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Child CustodyChild SupportJustice Delayed, Justice Denied

December 12, 2007

The New York Times today reported how in the Bronx Family Court,   Elevator Woes Slow Justice.

The eye opening article details how, because of broken elevators, litigants wait in line for hours to get an elevator to a court room resulting in missed court dates or, even worse, dismissed cases.   The Family Court is a court where justice cannot be delayed. Critical rights regarding the welfare, custody and support of children are involved.

Consider the case of a client of Ms. Gutfriend’s who was scheduled for a hearing in mid-November to determine whether she could get her daughter back from foster care, where the child had been for 10 months.

The hearing was set for 10 a.m., Ms. Gutfriend recalled, but it was a day when only two of the four elevators in the building were working. The lines to get on the elevator and up to the hearing rooms stretched back two city blocks. Her client phoned upstairs to let her know she was stuck in the line, but was not able to get upstairs in time.

The judge agreed to call the hearing again an hour later, but the client was still in line. So the judge, who had something like 70 other cases to try that day, rescheduled the no-shows for the next available date. For this mother, the next chance to plead her case and get her child back was in January.

In any matter involving children’s rights, whether it be custody, support or visitation, time is critical. While the legal system may sometimes move at a snail’s pace, delay caused by the court’s physical intra-structure, which impairs or prevents litigants from having access to the court cannot and should not be tolerated

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