End secret court reform

Albany Times Union via the AP

Of all the courts in New York, the one that reaches most intimately into people’s lives and tends to be the most controversial is Family Court. So when it comes to reforming it, one would think the state would be as transparent as possible.

Yet for reasons that elude us, the Cuomo administration has decided to erect a wall of secrecy around a commission created in June to — get this — “improve the fairness and transparency of the Family Court system.” Members of the 20-member panel are threatened with fines of $10,000 if they divulge “confidential” deliberations about the commission’s work.

This isn’t about specific cases, but about the day-to-day operations of the court and how it can best serve the public. What could possibly be confidential about that?

The administration doesn’t offer even a lame answer to that question, saying only that “many government deliberations occur in a mix of public and private settings.”

That doesn’t mean they have to. And in the case of a court, especially one that deals with child custody issues, divorce, juvenile delinquency and other deeply personal matters, a robust public discussion that defines the problems and need for reform from the start is entirely in order.


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