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March 10, 1999

John Murtari

Software Workshop, Inc
55 East Genesee Street
Baldwinsville, New York 13027

Dear John:

Thank you for your most recent correspondence relative to your concerns regarding the resolution of child custody disputes in New York State. I appreciated receiving your comments on this important subject.

In an effort to conduct an exhaustive review of this matter, I have again contacted the Office of Court Administration to request that they comment on your recommendation that juries be empanelled to hear custody cases in family court (copy enclosed).

Although I will await the formal opinion of Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, I have been advised that there exist a number of concerns regarding the implementation of such a proposal. Primarily, such a change in family court procedure would serve to undermine the inherent characteristics of family court as a nonadversarial and rehabilitative forum. The focus in custody disputes differs greatly from other types of cases because the determination to be made is not a matter of right or wrong, but rather a conclusion that weighs the best interests of the child. The ability of family court to meet the demands and standards required for jury trials would also be in question. In addition, the process of empanelling a jury is a timely one which would place an enormous burden on the court and could lead to prolonged delays in the court docket. Finally, the issue of child testimony and examination could present procedural problems, such as determining the circumstances and conditions under which a child should be made to testify and whether such testimony would entail cross-examination.

I will continue to keep you informed as additional material becomes available from the Office of Court Administration. In the interim, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you on any other matter.

Best wishes. Very truly yours,

Michael J. Bragman Majority Leader