State Senate OKs Family Court judge for County

ALBANY – The prospect of Chautauqua County receiving another Family Court judge looks more promising than ever.

On Wednesday, state Sen. Cathy Young, R,C,I-Olean, announced that an agreement has been reached between the state Senate and Assembly to double the number of Family Court judges in Chautauqua County from one to two.

The long-sought agreement, which includes the allocation of 25 new Family Court judgeships across the state, eases pressure on lawmakers who risked not reaching a consensus by the end of the legislative session today – an outcome that would have wasted the funds appropriated for Family Court judges in the 2014-15 budget.

The bill is now pending Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval.

“This consensus between the Senate and Assembly Speaker was arduous to reach, but the Senate stood firm during negotiations,” Young said. “Assembly members from New York City were pushing to take judgeships slotted for upstate and have them go downstate instead. We were successful in keeping our fair share.”

Young applauded Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, who co-sponsored a matching bill in the Assembly earlier this month, for his support.

“I commend Assembly-man Andy Goodell for his strong efforts to protect Chautauqua County’s needs,” Young said. “His advocacy has been helpful in reaching this positive result.”

For nearly 20 years, the Chautauqua County Family Court in Mayville has had to endure the alarming trend of skyrocketing caseloads amidst scant personnel.

With only one judge, the court is often unable to adjudicate cases quickly, leaving many families trapped in a state of limbo over sensitive issues such as child neglect, abuse, foster care and juvenile delinquency.

Typically, Chautauqua County’s Family Court caseload is around 4,000 cases per year, but last year it grew to approximately 9,000 cases.

The new Family Court judge will be elected in November’s general election.

Because of the limited time available between now and the election, candidates will be accommodated by a lower-than-usual requirement for petition signatures.

Ballot petitioning for candidates will begin on July 11 and petitions must be filed with the county Board of Elections between July 21-24.

In Chautauqua County, petitions must be signed by either 350 registered voters enrolled in the party being petitioned, or by 1.75 percent of active enrolled voters of the party, whichever is less.

“There is a tremendous need for an additional judge to relieve the backlog we have in the county,” Young said. “This new judgeship will have a significant positive impact on county residents going through the court system. I look forward to this agreement being signed into law so a new judge can get to work serving families in Chautauqua County in 2015.”