State’s top matrimonial judge helps Bay Ridge Lawyers Association to aid clients
Justice Jeffrey Sunshine started practicing law at the age of 28 with an office at 16 Court Street, just across the street from the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Throughout the years, he has slowly moved up from attorney, to judge, to supervising judge, and now he is the statewide coordinating judge for all matrimonial cases in New York State. It’s a lot of responsibility and one he takes very seriously.
“How many people can start a law practice at 16 Court Street at 28 years of age and end up coordinating the field that you started in?” Justice Sunshine asked rhetorically. “I really like what I’m doing, I feel very lucky, so when I’m in the courtroom I always try to treat people with respect and dignity and make sure they’re heard because that’s what they expect.
“They also want a judge and a lawyer who is properly prepared and that means that they have to get great CLEs,” Justice Sunshine continued.
Justice Sunshine was referring to continuing legal education. Attorneys get one CLE credit for each hour of an approved lecture that they attend. They’re required to take at least 24 credits worth of CLE over every two-year period.
Justice Sunshine has given a CLE lecture over 130 times. He hasn’t stopped giving CLEs since he became coordinating judge, but he explained that these days he’s often listening more than talking.
“Since I’ve become the statewide coordinating judge, I’ve been travelling all around the state more than I ever have,” Justice Sunshine said. “All of the counties of New York state are connected with a common theme, but they all face different issues. I’ve been travelling so much because I’m meeting with judges and bar associations because I want to learn all of their issues.”
On Wednesday, Justice Sunshine was at Mama Rao’s in Dyker Heights with the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association giving the group his annual update on matrimonial cases. He’s lectured to the group every year for over a decade now, usually in November, but this year he delayed the meeting until March.
“The public benefits when lawyers and judges are prepared and up to date on the law so that we can serve everyone better,” Sunshine said. “Cases are handled more efficiently, the process moves along and you achieve operational excellence by leading by example. If the judges are leading the way, if the lawyers are well informed, it sets a standard.”
In the one-hour meeting last Wednesday, Justice Sunshine talked about the differences he’s seen throughout the state. He also talked about presumptive mediation in divorce cases and reforming uncontested divorces to make them easier for pro se litigants.
“It’s called continuing legal education,” Sunshine said. “The word continuing means that we all have a duty to continue to learn. I really appreciate the opportunity that has been given to me as a judge. I appreciate the responsibility given to me by Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.”
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