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Housing Court Bar Association keeping lawyers up to date in an understaffed courthouse

April 4, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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New supervising judge of the Kings County Housing Court, Hon. Kevin McClanahan.

BROOKLYN — The new supervising judge of the Kings County Housing Court Kevin McClanahan has been keeping himself busy introducing himself to the various members of the legal community and trying to keep lawyers and judges on the same page since he took over the position in January.

It’s not an easy task and anybody who has attended meetings with Judge McClanahan, or with either of his past two predecessors, knows that issues in the Housing Court have been consistently made worse by a shortage of staff.

Still, Judge McClanahan hasn’t let that slow him down as he continues to meet with attorneys anywhere he can when he met with members of the Kings County Housing Court Bar Association meeting on Zoom on Monday morning.

It’s the third time he has met with the group this year and that is in addition to his own “brown-bag lunches” that he kicked off last month. The meetings, which are planned to be on a monthly basis, are being advertised around the courthouse as the judge has tried everything he can to make sure things are running smoothly in his court, or at least as smooth as they can.

On Monday, the judge discussed how two of the new judicial appointees — Hon. Shontanu Basu and Hon. Agata Rumprecht-Behrens — will impact his court. He also said that within the next two weeks, he expects to reopen Part D and Part H full-time.

Not only does Judge McClanahan get to explain what’s going on in the court, but the lawyers also get an opportunity to ask him questions and address issues that they are seeing in the court.

One positive the judge reported on Monday was that the Housing Court is getting a group of new clerks including at least five line clerks and four supervising clerks. Unfortunately, he explained, this will not fix the ongoing issue of a shortage of clerks in the courtroom.

“It’s always this fluid response,” Judge McClanahan said. “We get resources in and we lose them. In the context of the judicial world, the housing court is the hardest working court by virtue of numbers, by virtue of the component parts, it’s labor intensive. When clerks come here from Civil or Supreme and they see the difference in workload, they often don’t want to stay long.”

Getting to know the Appellate Term

Last month, the Housing Court Bar Association sat down on Zoom with the judges of the Appellate Term in Brooklyn including Hon. Wavny Toussaint, Hon. Lisa Ottley, Hon. Marina Mundy, Hon. Lourdes Ventura, and Hon. Cheree Buggs.

That meeting gave the judges an opportunity to introduce themselves, explain how they expect their courts to run, and gave attorneys examples of when they should turn to them to address issues that come up in landlord-tenant practice.

The Housing Court, also known as the Civil Court of the City of New York – Housing Part, primarily deals with landlord-tenant disputes, such as eviction proceedings, rent disputes, and housing code violations. The Appellate Term is an intermediate appellate court that hears appeals from the decisions of the lower courts, such as the Housing Court, the Civil Court, and the Criminal Court, in certain jurisdictions.

The overlap between the Housing Court and the Appellate Term comes when a party in a Housing Court case disagrees with the decision made by the Housing Court judge and decides to appeal the decision. The Appellate Term would then review the case, focusing on whether there were any legal errors or procedural issues in the Housing Court proceedings.

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