allegheny county bar association
section & committee report
2005 - 2006
Family Law Section
submitted by: Carol A. Behers
1. Programs. Our Section had three (3) successful C.L.E. programs.
a. Bench Bar (June 2005); b. Complex Valuation Issues (December 2005); c. Handling the Problematic Custody Case (April 2906) In addition we hosted four (4) Lunch ‘N Learn programs two of which were sponsored by the Mentoring Committee, one on education law issues, and one on motion’s practice. In addition, we began to explore the issue of collaborative law which is a new trend in the resolution of domestic cases, popular on the west coast. We hope to have a training session sponsored this fall. Informal meetings on the issue were held at Paula Hopkins’ office. 2. Rules. Our Rules Committee worked in conjunction with the Juvenile Law Section regarding the adoption of separate juvenile court rules. In addition, the Rules Committee reviewed and commented on the PFA rules. We continue to update our Court Manual for new practices and procedures in the division. 3. Professionalism Committee. The Professionalism Committee sponsored the “Ethics Minute” during each of our regular meetings. One member of the committee gave a brief overview of the new rules of professional conduct, and a question and answer session ensued. 4. Pro Bono Activity. Our section continued to provide pro bono services through the Legal Resources for Women, Pro Se Motions program, Neighborhood Legal Services, Uptown Legal Clinic, and by financial contributions to the Attorneys Against Hunger, as well as a contribution made in honor of Judge Scanlon to the National Adoption week activities. We also worked with the Bar Foundation on the Disaster Manual, and upcoming Family Law projects. 5. Membership. Our Membership Committee continued to work diligently to recruit new members, both through a letter writing and personal contact campaign. This is a work in progress, and although we attracted some new members, we have still been unsuccessful in developing minority membership. I spoke with the incoming chair about this ongoing project. 6. Mentoring. As mentioned earlier, the Mentoring Committee sponsored two Lunch ‘N Learn programs during the year, and they are working on a program for this fall. The revitalization of the Mentoring Committee was one of my personal goals during this year, as I feel it is of the utmost importance for senior attorneys to serve as mentors. I hope that this committee will continue to prosper. 7. Legislation. Our Legislative Committee has been active keeping the section abreast of new developments and pending legislation. We began the process of forming a task force to address same sex issues. 8. Law School Liaisons. After review of the by-laws, I determined that they permit the appointment of a special honorary council member by the Deans of each of the law schools. Dean Crossley appointed Professor Harry Gruner to the council, and Dean Guter appointed Associate Dean Vanessa Brown-Barbour. Both professors began attending our meetings, and it is my hope that they will become more active in the section in the upcoming year. We now will also have a young lawyers representative as an honorary member of our council. 9. Guidelines. Our Guidelines Committee has been proactive, reviewing and commenting upon proposed Rules changes, but also forwarding proposed suggestions/topics to the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Procedural Rule Committee for review. In fact, some of the suggestions adopted by our Guidelines Committee have become formal recommendations for reform. Our section took a formal position on two recommendations, and it appears that they are likely to be passed.
round table meetings were regularly attended by Judges and psychologists, and a large number of section members attend the programs every month. 11. Opinions. The Opinions Committee remained active and was successful in having a number of opinions published in the Legal Journal. 12. Court Relations. This Committee met with Judge Scanion and the new Administrative Judge Kim Clark, as well as Judge Eaton and other court administrators on a monthly basis to address problem issues in the system. Throughout the year, this process resulted in a number of permanent changes improvements in the system. 13. General/Miscellaneous. The Council met for regular meetings in September, October, November (2005), January, February, March and April 2006. We held a holiday party in December, in which we recognized Judge Scanlon for his outstanding service to the division, and his assistance to the section. At the annual meeting on May 9, 2006, David Pollock was elected as the incoming chair of the section and Mary Kay MacDonald, a long time co-chair of the court relations committee was elected as Treasurer. We also honored the new Judges who were elected and permanently assigned to our division in January, 2006. Our section has worked with Judge Clark to assure a smooth transition in her leadership. Judge Clark has been attending our meetings on a regular basis, as has the newly named supervising Judge Kim Eaton. We attempted to organize a Kennywood outing, but did not have enough interest in order to retain the date. However, by way of the deposit made to Kennywood, we obtained 17 ride-all-day tickets which we were able to donate to Lydia’s Place. We may still sponsor a Pirate Game later in the year. I conducted meetings of the Executive Committee on a monthly basis, and we developed policy by consensus, as was the case last year. It is my sincere belief that the Executive Committee (i.e. the officers of the section) should work as a group. Email improves the ability to gain insight from the officers on important issues. I had the opportunity to work with an outstanding group of officers. We began providing the minutes of the meeting to all section members via email, and we used email as a way to disseminate important issues and hot topics as well as reminders of meetings, CLE’s, etc. This proved to be an effective means of communication. Council meetings were well attended by our members, judges, court administration, and personnel, and frequently by the ACBA President.
10. Children’s Issues. This Committee presented nine (9) breakfast programs concerning children and child related issues. The