It is desirable that the trial of causes of action should take place under the public eye, not because
the controversies of one citizen with another are of public concern, but because it is of the highest
moment that those who administer justice should always act under the sense of public responsibility,
and that every citizen should be able to satisfy himself with his own eyes as to the mode in which a
public duty is performed.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
Cowley v. Pulsifer
137 Mass. 392, 294 (Mass. 1884)
The Fund for Modern Courts is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to
improving the administration of justice in New York. Founded in 1955, and led by concerned
citizens, prominent lawyers, and leaders of the business community, Modern Courts works to
make the court system more accessible, efficient, and user-friendly for all New Yorkers.
The centerpiece of Modern Courts' efforts is our groundbreaking citizen court monitoring
program, which gives citizens a powerful voice in how their court system is run. Our monitors,
who now number more than 600 in over a dozen counties throughout New York State, have
succeeded in obtaining numerous tangible improvements in the state’s courts. This report details
the findings of our citizen court monitors regarding the Suffolk County Family Court. We hope their
recommendations will help to obtain improvements for the residents of Suffolk County that the
court serves.
For additional information, please contact:
The Fund for Modern Courts, Inc.
351 West 54
New York, New York 10019
Telephone: (212) 541-6741
Fax: (212) 541-7301
E-Mail: [email protected]
Disclaimer: The comments and findings contained in this report are not to be construed as an
endorsement, either implied or express, of any candidate for any office. Any such use is
unauthorized by the Fund for Modern Courts.

THE PROJECT.......................................................................................................... 1
Court Monitoring in New York State.................................................................... 1
The Suffolk County Court Monitors ..................................................................... 2
II. THE FAMILY COURT IN NEW YORK STATE............................................................. 4
Public Access......................................................................................................... 4
Caseload................................................................................................................. 5
Family Court Judges.............................................................................................. 5
Support Magistrates............................................................................................... 5
Appeals Process..................................................................................................... 6
III. THE SUFFOLK COUNTY FAMILY COURT ................................................................. 7
The Population Served: Suffolk County............................................................... 7
Caseload................................................................................................................. 7
IV. THE JUDGES ........................................................................................................... 9
Hon. David Freundlich, Supervising Judge........................................................... 9
Hon. Gregory Jay Blass....................................................................................... 10
Hon. Peter Dounias.............................................................................................. 11
Hon. Joan Genchi ................................................................................................ 12
Hon. Dudley L. Lehman...................................................................................... 14
Hon. Barbara Lynaugh ........................................................................................ 15
Hon. Ettore A. Simeone....................................................................................... 16
Hon. Jeffrey Arlen Spinner.................................................................................. 17
Hon. Patrick A. Sweeney..................................................................................... 18
Hon. Kerry R. Trainor ......................................................................................... 19
IV. SUPPORT MAGISTRATES....................................................................................... 21
VI. ATTORNEYS.......................................................................................................... 24
VII. NON-JUDICIAL COURT PERSONNEL...................................................................... 26
Department of Social Services ............................................................................ 27
Department of Probation ..................................................................................... 27
IX. OPERATIONS......................................................................................................... 29
Delays and Adjournments ................................................................................... 29
Computer System Related Delays ....................................................................... 29
X. FACILITIES............................................................................................................ 30

XI. RECOMMENDATIONS ............................................................................................ 33
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..................................................................................................... 35
THE SUFFOLK COUNTY MONITORS................................................................................. 36

Court Monitoring in New York State
The Fund for Modern Courts is a private, 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, through which ordinary citizens observe and
evaluate their courts, report their findings, and issue public recommendations for improvement.
Today, groups of court monitors are active in 16 counties.
For over twenty-five years, court monitoring has been highly successful at achieving
numerous public-interest objectives, including:
publicizing problems that exist in the courts;
successfully urging those responsible for the courts to make improvements,
particularly in how the courts serve the public and how their personnel treat
the public; and
educating citizens about the daily functions and operation of their courts;
thereby creating a constituency of citizens who understand the problems
facing the court system and who are supportive of the courts' efforts to
function efficiently and effectively.
Monitors are non-lawyer volunteers who have a sincere interest in the efficient operation of
their local courts. They look at the system from an outsider's viewpoint, thereby providing a fresh,
common-sense perspective on how the courts can be improved. During the monitoring project,
these volunteers observe proceedings in a particular court for a period of several months, and
complete forms designed to help them to evaluate all aspects of the court's performance, ranging
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.
Modern Courts' citizen court monitoring program has been influential in solving many of
the problems that ordinary citizens face in the courts. Monitors' reports:
aided in the establishment of in-court child care facilities in numerous
courthouses across the State.
led to the implementation of a "staggered" calendar, modeled directly on
monitors' recommendations, which has drastically reduced both waiting time
and overcrowding.
prompted a renewed commitment to courthouse upkeep by local governments.
Monitors’ findings were also influential in the State Office of Court Administration’s

decision to introduce a mandatory "civility training" program for all non-judicial court personnel.
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 Third Judicial District, for example, the county converted an old
jail facility into a new courthouse for the Rensselaer County Family Court. The court opened in
1998, replacing a deplorable facility that had been criticized 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 Suffolk County Court Monitors
The Suffolk County Court Monitors are a group of citizen volunteers who observed
proceedings in their county’s courts to make the courts more efficient and responsive for litigants
and others who use the court. In 2003, the Suffolk County Court Monitors chose to evaluate the
conditions in the Family Court.
The Family Court deals with some of society's most serious problems, involving children
and families in crisis. However, due to its status as a “lower” court within the current court
system, it has been forced to operate with fewer resources than the state’s so-called "superior"
courts. Moreover, public attention has rarely been focused on the operation of the family court,
since it often functions as a "closed" court (although, in 1997, changes have been instituted to
open family court proceedings to the public and press). Improvements and reforms will be
instituted only when the public is made aware of the actual conditions in the Family Court,
which is why the Suffolk County Court Monitors chose to undertake this project.
In April 2003, an orientation for this project was held at the Northport Public Library. In
addition to distribution of court monitoring handbooks and monitoring forms and the provision
of general instructions to the monitors on court procedure, the orientation included a presentation
by Christine Olsen, Project Director of the Suffolk County Family Court's Family Treatment
Court spoke to the monitors about the operations of the groundbreaking court. The orientation
was followed several weeks later by a meeting at the Family Court with Supervising Judge
David Freundlich and Chief Clerk Robert O’Mara and other court personnel who provided the
volunteers with an overview of how the court functions. The orientation ended with a tour of the
court facility. The monitors began their visits immediately following the orientation. An
additional meeting held at the project's conclusion during law guardian Howard Gardos of the
Suffolk County Legal Aid Society spoke with the monitors regarding the role of the law guardian
in Family Court.

Summarized in the following report are the monitors’ findings regarding all aspects of the
Suffolk County Family Court, including court personnel, operations, security, the physical
facility, and the performance of various agencies that serve users of the Family 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 most issues involving children and families,
including paternity, custody, visitation, child support, child abuse and neglect, delinquency, 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 inheritance cases.
Family Court differs from the other courts in New York’s justice system in several ways.
First, there are no jury trials in the Family Court. Second, unlike the criminal courts, it was not
designed to mete out punishment for criminal offenses. Third, when the Family Court was created,
it was not intended to be adversarial; rather, it was intended to be 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
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." However, in today’s Family Court, children are
usually represented by counsel; adult parties also may be represented by counsel, whether private or
assigned. Moreover, the Family Court must resolve some of the most intimate, contentious
problems facing individuals and families. Thus, as a practical matter, it often is an adversarial court.
Public Access
Although the Family Court technically is an open court (and has been “open” since its
inception), the often-sensitive 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.

Since the Family Court began operations in 1962, a substantial increase in the divorce rate,
the drug abuse epidemic of the 1970s and 1980s, and the emergence of child and domestic abuse as
social problems have contributed to an explosion in the Family Court's caseload. In 1985, a total of
391,322 cases were filed statewide; ten years later, that number jumped to 591,577. By 1998, there
were a total of 663,603 filings in Family Courts across the state. While a staggering number of
drug-related cases flooded the family and criminal courts in the late 1980s, 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.
In the past five years, filings in the Family Court have slowly increased. From 1998 to
1999, filings increased by a mere 72 cases to 663,675. A more substantial increase of 18,310
occurred between 1999 and 2000. Statewide Family Court filings in 2001 totaled 682,347 which
represented a slight increase from the 2000 figure of 681,985. In 2002, there were 711, 697 filings
which represented a four percent increase from the previous year’s total.
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 prior to assuming office.
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 an interim judge to fill the vacancy until the next general election. In New
York City, the Mayor makes interim appointments when necessary. Family Court judges may serve
until a mandatory retirement age of 70.
Salaries: The standard salary for Family Court judges in Suffolk County is $136,700,
which is identical to the salary scale of Family Court judges in New York City, Nassau County, and
Westchester County. However, their counterparts in other parts of the state earn $119,800.
Support Magistrates
The position of hearing examiner was established in the Family Court 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. In August 2003, the Chief Administrative
Judge amended the Uniform Rules of the Family Court to create the title of support magistrates in
the place of the title of hearing examiner.
Support magistrates 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 magistrate’s decision may object, and a Family Court judge
resolves the case. Support magistrates are not authorized to issue warrants or to hold individuals in
contempt of court; they must forward requests for such actions to a judge.
Support magistrates, in many cases, have greatly eased the burden on judges by hearing
support cases and uncontested paternity cases, which can be time-consuming and have placed
growing demands on the court's time. Support magistrates often advance to judicial office.
Eligibility: The Uniform Family Court Rules of the State of New York mandate that
Support magistrates "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: 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, candidates are appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge of the State of
New York.
Salaries and Tenure: In New York State, Support magistrates earn $78,103 annually.
They serve three-year terms, with reappointment for a subsequent five-year term possible at the
discretion of the Chief Administrative Judge.
The Suffolk County Family Court had two part-time and six full-time magistrates during the
Appeals Process
An appeal from Family Court is heard in the Appellate Division of Supreme Court. (The
Appellate Division is divided into four Judicial Departments; appeals from the Suffolk County
Family Court are heard in the Second Department.) Further appeals are brought before the Court of
Appeals, New York State's court of last resort.

The Population Served: Suffolk County
Suffolk County is located on the eastern end of Long Island, the 118-mile long island
extending northeast from New York City into the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. It has a
geographic area of 912 square miles. Hauppauge serves as the county seat. As of the 2000 US
census, the county's population was 1,419,369 which represents a 7.4 percent increase from 1990
census figure of 1,321,768.
Total Filings in the Suffolk County Family Court,
The total filings in the Suffolk County Family Court have consistently increased in the
past few years. In 1998, there were 41,630 total filings. Total filings have generally increased
each year since 1998. However, the 2003 filings totaled 46,409 which represented a slight
decline (approximately 5 %) from the 2002 total of 48,835.

For the past five years, the overwhelming majority of the cases filed in the Suffolk
County Family Court have been neglect and abuse or support cases. For instance, in 1998, there
were 10,608 total neglect and abuse filings which constituted approximately 25% of the total
filings for that year. In that same year, there were 8,557 support petitions filed. In recent years,
neglect and abuse cases have somewhat declined while support filings have continued to rise. In
2003, neglect and abuse filings dropped to a five year low of 9,298 filings while support filings
(both IVD and non-IVD) reached an all-time high of 13,046.
Another notable trend was the increase in Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS) filings
during the period. In 1998, there were 914 PINS filings. This number has almost doubled by
2003 to 1628 filings.
In 2003, the year of the monitoring project, the majority of cases filed were support
(13,046), followed by neglect and abuse (9,298), custody (9,173), paternity (4,706), family
offense (4,074), juvenile delinquency (1,859), PINS (1,628), USDL (1281), and custody (682)
cases. Designated felony (183), foster care review (115) and foster care placement (59)
constituted a relatively small portion of the Suffolk Family Court’s caseload in 2003.

Following are the monitors' evaluations of each judge in the Suffolk 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 data on each judge and summaries of the monitors'
findings. The supervising judge is listed first, with the remaining judges listed alphabetically by
last name.
Hon. David Freundlich
Hon. David Freundlich is a graduate of the University of Buffalo and Toledo Law
School. From 1971 to 1974, he was an assistant district attorney for Kings County, and from
1974 to 1988, served as an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County. In 1988, he was elected
to the Suffolk County Family Court on the Republican and Conservative tickets, and re-elected
in 1998. Judge Freundlich is the Supervising Judge of the Suffolk County Family Court.
Judge Freundlich was observed by fifteen monitors on thirteen different days.
Judge Freundlich was described as being "compassionate," "courteous," "attentive," and
"patient" and "polite" with litigants and others in the courtroom. One monitor noted, "He was
warm and friendly to children who were [making progress in] programs and stern with those in
trouble." Another monitor observed an occasion when as an adolescent was being led away in
handcuffs and Judge Freundlich invited the mother to "give him a hug" which she promptly did.
In another case, "He asked that a chair be set up for a mother who apparently had fainted in a
previous appearance." One monitor noted, "Judge Freundlich appears to have a friendly
relationship with the personnel in the courtroom."
One monitor who observed Judge Freundlich presiding over a Youth Drug Court was
"most impressed" by his familiarity with the cases, but mostly by how "warmly and
enthusiastically" he congratulated a boy who had completed a drug rehabilitation program.
Monitors also found him firm when necessary. One observer noted, "He is firm and
rather unbending in his insistence that the people that come before him take him seriously."
Another monitor observed a PINS (Persons in need of supervision) case in which the probation
officer had fail to note in the probation report that the child had been suspended 33 times from
school during the school year. The monitor noted, the "judge was obviously upset, but kept his
cool" but added: “‘Starting next week, I'm going to have every probation officer come in and tell
the court how they perform their duties.’" During another case, Judge Freundlich rightly
"chastised" an attorney, whom the monitor felt exhibited a "lack of professionalism" and who
"interrupted the judge more than once."

Monitors described Judge Freundlich as "professional" as well as "thorough." They
found that he "gave clear explanations" and "listened attentively to all the participants in the
courtroom." One monitor noted, " He carried a very heavy caseload but is attentive and
unhurried in handling each one."`
Several monitors noted that Judge Freundlich seemed knowledgeable about the cases. For
example, one monitor observed, Judge Freundlich "seemed familiar with most of the twenty
children who appeared before him."
Command of the Courtroom
Monitors reported that the courtroom was under "good control" and "orderly." One
monitor observed, "It was absolutely quiet when he entered and during the session." One
monitor attributed his maintenance of control to the fact that Judge Freundlich "commanded the
respect" of others in the courtroom.
Monitors reported that hearing Judge Freundlich did not appear to be a problem while
some lawyers and litigants were difficult to understand.
Hon. Gregory Jay Blass
Hon. Gregory Blass is a graduate of Fordham University and Fordham University Law
School. From 1975 to 1995, he was an attorney in private practice. From 1980 to 1989, and
from 1994 to 1995, he served in the Suffolk County Legislature. In 1995, he was elected to the
Suffolk County Family Court.
Judge Blass, who sits in the Riverhead branch of the Family Court, was observed by three
monitors on two different days.
The monitors described Judge Blass as "courteous," "concerned" and "extremely patient."
They also noted that he "listened attentively" and "treated everyone with respect." On monitor
was impressed when she heard Judge Blass say that he "has responsibility to the children"
involved in these actions. One monitor stated that he was "passion[ate]" about protecting
children and seemed to know "what was needed at this time in their lives."
Two monitors noted that he could also be "firm" when appropriate, citing an occasion
when he told a mother with an alcohol recidivism problem that she had to choose between
"booze" and her "kid" because "her 17 year old son was in agony because of her alcoholism." In
another case involving unpaid child support payments, "He granted a man a 10-day extension, as

requested, but warned him that 'either you come with a check [to your next appearance] or you
go [away] in handcuffs."
Judge Blass was seen as "thoroughly" professional. All three monitors emphasized that
he frequently explained, in some detail, the rationale behind his rulings on objections. For
instance, in one case in which he denied a boy's request, who had violated the terms of his
probation, to stay at home, Judge Blass explained to the boy that "he'd like to let him stay but
that his home 'was not a stable home' and was a 'major contributing factor'” to his situation. One
monitor concluded, Judge Blass "took the time to explain" his rulings to the parties and "that it
was in their best interest...to comply with the court's orders."
Command of the Courtroom
The monitors stated that Judge Blass maintained "excellent" control of the courtroom at
all times. As one monitor stated, he was "fully in command."
Although all three monitors had difficulty hearing the proceedings, they found that Judge
Blass was audible. One monitor noted, "He was the only one [in the courtroom] that I didn't
have trouble hearing." On one occasion, Judge Blass instructed a caseworker to speak louder.
Hon. Peter Dounias
Hon. Peter Dounias is a graduate of Syracuse University and Brooklyn Law School.
From 1965 to 1979, he held a variety of positions in the Town of Smithtown including
councilman, town attorney, and special counsel to the Board of Zoning Appeals. From 1980 to
1989, he was a District Court Judge. In 1996, he was elected to the Suffolk County Family
Court on the Republican and Conservative Party tickets.
Judge Dounias was observed by fourteen monitors on ten different days.
The monitors impressed by Judge Dounias' manner on the bench, describing him as
"attentive," "serious" and "formal" but "kind to litigants." They felt he treated those in the
courtroom with "respect."
Monitors also found Judge Dounias to be helpful and accommodating when dealing with
litigants. One monitor observed, "To a woman who said [that] she had misplaced her temporary
order of protection, he said she could wait: "We'll get you another copy." Another observer
witnessed Judge Dounias telling "a woman petitioner waiting for Legal Aid attorney, [that] he

didn't want her to be without an attorney" because "I want to be sure that you understand [what's
happening here.]'"
Judge Dounias was described as "very professional" and "objective" by several of the
monitors. They found that he explained "all rulings" to the litigants, sometimes offered them
"different options," and "made certain that his rulings were clearly understood." One monitor
was particularly impressed by the manner in which he issued orders of protection. The monitor
observed, "Many individuals were not represented by an attorney" so "he asked if the individuals
before him [if they] understood the procedures."
Monitors also noted that Judge Dounias encouraged the litigants to participate when
appropriate. One monitor commented, "He was interested in hearing each party express himself."
One monitor noted that Judge Dounias appeared observant: "He was quick to notice [that]
some things in papers were missing."
Several monitors mentioned that his cases were moved along "quickly" and "efficiently."
One monitor observed, If there was a time when the [judge] was waiting, the court officers
[would] suggest [another] case." Another monitor noted, "The judge and his 'team' worked very
well together. They had to coordinate a lot of different cases and participants and they seemed to
do it very efficiently."
Monitors were particularly impressed by Judge Dounias' efficiency considering his
caseload. One monitor noted, "The caseload for this judge" was "staggering." The monitor
added, "I was exhausted watching how hard this judge worked."
Command of the Courtroom
Most monitors noted that Judge Dounias kept "excellent" control of the courtroom in a
"low-key" manner. One monitor described the courtroom as "quiet." Another monitor
commented, "His command of the courtroom showed lots of experience."
Many of the monitors had difficulty hearing the proceedings at times. Judge Dounias was
described as "soft-spoken."
Hon. Joan Genchi
Hon. Joan Genchi is a graduate of Long Island University’s C.W. Post College and
Hofstra University Law School. From 1980 to 1998, she was an attorney in private practice. In
1998, she received an interim appointment to the Suffolk County District Court, and was elected
to the District Court on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party tickets. In 2003,

she was elected to the Suffolk County Family Court on the Democratic, Republican,
Conservative, and Independence Party tickets.
Judge Genchi was observed by ten monitors on seven different days.
The monitors described Judge Genchi as having a "courteous" manner and noted that she
"treated all participants with respect" and "listened carefully to litigants" but was "firm"
particularly with attorneys.
One monitor commended Judge Genchi for maintaining her composure when dealing
with a hostile attorney. The monitor felt that "the judge gave great leeway" to the respondents'
attorney including "clearing the courtroom to enable [the attorney] to have a private discussion
with her client."
On another occasion, however, one monitor felt that Judge Genchi "showed her
annoyance" and was noticeably "upset when lawyer was not quite prepared."
Monitors praised Judge Genchi for "carefully" explaining her rulings. One monitor
noted, "The judge made sure that everyone was 'on the same page' and provided clarifications to
prevent confusion among all the parties." One monitor, however, described her explanations as
Monitors commended Judge Genchi for being "thorough" including "obtaining
[additional] information from litigants and attorneys."
One monitor reported that noted that she appeared to be "chewing gum" while hearing
Command of the Courtroom
Most monitors considered Judge Genchi's control of her courtroom to be "good" to
"excellent." One monitor observed, "It felt like the attorneys, court officers, etc. were in sync
with each other and knew what the judge expected." Another observer felt that she had
"complete control" of the courtroom with "the exception that [court personnel] entered and left
the court[room] without closing the doors in a quiet manner."
Monitors reported Judge Genchi was "soft spoken," but audible. However, several noted
that many litigants and witnesses spoke too softly to be heard and that "sometimes noise from the
hall made it difficult to hear."

Hon. Dudley L. Lehman
Hon. Dudley Lehman is a graduate of New York University and Brooklyn Law School.
From 1965 to 1995, he was an attorney in private practice. In addition, from 1988 to 1995, he
was a small claims arbitrator in the Suffolk County District Court, and from 1974 to 1988 and
1990 to 1995, special counsel to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Board for the Town
of Smithtown. In 1996, he was appointed to an interim position as a Suffolk County District
Court judge. From 1997 to 1998, he served as the principal law clerk to the Hon. Charles F.
Cacciabaudo in the Suffolk County Court. In 1998, he received an interim appointment from
Governor George E. Pataki to the Suffolk County Family Court, and was subsequently elected to
the Family Court.
Judge Lehman was observed by seven monitors on seven different days.
Monitors described Judge Lehman as "patient" "courteous" judge who was "caring" yet
"firm." One monitor described the atmosphere in Judger Lehman’s courtroom as "very casual"
yet professional. This monitor felt that the "judge work[ed] very well with attorneys and other
Several monitors pointed out that Judge Lehman could be "firm" when appropriate. In
one case in which "the judge appeared upset at the battered appearance of a child", he decided to
immediately remove all the children from the home despite the objections of the family's
attorney who wanted to put on two additional witnesses.
Monitors felt that Judge Lehman was "thorough." One monitor noted that he took time to
explain matters to litigants.
Monitors described proceedings in Judge Lehman’s courtroom as efficient. One monitor
stated, He wastes no time...there [was] a steady stream of progress" through the caseload."
Another observer noted, He "expressed his frustration with all the delays" resulting from
attorneys not appearing or appearing late.
Command of the Courtroom
The monitors all had positive comments about Judge Lehman’s control of his courtroom.
They noted sessions in his courtroom were "orderly" and "quiet." One monitor related, "A
young person came into the courtroom chewing gum. The Judge had someone give her a piece
of paper to wrap her gum before proceeding."

Monitors had no difficulty hearing Judge Lehman. Several noted that others: lawyers,
litigants, and witnesses spoke too softly to be heard clearly in Judge Lehman’s courtroom.
Hon. Barbara Lynaugh
Hon. Barbara Lynaugh is a graduate of State University of New York at Old Westbury
and Hofstra University School of Law. From 1976 to 1985, she was a registered nurse. From
1985 to 1993, she was a staff attorney in the Family Court Division of the Legal Aid Society of
Suffolk County. From 1993 to 2000, she served as a hearing examiner in the Suffolk County
Family Court. In 2000, she was elected to the bench of the Suffolk County Family Court.
Judge Lynaugh was observed by ten monitors on eleven different days.
Monitors described Judge Lynaugh as "courteous," "patient," and "respectful." One
monitor felt that she "tried to accommodate the litigants." Another monitor observed that Judge
Lynaugh "was very patient with one litigant who was quite upset."
Several monitors observed Judge Lynaugh's "concern" for litigants and children. On one
occasion, when a young woman said she was "chilly," Judge Lynaugh "got her own sweater and
gave it to her." She spoke "consolingly" to one boy who was very upset over his placement and
tried to accommodate another boy who wanted to be assigned to a different school to participate
in sports.
However, several monitors felt that she appeared "distant" or somewhat "removed from
the proceedings" because "she had nothing to say to those appearing before her beyond the bare
minimum" or "never asked any questions of any of the lawyers."
Monitors found Judge Lynaugh gave "clear" and "thorough" explanations. One monitor
noted, she "explained the outcome thoroughly" to litigants.
Several monitors noted that Judge Lynaugh "moves cases along" and "handled cases
quickly when no questions arose."
Command of the Courtroom
Most monitors reported that Judge Lynaugh maintained "order" and "quiet" in the
courtroom. However, one monitor described an occasion when it seemed the judge allowed one
witness to "ramble" during testimony. The monitor noted, "She allowed the litigant to go on and

Monitors noted that Judge Lynaugh spoke softly or "mumbled" much of the time;
resulting in her being "difficult to hear."
Hon. Ettore A. Simeone
Hon. Ettore Simeone is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton
and Albany Law School. From 1981 to 1989, he served as an assistant district attorney for
Suffolk County. From 1990 to 1997, he served as principal law clerk to State Supreme Court
Justice H. Patrick Leis III. In 1997, he was appointed to the Suffolk County Family Court by
Governor George E. Pataki on an interim basis and elected to the Family Court the following
Judge Simeone was observed by ten monitors on eleven different days.
The monitors described Judge Simeone as "calm," "courteous," and "respectful to
everyone." One monitor praised, "Judge Simeone cares for the children." Another described the
judge as "like a father who was sympathetic yet firm."
Monitors praised the manner in which Judge Simeone interacted with children and others
involved in the proceedings. One monitor was impressed that he talked to the involved children,
"letting them know that they were empowered to make things better or worse." This monitor
also pointed out that Judge Simeone used "certificates, pictures with the judge and applause" to
encourage the children. Another monitor recounted a case in which a sign language translator
was used with parents who were both profoundly hearing impaired. This monitor praised the
judge for his patience with the parents and the translator: “the parents were agitated but the judge
explained and explained until the [parents]] understood their rights and the consequences of their
behavior plus the reasons for his numerous [rulings] in the case.”
Monitors found Judge Simeone to be "highly professional." They stressed that he was
“very knowledgeable” on all observed cases and gave clear and thorough explanations, and
"made sure he was understood." Another monitor noted, "His questions to petitioners were clear
and on point." One monitor was impressed that he explained “which options were available for
each litigant” particularly which program would best suit them.
Monitors praised Judge Simeone for the efficient manner in which he conducted
proceedings. One monitor remarked, "Judge Simeone ran a very efficient courtroom with the
very willing cooperation of his staff." One monitor was impressed with efforts not to waste time
when a placement for a child had to be arranged. The monitor observed that the judge or a
member of his staff would “on the spot” call the agency to start the placement process. On

another occasion Judge Simeone was actively involved in assuring that the afternoon session
ended on time in keeping with new overtime rules for staff.
Monitors also were impressed by the formality of proceedings in Judge Simeone's
courtroom. Two monitors were impressed that, in their experience, only Judge Simeone began
the day with the Pledge of Allegiance. One monitor noted, "It was an effective reminder of
where were and what was happening." Another approvingly observed, "This was [only] the
second courtroom here in family court where we were asked to rise each time the judge entered."
Command of the Courtroom
In general, monitors reported that Judge Simeone was in “good” control of his courtroom.
Some monitors had difficulty hearing Judge Simeone and suggested, “The judge should
speak up.” Noise from the hallway and opening doors was reported as a problem attributed his
Hon. Jeffrey Arlen Spinner
Hon. Jeffrey Arlen Spinner is a graduate of Ithaca College and Touro College’s Jacob D.
Fuchsberg Law Center. From 1987 to 1997, he was engaged in private practice in Hartford,
Connecticut and later in Suffolk County. From 1991 to 1997, he served as a small claims
arbitrator in the Suffolk County District Court. In January 1998, he appointed a judge of the
Suffolk County District Court on an interim basis by Hon. Robert Gaffney, Suffolk County
Executive. In November 1998, he was elected Judge of the County Court of Suffolk County,
and assigned to the Family Court in September 1999. During this project, Judge Spinner was the
Presiding Judge of the Family Court Treatment Court as well as the Co-Presiding Judge of the
Suffolk County Juvenile Drug Treatment Court.
Judge Spinner was observed by sixteen monitors on sixteen different days.
Monitors described Judge Spinner as “courteous,” “empathetic” and
compassionate. Several monitors described as having a “good rapport” with all of the people
involved” in the proceedings. One monitor reported, he “treated the litigants fairly” and
“allowed for [their] input.” Others noted that he was “encouraging” to the litigants and
“interacted beautifully with the families.” One monitor reported that he seemed particularly
"delighted" when conducting adoption proceedings.

Judge Spinner was described as very “professional.” Monitors noted that he gave
thorough, clear explanations and “appeared to be knowledgeable” about the cases and “knew the
litigants that appeared before him.”
Monitors praised the “efficient” manner in which Judge Spinner handled his caseload.
One monitor observed, “Judge Spinner was the only judge sitting after July 4th weekend [and]
he moved multiple cases with speed and efficiency.” Another observer noted, when there was a
delay in the proceedings (to wait for drug testing results), he dealt with paper from another case.”
Command of the Courtroom
Monitors reported a generally well-controlled courtroom and those in the court “were
quiet and attentive.” During another observation, the judge instructed a litigant not to wear a
tank top (her attire that day) for her next court appearance.
Most of the monitors reported being able to hear Judge Spinner only some of the time.
Several noted that Judge Spinner spoke softly. Noise from courtroom doors and the hallway
interfered with audibility for several monitors.
One monitor felt that Judge Spinner "connected with children," giving them a "positive
view " of the justice system. This monitor was especially impressed with the judge's interactions
with one family that had five adopted children including one that was hearing impaired.
Hon. Patrick A. Sweeney
Hon. Patrick Sweeney is a graduate of Iona College and St John’s University Law
School. From 1965 to 1968, he was an attorney in private practice. From 1970 to 1972, he was
an attorney in the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County’s Civil and Criminal Divisions as well as
its Law Guardian’s Office. From 1972 to 1979, he was an assistant county attorney for Suffolk
County, and from 1980 to 1998, he was a sole practitioner as well as special counsel to the Town
of Huntington. In 1998, he was elected to the Suffolk County District Court on the Republic,
Conservative and Right to Life tickets. He served in the District Court until his election to the
Family Court in 2001.
Judge Sweeney was observed by seven monitors on seven different days.

Judge Sweeney was generally described as courteous and patient by the monitors. One
monitor observed that Judge Sweeney appeared “helpful to litigants and attorneys.” Another
monitor described a situation in which Judge Sweeney and an attorney were in disagreement yet
treated each other with respect.
Monitors described Judge Sweeney as “efficient” and “thorough.” Several reported that
he gave clear explanations and that he seemed “objective.”
In terms of preparation, two monitors felt that the judge appeared to be unprepared in
some cases because “he was generally looking at papers while the ADA and [other] lawyers
were speaking.”
Command of the Courtroom
Monitors generally found that maintained order in the courtroom. One monitor noted that
Judge Sweeney had “excellent” control of the courtroom.
Three monitors reported difficulty hearing the judge and others. They noted that the judge
spoke softly and often did not ask others to speak up. Several commented on the constant traffic
in and out of the courtroom through the door behind the judge, which interfered with the
audibility of the proceedings.
Hon. Kerry R. Trainor
Judge Trainor did not respond to Modern Courts’ request for biographical data. Judge
Trainor was observed by fourteen monitors on ten different days
A majority of the monitors found Judge Trainor to be courteous. They also described
him as patient, attentive, and respectful of "parental concerns." One monitor noted that he
assisted litigants with appropriate questions and guidance. A monitor observed that the judge
was stern and to the point in order to move the court calendar on a busy day. Another monitor
reported one occasion when the judge was “tough” with a non-custodial father with an extensive
criminal history, prohibiting any contact or show of affection to his son in the courtroom.

Monitors described Judge Trainor as very professional, noting that he was thorough and
efficient. One monitor noted that the Judge gave clear explanations to adolescents and children,
while another reported that he used "paraphrasing" to clarify issues with litigants. A monitor
described one situation in which Judge Trainor used "tough but fair questioning to determine the
true feelings of a young offender who had previously shown disdain for the court."
Command of the Courtroom
The majority of monitors reported that Judge Trainor's courtroom was well controlled,
although one reported that he did not appear to be "bothered" by the noise of doors and people
entering and leaving the courtroom. One monitor described the judge as a "powerhouse" in
command to the courtroom.
Monitors reported that proceedings were audible all or most of the time. As noted above,
people entering and leaving the courtroom were a distraction for some monitors.

The following are the monitors' evaluations of the support magistrates (“magistrates”)
during the project. Monitors made a total of twenty observations of Support magistrates at work
in the Family Court. As in their observations of the judges, monitors focused on such qualities as
demeanor, professionalism, and ability to maintain control of the proceedings.
Overall, monitors praised the demeanor of support magistrates observed in the Family
Court. Monitors described the magistrates as “patient” “courteous” and “respectful” to litigants,
but also as “no-nonsense,” “business-like” and even “stern” when necessary.
Monitors observed that Magistrate Isabel Buse “treated all who came before her with
courtesy and respect” and “she listened intently to all litigants.” They also noted that Magistrate
Buse “was firm when she needed to be” such as “politely urging participants to come to the
point.” One monitor noted she “showed patience and kindness” in a case involving “elderly
confused custodial grandmother.”
The three monitors who observed Magistrate Althea Fields-Ferraro described her as
“attentive” and “courteous” but with a “no nonsense” attitude. One monitor, she felt she was
somewhat “cool and aloof.” This monitor felt that “an occasional smile, a little friendliness
would go a long way.” Another monitor described her as somewhat "remote."
Magistrate Denise Livrieri was described by as “courteous,” “friendly,” and “patient.”
She seemed “very interested,” one monitor noted. Another stated Magistrate Livrieri was “very
gracious in allowing for an unscheduled hearing for two litigants who were there on a different
matter. The monitor also noted, that although the hearing “took quite a long time,” that
Magistrate Livrieri “showed no impatience.” Yet another monitor praised Magistrate Livrieri for
encouraging litigants to participate in decision-making.
Monitors described Magistrate Plosky as “very courteous.” They also noted that
Magistrate Plosky was “very stern” at times “but very polite.”
Monitors observed that Magistrate John Raimondi treated “litigants and lawyers with
respect and patience.” One monitor observed, he “allowed one litigant who ‘wanted to get it on
the record’ to speak extensively about his complaints. When completed, he was ready to comply
with the [Magistrate’s] suggestions.” Several monitors noted that Magistrate Raimondi “had an
excellent rapport with attorneys.”
Monitors noted that although Magistrate Raimondi “was agreeable to most requests,” he
could be stern as well. Mr. Raimondi “was quite stern with one litigant” when “he made it clear
that any further violations [of the] child support [order] would lead to his incarceration.” It was
also noted by one monitor that Magistrate Raimondi had a “very assertive clear voice that called
for attentiveness by [all] those present.”

Monitors described Magistrate William Rodriquez as “very business-like” and “stern” but
“encouraging” to litigants when it was necessary. Magistrate Rodriquez received praise from
several monitors for not “pressuring” litigants to make agreements but carefully explaining the
options available to them.
Monitors generally found the support magistrates to be “very professional” and “well-
prepared.” In particular, monitors were impressed by the “thoroughness” and “clarity” of their
explanations and rulings.
For example, one monitor stated Magistrate
Buse’s “thoroughness was evident
throughout” and another monitor noted that Ms. Buse “made sure litigants understood [her
rulings or the procedures] even if she had to repeat them.”
One monitor noted that Magistrate Fields-Ferraro “explained her rulings very well [even]
repeated some points several times” and “asked the respondent to write down what he had to
One monitor observed, “Despite what appeared to be a heavy caseload, [Magistrate
Rodriguez] asked probing questions and based upon the response, explained the various options
and/or the requirements of the law and then scheduled the necessary follow-up actions.”
Monitors also praised the support magistrates for their “efficient” use of court time.
During delays often resulting from litigants failing to appear, Magistrate Buse “used [the time] to
sign papers” or “enter information” into her computer. Another monitor commented, “She
moved things along, keeping participants focused on relevant matters.”
One monitor reported, Magistrate Raimondi “used…time efficiently” during the cases
and “in between sessions he directed [his clerk] to execute certain documents” or “reviewed case
[file] in preparation” for hearing the cases.
Although Magistrate Jill Plosky “spoke rapidly,” she “explained each hearing to all
involved” as she moved cases along, completing twenty-four cases during one session.
Command of the Courtroom
Monitors were impressed by the “excellent” and, in some cases, “complete” control
maintained by the support magistrates during the support and paternity proceedings that they
observed. One monitor stated, Magistrate Jennifer Buetow “maintained control of litigants and
attorneys. She knew how to handle certain situations that arose.” Another reported that
Magistrate Buse maintained “complete order” in the courtroom. Magistrate Buse reprimanded
“one respondent [for his] disrespect for the court since he failed to notify court that he would be
late (7 hours!) for his 9 AM appearance the day before.” On another occasion, a monitor

observed Magistrate Raimondi “sen[d] a sheriff to her place of work [of one litigant] to reinforce
the importance of being in court when expected.”
Monitors generally found that the proceedings in the support magistrates’ hearing rooms
were audible due in part to the smaller size of these rooms. However, the magistrates
“occasionally had to remind participants to speak up into the microphones since [the]
proceedings were being recorded” and several monitors noted that often the support magistrates
“spoke too rapidly.”

During this monitoring project, monitors observed a variety of attorneys at work in the
Family Court, including law guardians from the Legal Aid Society (who are charged with
safeguarding the legal rights of the children in family court proceedings), other court-appointed
attorneys, assistant district attorneys, and county attorneys representing local government
agencies. On occasion, litigants appeared with a privately-retained attorney. However, in some
cases, particularly support matters, monitors found that the litigants frequently appeared without
any legal representation.
Treatment of Litigants and Others
Monitors generally found that attorneys in the Family Court "treated litigants and judge[s]
respectfully" and were "professional." Monitors noted that court-appointed attorneys "appeared
caring and considerate" particularly in the juvenile delinquency parts. One monitor found that
attorneys seemed "cooperative" with the judges and other attorneys. One ADA was praised for
"his appeal to the pregnant young woman to reconcile with her mother who was caring for her
other child. His comments were apt, moving, eloquent and understandable."
Monitors were particularly impressed by the law guardians' "concerned" and often
"compassionate" treatment of the children that they represented and others in the courtroom.
One monitor noted, "The law guardian [who] was involved in a majority of the cases, …had an
excellent rapport with the litigants, their families and the judges." A monitor described another
law guardian as "conscientious, reassuring to new clients assigned to him that day,” noted that he
carefully ascertained what they were seeking [and] explained how he intended to proceed."
Another monitor observed, "Two law guardians [who] seemed to work as a team, and did a fine
job." However, one judge "berated” a law guardian whose behavior was distracting to the
proceedings and “interrupted the judge more than once."
Adequacy of Representation
Overall, monitors were impressed by the “forceful” and “knowledgeable” manner in
which the attorneys represented their clients in the Family Court. One monitor described the
assistant county attorney in an abuse and neglect case as "excellent," noting that he was "very
active in proposing solutions.” Another monitor was impressed that, in one abuse case, the law
guardian and another attorney "persisted" in asking for corrections to a report presented by a
county attorney who "appeared not to be up to speed on a case" and "resisted their requests to
revise his [agency's] reports." The monitor "commended" the law guardian and the other
attorney "for caring about being as accurate as possible for the sake of their client." In another
case, a monitor observed a law guardian who "volunteered to go to a [facility that the judge was
unfamiliar with] the following day on his lunch hour" to facilitate the placement of a child that
he was representing.

Level of Preparation
Monitors reported that the majority of attorneys were prepared. One monitor observed
that a law guardian, who when asked for an opinion about a case, "was well versed in case and
gave detailed findings and case facts." Another monitor described a case in which the "law
guardian seemed to be the most informed person as to follicle testing and the law" informing the
Judge that "he had the power to order it." In another case before Magistrate Buse, a monitor
stated, “the ACA (assistant county attorney) had close control of the information needed and was
prepared to answer all questions.” Another monitor was “most impressed by the ADA because
he was so prepared.”
Although many attorneys observed by the monitors seemed prepared, some attorneys
appeared unfamiliar with their clients and cases. One monitor observed a law guardian “taking
on” five cases on the spot. The monitor noted that the law guardian “introduced himself to these
new clients and discussed their cases with them” in the courtroom. Another monitor commented,
“I think it would be helpful if Legal Aid attorneys had more time to meet with clients before
court session.” This monitor added, “At times some have had to talk to clients in front of the
Monitors attributed the lack of preparation of some attorneys to their heavy caseloads.
One monitor observed that some attorneys arrived with "stacks and stacks of [files]." It
appeared to another observer that, “some Legal Aid Attorneys are given too many cases to
handle.” However, some attorneys received praise for their preparation despite their heavy
caseload. For instance, one monitor commented, "Mr. Abel, a county attorney, was very well
organized despite a massive file."
Absent or Late Attorneys
Occasionally, court proceedings were delayed due to late arriving or absent attorneys.
For instance, in one case, a Legal Aid Attorney for a litigant did not show up. The litigant was
told that “someone [from Legal Aid] would meet” her in the courtroom. The proceedings were
delayed while a “call was made to Legal Aid.” One observed a court session where “one attorney
came three hours late and did not have the proper papers” with the “excuse [that] he had to be at
Supreme Court in Riverhead” and appeared to the monitor that the attorney “was not particularly
sorry for inconveniencing [the] other attorney for 3 hours.” Another monitor remarked,
"Attorneys know when they are to be in court. They should make the effort to be there on time."
Many monitors reported that it was often difficult to hear the attorneys. One monitor
observed that "The attorneys were talking among themselves and to people in the audience”
contributing to the audibility problem.

Non-judicial court personnel have an enormous impact on the public's perception of the
Family Court, as well as on the quality of justice that is dispensed. Litigants spend much time
outside the courtroom, dealing with court clerks, court officers, and other personnel.
In most courtrooms, court clerks, court officers, and sometimes a court reporter may be
present. Occasionally a foreign language or American Sign Language translator is also
available. Litigants often encounter these people outside the courtroom environment, during
intake, while waiting for cases to be called, or while arranging for support or other services.
The majority of the monitors found that the non-judicial court personnel particularly the
court officers were “helpful” and “polite.” Many found court officers provided assistance in
finding court proceedings; others noted that they willingly answered questions. One experienced
monitor commented, "I must say that the attitude of personnel has changed (for the better) in the
years I've been a monitor. ... After six years of monitoring I feel we have accomplished so very
much." Another monitor noted that "staff seemed very compatible with each other" and
postulated that the assignment of court officers to one judge may have contributed to "team"
formation. Yet another veteran monitor said, "I have the sense of good morale in Family Court,
more so than in other courts."
Among the negative reports, frequent and noisy entering and leaving the courtroom was
the most common unfavorable comment about both court officers and court clerks. One monitor
reported that her question, to a court officer, was ignored; another observed a court officer
chewing and drinking water in the courtroom.
In the great majority of cases, no translator was needed. In the cases, where an translator
was needed, generally an translator was available. Several monitors noted that the primary need
was for Spanish translators although monitors observed translators ranging from Turkish
language to sign language. One monitor was told that there was a Spanish translator on staff
while those for other languages were called as needed.
For the most part, the requested translator arrived with little delay. However, this was not
always true. Several monitors reported significant delays in obtaining an translator on several
occasions. One commented that there were too many requests for this service and others noted
that proceedings were delayed or rescheduled in a few cases awaiting a translator. Alternate
approaches were used on occasion: one attorney was bi-lingual as was a probation officer in
another case, and both served as translators in their cases.
One monitor praised, a sign language translator “helped to keep [a litigant] calm” who
was very agitated.

To help troubled families and children resolve their problems, the Family Court relies in
part on the work of governmental and non-governmental agencies. Monitors observed
representatives from some of these agencies at work in the Family Court.
The primary county agencies represented in the Suffolk County Family Court were the
Department of Social Services (DSS), including the Support Collection Unit (SCU) and Child
Protective Services (CPS), and the Department of Probation. Additionally, monitors observed
representatives from local school districts, shelter and detention facilities, and domestic violence
victim advocates, among others.
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 Support Collection Unit aids
persons seeking determinations of support and helps to collect support payments.
Representatives for the Department of Social Services were observed frequently in the
Suffolk County Family Court. In many case, monitors reported that they were “prepared” and
“efficiently presented their information.” One DSS representative was praised for being
“reassuring to a boy being sent to Sagamore” detention facility. However, in one case, the judge
asked the CPS representative to “get more complete information before the judge [c]ould make a
decision.” Another monitor observed a DSS representative who “rambled on and on” and
appeared “poorly organized.”
Department of Probation
The Department of Probation assists the Family Court with evaluation of those involved
in juvenile delinquency and Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS) cases. 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.
Representatives from the Department of Probation appeared ill prepared in several cases
that the monitors observed. One monitor observed proceedings that were delayed due to the
“absence of the probation officer.” On another occasion, a monitor stated that the probation
officer involved in the case "did not appear to have information on status of available facilities
for young people requiring supervised housing.” The monitor noted, “Cases had to be
adjourned which appears to put a burden on parents having to take [time off work] again, and
children returning for unsupervised settings.” In another case, a probation officer and his
supervisor “signed off” of the release of a PINS girl seeking release from supervision without
reporting or even being aware that she had been suspended from school 33 times in the past year.
A monitor observed, “Judge Freundlich told the [officer] who had primary responsibility for

checking on the girl: ‘You have the duty to perform. The court has to rely on that. What do you
do all day.’”
Other Observations
One monitor was concerned about an incident which she observed. "I don't know what
agency it was but two men were testing urine in a cup ... right by the telephone and across from
the bathroom." The specimen apparently was from a younger man who was also present. The
monitor was concerned about privacy and sanitation issues.

Delays and Adjournments
Monitors found that frequently proceedings in the Family Court were delayed for a
variety of reasons. They commonly cited for the delays were late or absent attorneys. One
monitor recounted an occasion where the “attorney was absent and despite efforts to locate him,
the case was put off until two o’clock.” Another monitor noted, attorneys were sometimes late
because they were in other courtrooms.
Delays also frequently resulted from the non-appearance or lateness of litigants. One
monitor, who observed a judge retire to chambers because none of the attorneys or litigants was
present, felt “too much time was wasted waiting for litigants to show up as well as an attorney.”
Another cause of delays was the late addition of cases to the judge’s or support
magistrate’s calendar. For instance, one monitor noted that there was a delay during the session
because “six additional cases were sent to one judge” from another judge’s calendar. Another
monitor witnessed a case where the judge “explained several times to attorneys and litigants that
cases had been added to the calendar” which resulted in delays in hearing their cases.
In some cases, monitors found that the reason for the delay was not explained. One
monitor reported, “The courtroom was locked until 10:27. I was waiting outside with parents and
their children [since] 9 AM [and] the court officers and the law guardian said nothing to the
group waiting.” The monitor suggested, “when a judge is [starting] late, perhaps the people
waiting in the hall could be informed.”
Computer System Related Delays
Monitors reported that the court’s new computer system was causing delays in the
proceedings. For instance, in a support case, a monitor reported, “‘a computer down situation’
prevented confirmation of certain alimony payments forcing an adjournment.” This monitors
also noted that a “scheduling error brought in substantial numbers of petitioner and respondents
at 2PM resulting in a large backlog.” Another monitor observed a session where the judge had to
delay proceedings because the “the computer has lost many papers or misplaced them.” More
than one monitor observed proceedings in which the judge attributed a delay to “waiting for the
computer to clear” a recently updated case. One monitor reported that the judge explained the
delays by stating, “I can’t go on to the next case until the computer has cleared the last case.” A
court officer elaborated on the judges’ explanation by stating, “the only reason [that proceedings
could not continue was] if we lose it [the case] on the computer, we may not get it back.”
Another monitor witnessed a case where the judge “asked a few litigants to sit and wait” because
their “information [was] not in the computer.”

The Suffolk County Family Court is primarily located in the Peter Cohalan Court
Complex in Central Islip. It is a sprawling 500,000 square foot structure that cost $128 million to
construct. The Complex, which was opened in 1992, also houses the District Court, and other
administrative offices including the offices of the District Administrative Judge and
Commissioner of Jurors. An East End branch of the Family Court is also located in the
Millbrook Office Campus on East Main Street in Riverhead.
General Court Facilities
Central Islip
Monitors described the Central Islip facility as generally "clean," "well-maintained," and
"well-lit." Several monitors noted that cleanliness in particular seemed to be a "priority" and
observed the halls and outside of the building being swept on several occasions.
Although the facilities were generally "clean" and “well-maintained,” there were multiple
occasions when the bathrooms "needed some attention" because they "had toilet paper all over
the floor" or conversely "no toilet paper [or] paper towels" or were “in need of mopping.” Other
monitors found, “a door lock broken so that you couldn’t close the door” on a third floor
bathroom and toilets that would not flush. Several monitors also noted that the toilet seats in the
second floor women’s restroom were in deplorable condition and desperately “need to be
One monitor also noted that the bathroom on the first floor sometimes “reeked of
smoke.” The monitors “didn’t see any ‘No Smoking’ signs” and suggested that there “needs” to
be such a sign and a smoke detector in the bathroom.
"Crowded" "noisy" hallways were reported by many of the monitors. They attributed this
to lack of adequate waiting and conferencing areas in the courthouse. One monitor described the
typical waiting area as a "bench and [some] window ledges just a few feet from the courtroom
doors." Several monitors noted that "often" there were "not enough benches in the hallways"
for waiting litigants. Another observer agreed, describing the hallways as a "free for all" with
"people wandering [around] and arguing" or "meeting with lawyers." Yet another monitor
stated that the hallways on the second and third floors “are filled with people, lawyer [and]
officers.” The monitor added, “I wish there were meeting rooms where litigants and attorneys
could meet privately.” Monitors found that the lack of adequate waiting areas and conferencing
space led to noise in the hallway that sometimes affected the audibility of the proceedings in the
courtroom. As one monitor reported, “people waiting on benches outside [the] courtroom
could be heard speaking loudly at times.”
Monitors who observed in Riverhead facility described the court facilities as “clean,”
“well-lit,” and “comfortable.” Several monitors praised the accessibility of the building for

disabled persons. One monitor noted that “automatic, sliding glass doors at [the] entrance make
for easy [disabled] accessibility” and that there was “an adequate waiting room and good parking
facilities close by.” This monitor also observed that, although there was a children’s center “but
it was not being used because they had no volunteers to staff it.” One monitor also noted that
although the office complex where the family court is located is “easy to spot,” it was difficult to
find the actual building housing the Family Court. This monitor suggested that a sign indicating
where the family court facilities are would be helpful.
Central Islip
Most monitors reported that courtrooms in the Cohalan Court Complex were “clean”,
“well-lit” despite having no windows, and “adequately” maintained. Judge Blass’ courtroom in
Riverhead was described as “clean” and “comfortable” by the monitors. One monitor described
it as “very similar to the courtrooms in Central Islip.”
Seating was inadequate in some courtrooms in which the monitors observed
proceedings. One monitor, who observed a session in Judge Freundlich’s courtroom, reported,
“Sitting was at a premium; many attorneys were present and sometimes it [seemed] like musical
chairs” was being played in the courtroom. In addition to the attorneys, some detained juvenile
offenders were allowed visitation in the courtroom with their families prior to their appearance.
The monitor felt, “Some other arrangement, rather than a bench or a couple of chairs in a
courtroom could be made,” which would also provide the families some privacy. Another
monitor who observed proceedings in Judge Spinner’s courtroom reported, “The room was
entirely too small. Seats had to be brought in and placed in make-shift places.”
Monitors repeatedly reported that the "banging" “noisy” double doors at the entrance of
the courtroom were “intrusive” to the proceedings. During the proceedings, people frequently
entered and exited through the swinging doors at the rear of the courtrooms creating an
“excessive” amount of noise and as one monitor noted, “everyone looks back when the door
closes” which distracts from the proceedings. Monitors noted that the opening of doors also
hindered audibility of the proceedings by allowing noise from the hallways to be heard in the
Monitors recommended that efforts be made to “soften” or “slow” the closing of the
doors. One monitor reported that during an observation in Judge Simeone’s courtroom, the court
officers "were careful to hold the doors until they closed instead of letting them slam. This
greatly improved audibility over other courtrooms."
In regards to the accessibility of the courtrooms for disabled persons, several monitors
noted that the swinging double doors posed a problem for a wheelchair bound party who needed
assistance to navigate the doors. One of the monitors felt that double doors “should be
automatic” to enable disable visitors to easily access the courtroom. Several monitors, however,
noted that a lowered podium was provided for an attorney in a wheelchair.

Hearing Rooms
Central Islip
Monitors repeatedly described the support magistrates' hearing rooms as "small" and
"intimate" but usually "adequate for the cases heard." One monitor noted that the "space was
used efficiently" in the hearing room that she sat in." The same monitor also noted, "The
acoustics were much better than [in] a full-sized courtroom." However, several monitors noted
that hearing room felt "crowded" when litigants appeared with appeared with attorneys or agency
representatives were present for the hearings
On another note, one monitor who observed proceedings in a hearing room on a warm
muggy day felt that the room was "very poorly ventilated." The magistrate indicated that a fan
was available for use in the room but she "rarely used it as the noise interfered with the hearing."
One monitor reported a hearing room where microphones were attached to cords that ran
across the floor; built-in wiring was suggested to avoid accidents.

The Family Court should take measures to reduce the number of delays and
adjournments during the proceedings.
Delays and adjournments in the Suffolk County Family Court often resulted from litigants’
or attorneys’ failure to appear. Monitors believe that there is an urgent need to reduce the number
of non-appearances in the Family Court in order to adjudicate cases in a more timely and efficient
manner. Monitors, and in some cases the court personnel, were often unsure why litigants did not
appear. Monitors urge court administrators in Suffolk County to assess the causes (whether it be the
failure of respondents to be properly served or transport issues) of the vast number of appearances in
the Family Court and possible solutions such as the creation and enforcement of sanctions for non-
appearances and a better means of serving litigants who live outside of the county.
The New York State Legislature should ensure that there is adequate funding for
civil legal services particularly in the Family Court.
Monitors observed the consequences of inadequate funding of civil legal services in New
York State: Legal Aid attorneys and other appointed counsel observed, although praised for their
professionalism including their treatment of litigants, appeared to be overextended. Monitors
witnessed them running from courtroom to courtroom to cover their cases resulting in delays and
adjournments. Worse, the lawyers’ overwhelming caseloads seemed to result in inadequate
preparation. In some cases, attorneys met their clients for the first time just before they appeared
before a judge or, in some instances, at the bench; while most lawyers did their best under the
circumstances, monitors questioned whether a lawyer could be sufficiently familiar with a case
with so little time for preparation.
New York State has shifted the bulk of the burden of its constitutional mandate to
provide public defense services to localities. Localities such as Suffolk County, who are currently
operating under severe budget constraints, struggle to provide quality legal services to indigent
While the Legislature and the Governor increased assigned counsel fees in 2003 to $60
per hour for misdemeanor representation and $75 for felony representation, it is troublesome and
possibly disastrous that the state is not providing any funding for this mandate until 2005,
although the increase is effective as of January of 2004 and that the revenue source is increased
fees paid to the counties.
Thus, the monitors urge both the State of New York to share the costs of providing legal
services to indigent defendants with localities by allocating additional funding and resources for
criminal legal services.

The Suffolk County Department of Probation should improve staffing and
supervision in the Family Court.
Monitors observed proceedings that were delayed because representatives of the
Probation Department did not have necessary information, presented inaccurate or
incomplete information to the judge and magistrates, or failed to appear. Judicial
personnel depend upon timely reports from a variety of agencies in the Probation
Department to make informed rulings that protect the parties’ interests; such information
is especially important in safeguarding the best interests of children. Monitors urge the
County to provide adequate resources to the agencies that serve the Family Court, and
that the agencies institute and enforce quality control measures to ensure that their
children’ interests are protected.
Suffolk County should improve housekeeping and maintenance of the court
The monitors were dismayed by the condition of some of the court’s particularly
the restrooms, which were in deplorable condition. The broken benches, dirty carpeting,
and leaky ceilings diminish the dignity of the court, and inconvenience those who must
use it. We urge the County to provide adequate resources and staffing to maintain the
facilities in a clean and functional condition.
The court’s need for additional waiting areas and conferencing areas should
Monitors reported that, while the courtrooms and hearing rooms appeared to be
adequate in size and well maintained, additional space was needed in the facility. The
hallways become so crowded that litigants and their families have no place to sit and
created noise from the hallways that spilled into the courtrooms. Conferencing space was
woefully inadequate: Attorneys and their clients must conduct discussions in public
waiting areas, jeopardizing attorney/client privilege, and creating noise and chaos in the
courthouse. The monitors urge that the County reallocate space in the family court
complex in order to meet the needs of the Family Court’s litigants and staff.

The Suffolk County Court Monitors and the Fund for Modern Courts wish to thank
Supervising Judge David Freundlich and all the Suffolk County Family Court judges and support
magistrates for their cooperation during this project. They permitted extraordinary access to
Family Court proceedings and readily answered monitors’ questions. Very special thanks go to
Chief Clerk Robert O’Mara and the other court personnel for their willingness to answer
questions and provide information, both during the orientation and throughout the course of this
Modern Courts owes particular gratitude to Lois Maller and Toby Silverman, who
coordinated this project, and to the monitors themselves: Without their dedication, this report would
not have been possible. Their willingness to volunteer their time and efforts help to improve New
York’s courts for the public as a whole.
This report was written by Kimyetta R. Robinson, Modern Courts Director of Court
Monitoring with additional writing done by Marilyn Baker.

The following members of the Suffolk County Court Monitors participated in this project:
Carol Aquaviva
Barbara Baskin
Florence Boroson
Kathleen Chew
Gladys Christiansen
Donald Cook
Ellen Gierer
Marie Gocs
Grace Gunther
James Hadjin
Marianne Hadjin
Mary Hafemeister
Marcia Leonard
Marian Mendes
Lois Maller
Bernie Markowitz
Thelma Markowitz
Louise Massaro
Christine Nolan
Alexandra Pappas
Albert Rosen
Roselyn Sloane
Toby Silverman
Susan Snowe
Susan Terrana
Miriam Yutkowitz