Judge Judy Harris Kluger (See Profile), who counts supervision of Integrated Domestic Violence Courts among her duties, said Thursday she will resign as chief of policy and planning for the Unified Court System to head a nonprofit organization that aids domestic violence victims, and sex trafficking victims and their children.
Kluger, 61, will become executive director of Sanctuary for Families on Jan. 1, 2014, after 25 years in the judiciary. Joining Sanctuary for Families is a logical “Chapter Three” in her career following the earlier phases as a prosecutor and a judge, she said.
“My heart has always been with victims and families affected by domestic violence,” Kluger said in an interview. “To lead an organization like this is an opportunity that maybe comes up once in a generation. While I feel bad about leaving [the courts] this is an opportunity to build on the work I have done my whole career and I couldn’t pass it up.”
Kluger, who has held her current job since March 2009, supervises more than 300 problem-solving courts such as those that deal with domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health and sex offenses.
Also, for the past three years, Kluger has been in charge of the Unified Court System’s efforts to move mortgage foreclosure cases through the courts more quickly while protecting the rights of homeowners who want to avoid foreclosure and keep their properties.
Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Courts were begun 10 years ago by former chief judge Judith Kaye as a way to streamline the adjudication of cases that cut across jurisdictional lines. Kluger said she has worked with Sanctuary for Families on programs offered through the courts to aid domestic violence victims.
She also has been working on an initiative by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (See Profile) to establish Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, to provide treatment and assistance for those accused of prostitution rather than treating them like criminals (NYLJ, Sept. 26).
Kluger credited Sanctuary and other advocates of domestic violence victims for the change she said she has seen in attitudes since the 1980s.
“We understand now that domestic violence is a crime, it is not just a family matter,” Kluger said. “Organizations like Sanctuary for Families educated us. It was the advocate community that moved the courts and the Legislature along.”
Kluger said she is scheduled to appear on Nov. 18 at a conference in Israel sponsored by the Knesset to speak about the Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and other related work she has done in New York.
Kluger, a St. John’s University Law School graduate, was an assistant Brooklyn district attorney and bureau chief of the office’s sex crimes and domestic violence bureau and Criminal Court bureau.
She was appointed to the Criminal Court in 1988 and presided over the Midtown Community Court in Manhattan from its inception in 1993 to 1996, when she was named administrative judge for New York City Criminal Court. After seven years in that post, Kluger served from 2003 to 2009 as deputy chief administrative judge for court operations and planning for the Unified Court System.
She has remained an appointed judge of the New York City Criminal Court throughout her judicial career. In recent years, she has also heard medical malpractice cases from Manhattan as an acting Supreme Court justice.
She makes $176,000 a year as chief of policy and planning. She declined to discuss the salary that comes with her new position.
Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti (See Profile) expect to appoint a new chief of policy and planning who will largely have the same duties as Kluger, said Unified Court System spokesman David Bookstaver.
Sanctuary for Families was created in 1984 to provide counseling, shelter, legal services, career training and economic help to victims of domestic and gender violence and their children. The group is based in Manhattan and has offices in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. It has about 150 employees.
Kluger will succeed Laurel Eisner, who is retiring after 11 years as executive director.
Bill Gorin, chairman of the organization, said Kluger’s “deep commitment to social justice, combined with her warmth and compassion for our clients” make her ideal for the executive director’s position.
“Judy brings a proven track record of leadership, a multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving, and expertise in the areas of domestic violence and sex trafficking,” Gorin said in a statement.
@|Joel Stashenko can be reached at email@example.com.