Attorney Michael J. Sullivan seeking election to new Family Court judge position
“The experience that comes with my 25 years representing children, parents, grandparents, guardians and foster parents in Family Court would benefit the residents of Chautauqua County if I am elected the new Family Court Judge,” said Attorney Michael J. Sullivan in announcing his decision to seek election to the newly created position. “The reality we face as a society is that almost everyone will at some time during their life, find themselves entering the Family Court system.”
“In addition to the work representing people in Fam-ily Court, I have worked diligently to improve the experience of those appearing in the Family Court. Chautau-qua County Family Court is in the midst of a New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project and I have served for three years as the only private practice attorney on the Chautauqua County Steering Commit-tee,” Sullivan said. “We have brought forward several innovations to improve the working of this court and our efforts are ongoing.”
Sullivan has been the Chautauqua County Liaison to the Appellate Court’s Attorney for the Child program from Chautauqua County for nearly 20 years.
“Some of the most difficult, but also most rewarding work in Family Court is representing the children,” Sullivan said.
New York laws require the appointment of an attorney for children in our courts when their parents are litigating custody and visitation, when the child has been abused or neglected and when a child under the age of 16 has committed an act which would be a crime of they were an adult.
“I was first appointed by the Hon. Lynn Hartley and then continued in my role by the current Family Court Judge, Judith S. Claire. The position has allowed me to impact the role of attorneys for the child in a positive way.”
The Family Court deals daily with the most traumatic issues of everyday life.
“Great efforts are being made by the various court improvement committees to train the people who work and practice in the Family Court to understand the trauma people appearing in Family Court have suffered and continue to face. Attorneys, court staff, caseworkers and supervisors are continually looking for ways to reduce the trauma of children and adults alike.” Sullivan continued, “This court is unique in its role of facing the trauma suffered by families. Experience with these issues is the measure to assess a potential Judge.”
“For 10 years our Family Court has offered parents with drug addictions the opportunity to participate in an intensive Family Drug Treatment Court. The outcome has been dozens of successful graduates and many babies born to participants that were drug-free at birth. I participated in the planning of the treatment court and since its inception have served as the attorney for the child on the team.
“There is still much work to do and as a Family Court Judge for Chautauqua County I will put my full effort and attention to both adjudication of the cases before me and working to improve the experience of participants in the court. Family Court is for many people their only experience with the judicial system and it comes with the most trauma. I have the experience from my practice and my service on improvement projects to make a difference in the Court and the lives of the people of Chautauqua County,” Sulli-van explained.
Sullivan said the timing of the announcement coincides with the Governor’s signing of Chapter 44 of the Laws of 2014 in New York which created several additional Family Court Judges in New York State including one in Chautauqua County.
“Until Thursday, there was no vacancy and it was improper to campaign and solicit support for a position that did not exist. Now that the Governor has signed the bill, it is time to seek support for what will be a very short campaign season,” Sullivan concluded.
Sullivan has practiced law in New York since February 1985 and has maintained his law office at his current address, 7 E. Main St., in Fre-donia since 1991. A graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Dayton in Ohio. He is a member of the Northern Chautauqua County and the Erie County Bar Associa-tions. He is the Attorney for the Child Liaison from Chau-tauqua County to the Fourth Department Appellate Court program. He serves on the New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project Steering Committee. He is co-chair of the adolescent Sub-committee. Sulli-van is also a panel member on the New York State Surrogate Decision Making Committee.
Sullivan is a 25-year member of the Dunkirk-Fredonia Salvation Army Advisory Board. He served 14 years as a member of the SUNY Fredonia College Council, from 1997 until 2011. He continues to be an active member of the Fredonia Volunteer Fire Department having served the community in that fashion for 30 years.
Sullivan is a member of St. Joseph’s Church in Fredonia. He resides in Fredonia with Valerie and their grandson, Joshua.