looking into the
problems with the flushing system. Moni-
tors also recommended regular cleaning
and maintenance of all restrooms.