Assembly Approves Family Court Judge

The New York State Assembly successfully passed a bill Monday that would supply Chautauqua County with a second Family Court judge.

According to Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, the bill – which he co-sponsored – was approved by a 121 to 1 vote and will allocate 20 Family Court judges throughout the state.

Chautauqua County, which was recently recommended by the Office of Court Administration to receive one of these judges, was included in the Assembly’s bill.

“(The matching bill) has not been voted on in the Senate yet,” said Goodell, indicating that Senate negotiations continue over where certain judges should be placed.

“So far, the Chautauqua County judgeship is included in the Senate’s draft … so I’m pretty confident the agreement will include Chautauqua County,” Goodell said.

Indeed, with the legislative session ending on June 19, legislators are under increasing pressure to reach an agreement on this bill.

Family Court judge candidates are also facing a shortening window of opportunity to circulate petitions and accrue enough signatures to make the November ballot.

The petition deadline is July 10.

“If there’s a considerable delay (in the agreement), then the legislature has the power to reduce the number of signatures,” Goodell said. “That’s a discussion we’ve not yet had, but it’s an option.”

The county Democratic and Republican committees are reportedly already seeking Family Court judge candidates – a development that reflects the enthusiasm and necessity surrounding a second Family Court judgeship in the county.

For nearly 10 to 15 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, like child neglect, abuse, foster care and juvenile delinquency.