Supervising judge says it’s a new era for housing court under Chief Judge Wilson

September 13, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Civil Court at 141 Livingston St., the site of a significant rally where tenant unions, community groups and officials gathered in support of tenant rights and against retaliatory evictions.
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In an insightful discussion at the Kings County Housing Court Bar Association meeting, the state of the Housing Court in Brooklyn and its recent transformations under the new administration came under the spotlight. 

Citywide Supervising Judge for the Housing Part of the Civil Court, Judge Jack Stoller, addressed various issues, with particular emphasis on the proactive stance taken by Chief Judge Rowan Wilson’s leadership.

“Chief Judge Wilson and [Judge] Zayas have shown a much greater interest in the Housing Court than I’ve previously seen, and I very much welcome this attention,” Judge Stoller said. This renewed focus by the administration, Stoller pointed out, allows the court to address its persistent issues more efficiently.

One of the noteworthy changes under the new administration has been the swift replacement of judges and court attorneys. “Things have gone much faster than they have in the past,” Stoller observed. This accelerated response is particularly significant, given the historical slow-paced decision-making that has often plagued the Housing Court.

However, not all changes have been without their challenges. Charles Wasserman, an attorney, voiced concerns over the newly introduced pilot program’s consistency, highlighting discrepancies in its application across various boroughs. 

“We still have parts doing their own things. There is no consistency. We have one borough with six different issues going on in a program that I support,” Wasserman said.

COVID-related precautions also entered the discussion, with questions raised about the potential of remote appearances or mask mandates. Judge Stoller acknowledged the complexities, noting that while virtual appearances were not favored, they could be used if deemed necessary.

A significant point of contention arose around the longstanding practice of accepting late filings of answers. Despite this having been a practice for over 35 years, the stretched return dates have cast a spotlight on its continued appropriateness.

Addressing concerns about accountability and responsiveness from specific judges, Hon. Kevin McClanahan, supervising judge of the Kings County Housing Court, emphasized the inherent challenges. “We are supervisors of judges with independent jurisdiction. We can coach, but the final decisions are up to them,” McClanahan remarked, acknowledging the complexities of navigating the system and ensuring efficiency.

While the meeting painted a picture of a court system in flux, grappling with both legacy issues and new changes, there was a palpable sense of hope, though, that with renewed attention from the top echelons of the judiciary, many stakeholders are optimistic about a more streamlined and efficient Housing Court in the near future.

 

 


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