DIFiore: Planning and Preparing for the Challenges of 2021

By Brandon Vogel

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In her weekly address, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said that “even as we celebrate the season and look forward to the new year with good cheer, we know that we must continue planning and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Thirty-five Supreme Court justices and acting Supreme Court justices have volunteered to assist their Family Court colleagues in tackling the growing volume of child custody and visitation disputes in the New York City Family Court.

Next week, DiFiore will welcome newly-elected and -appointed judges to the Bench during the Judicial Institute’s virtual “New Judges Seminar for 2021.” These judges join us at a unique and historic moment in time, when the continued spread of COVID-19 has compelled us to temporarily postpone in-person appearances and rely on remote technology in order to safely meet the demand for our services, said DiFiore.

Sixty-two newly-elected Town and Village justices will take the bench in municipalities across the state after having completed a five-day virtual “Taking the Bench Certification Training Program” conducted by the Office of Justice Court Support earlier this month. Using the Microsoft Teams platform, the new Justices were trained on essential topics, such as criminal arraignments and procedures, civil proceedings, fiscal recordkeeping and reporting, and judicial ethics.

DiFiore praised administrative judges and court managers for being sensitive to and proactive in addressing the mental health and emotional well-being of judges and professional staff “during what has been a prolonged, stressful and draining public health crisis for all.”

It can be very easy to overlook taking care of one’s self when so much urgent responsibility is placed on our shoulders, said DiFiore. She acknowledged the regular webinars, led by Judicial Wellness Coordinator, Dan Lukasik, focused on sensitizing judges and staff to the pressures on mental health, and on the mindfulness and meditation techniques that can be most helpful in maintaining a healthy outlook and balance in professional and personal lives.

“Who would have ever thought that 2020, a year dawning with so much promise and potential for our trial and appellate courts, and with our Excellence Initiative running so successfully, would have resulted in the need for weekly updates for the courts and the legal community on a fast- moving, deadly pandemic that turned our professional and personal lives upside down and inside out?,” said DiFiore. “It has been a remarkable, humbling, and, at times, frustrating journey — and, in many ways, it has been an inspiring one as well, thanks to all of you. Your commitment and devotion to our shared mission has been absolutely awesome.”

She concluded, “Please accept our thanks for your hard work and dedication throughout this past year, and our warmest wishes to you and your families for a happier, healthier and more prosperous new year. Please celebrate safely, and remain careful and disciplined in protecting yourselves and all those around you. Happy New Year!”

Upcoming CLE Webinars

Wednesday, Jan. 6 – A Legal Professional’s Guide to Electronic File Management, Paper Reduction and PDF Files.

Monday, Jan. 11 – Basics Of IOLA: What New Lawyers Need To Know.

Tuesday, Jan. 12 – Basics Of Insurance Liability In New York.

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