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Justice Sunshine gives updates on matrimonial law at Columbian Lawyers meeting

November 13, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Columbian Lawyers got an update in matrimonial law from Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine (right, with President Joseph Rosato) during its recent monthly meeting. Eagle photos by Mario Belluomo
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The Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn got an update on recent changes to matrimonial law in New York state this month when Justice Jeffrey Sunshine lectured on Nov. 7 in Dyker Heights.

“Justice Sunshine has lectured to us before,” said Joseph Rosato, president of the Columbian Lawyers Association. “It seems that our membership increases a little bit every time the judge speaks. We congratulate the judge on his new appointment. It’s a very high honor in the state and we are ecstatic to have him lecture for us again.”

The lecture was appropriately titled “What’s New in Matrimonial Law,” and Justice Sunshine, who became the statewide coordinating judge for matrimonial cases in June, discussed some of the things that he is working on under his new title.

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“It’s a time for change in matrimonial law,” said Justice Sunshine. “I have spent more time than I am accustomed to outside of Brooklyn these days. A week before this, I was meeting with judges in Binghamton, Saratoga, Nassau, Queens and Westchester. Soon I’ll be going to Suffolk, Rochester in January, as well as some other places. Someone told me that Rochester in January is no place for Sunshine to be.”

Hon. Dawn Jimenez-Salta and Hon. Debra Silber.

Justice Sunshine said that a lot of what he’s focused on in his new position is trying to bring matrimonial law into the 21st century. Part of that effort is to improve access for pro se litigants and to update the uncontested divorce forms so that they aren’t as confusing.

“At Hofstra Law School they gave their first-year law students an uncontested divorce packet to fill out, and half of them got it wrong,” Justice Sunshine said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with the admission standards. I think it’s because the forms are outdated and, quite frankly, very complex.”

The result is what Justice Sunshine called a joint-affidavit, which is nine pages long down from approximately 50.

Justice Sunshine is also working to transition the courts to e-filing, which is required in many courts but not in matrimonial cases in New York state. Judge Sunshine has written to many of the various bar associations across the state to ask for their input and support on the issue.

“Part of my charge is to help foster through the e-filing legislation that the Office of Court Administration has put forth and will put forth again in the next legislative session,” he said. “Everyone tells me they would be very much welcoming of e-filing in matrimonial actions. Right now, it’s only by pilot programs.”

The Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn will meet next on Dec. 6 when it hosts “Judge’s Night” at Gargiulo’s in Coney Island. The members-only annual event is one of the group’s biggest of the year.


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