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ALBANY � The Assembly Judiciary Committee yesterday took the first step toward bringing the salaries of Family Court judges up to the level of other county court judges, but it remains to be seen if the one-house bill gains any traction in the Senate. The committee advanced A948, by Assemblyman John J. McEneny, D-Albany, along with several other bills that would affect courts. The pay bill would amend �221-e of Chapter 630 of the Judiciary Law and require that the salary of the Family Court judge not be less than that of a County Court judge in the same jurisdiction. “It is important, especially in today’s world, to acknowledge the essential work of Family Court and the judges that oversee the work in these courts,” Mr. McEneny said in his bill justification message. He said he is less concerned over the dollars-and-cents inequity than “the message it sends throughout the court system and society regarding the importance of the work done in Family Court and the level of concern we have regarding the problems of families and children in our state.” The assemblyman noted that in order to become a Family Court judge, an attorney must have 10 years of experience, while other county-level judicial positions require only five years of experience. Salaries of County and Family Court judges range from $119,800 to $136,700. But for historic reasons Family Court judges are paid less than County Court and Surrogate’s Court judges in many counties. The McEneny bill would require parity within each county. The Association of Judges of the Family Court of the State of New York favors equalizing county-level judicial salaries statewide at a standard $136,700. Supreme Court and Court of Claims judges are all paid the same salary, regardless of where they sit. Albany County Family Court Judge W. Dennis Duggan, president of the group, said it would cost less than $2 million a year to establish pay parity. Also yesterday, the Judiciary Committee: � Approved a bill by Assemblyman Stephen B. Kaufman, D-Bronx, that would provide goodwill compensation for land taken by eminent domain. A2449 would allow businesses that are displaced due to eminent domain to collect up to $10,000 to compensate them for loss of clientele. “Small businesses establish goodwill through continued fine service to customers within a given area and are seriously damaged by condemnation when unable to relocate within that area,” Mr. Kaufman said. “The present rule denying compensation for goodwill business losses in eminent domain runs counter to the modern constitutional views of property rights, the thrust of private law and proper business evaluation.” Similar bills have been floating around the Capitol since 1979. � Endorsed legislation designed to make it easier to enforce matrimonial court orders. The bill, A4774, by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Helene E. Weinstein, D-Brooklyn, would amend Domestic Relations Law to require attorney’s fees when the defaulting spouse has neglected to obey a court order. � Moved a bill that would require Housing Court to provide written information, in bold print, spelling out the rights of tenants subject to an eviction proceeding. Assemblyman Scott M. Stringer, D-Manhattan, said his bill, A5179, is necessary to ensure that tenants are fully aware of their rights before going into court. � Advanced a bill at the request of the Office of Court Administration (OCA) that would require warning notices in matrimonial matters that failure to abide by a spousal or child support order could result in immediate arrest. Ms. Weinstein is carrying A7491. � Endorsed an OCA bill that would permit tort plaintiffs to recover against third-party defendants in some cases. A7493 was drafted to address some confusion in the case law. It would allow the plaintiff to recover for contributions against a third-party defendant, regardless of whether the defendant/third-party plaintiff had satisfied an underlying judgment for which indemnification was sought. Ms. Weinstein is sponsoring A7493. � Approved a bill that would, in divorce law, establish a presumption that marital property is equally divided. Ms. Weinstein advanced A7867 in recognition that “marriage has come to be viewed as an economic partnership.” “A presumption of equal distribution will give a clear bench mark to judges and parties, and therefore, create more uniformity and greater fairness in the distribution of marital property,” she said. � Moved a bill at the request of the chief administrative judge’s Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee on compensation for guardians ad litem. A8086 by Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, , D-Brooklyn, would authorize payments out of public funds. Mr. Lentol said judges are currently reluctant to appoint guardians ad litem because they cannot guarantee payment.

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