Virtuoso has been a critic of budgeting for assigned counsel (since he became a member of the minority and is no longer “responsible” for paying bills). But as any reasonably intelligent person knows, the County is mandated to pay for attorneys for poor persons involved in various family court matters, including custody disputes. Since the County has no control over the number of custody cases filed, it stands to reason that it has no control over the number of cases assigned.
But the County, in the last couple of years, has placed attorneys on staff with a salary to help reduce the number of cases assigned to private attorneys to avoid paying the mandated hourly rate.
One of the difficulties in controlling these expenses is the structure of the family court in Niagara County. There are three family courts in the county. Erie County, on the other hand, has one. We've touched on the need for consolidation of the family courts before, but were stunned to hear Virtuoso state that we have too many family courts and we should consolidate. Why? Because Virtuoso is so parochial in his thinking, we never thought he'd be willing to move family court out of Niagara Falls.
Realistically, there is no reason that we need a family court in Niagara Falls. Virtuoso knows this and I give him credit for having the backbone to acknowledge that consolidation is necessary. The family court in Niagara Falls is a drain on our resources. There is no reason that the people of Niagara Falls can’t drive to the County seat to resolve their family issues on the taxpayer dime.
With both the Minority Leader and the Majority Leader on the same page on this issue, we're hopeful that we see consolidation of the family courts moving forward soon.