Publication Date: April 1998
CO-OP/CONDO PART IN HOUSING
COURT: IT'S WORKING IN QUEENS The separate Housing
Court Resolution Part that hears cases involving cooperatives
and condominiums is up and running in four boroughs. In Queens,
where the new courthouse provides commodious sites conducive
to discussion and problem-solving, Judge Ernest Cavallo has
had an impressive record of bringing cases to a resolution
in the pilot weeks of the special part.
Cavallo addressed Queens Borough President Claire Shulman's
Co-op and Condo Task Force on February 24th, enthusiastically
describing the start-up of the new Part in his borough. Reporting
that co-op and condo cases consume approximately half of his
case load, Judge Cavallo told how he and his law secretaries
have had to master nuances of co-op and condo law, with lawyers
helping them make the new system work. Judge Cavallo hears
about 40 cases a day, resolving well over 90% in his part.
If the cases have to be sent to trial, Judge Cavallo is fortunate
to have two colleagues in trial parts who are also well versed
in co-op and condo issues. Generally, his cases can go directly
to trial on the same day that they have come before him.
In the past, housing court cases were rarely tried on the
day that they first appeared on the court calendar. Instead,
at this appearance the case would be listed for a trial several
weeks later. Then, with postponements and other delays, it
could take months before the case was finally heard and resolved.
Some attorneys have objected to the new system because they
must assemble all witnesses ready to appear if the case is
sent right to trial.
Judge Cavallo has also made regular and successful use of
referrals to the free mediation service linked to the Housing
Court to help resolve co-op and condo cases.
Reports from Brooklyn and Manhattan show more snags as the
Separate Part is inaugurated. There, the more crowded conditions
of the court buildings hamper those small, productive discussions
that would enhance the ability of the Resolution Part to resolve
cases effectively. Furthermore, attorneys are not always using
the color-coding system that routes co--op and condo cases
to the Co-op/Condo Part. Appropriately enough, GREEN (CNYC's
trademark color) is the color chosen by the Court System to
indicate co--op and condo cases. Please remind your counsel
to use the appropriate color-coding when bringing a case for
your cooperative or condominium in Housing Court.
The enthusiasm and good will with which Judge Cavallo approaches
this new assignment is most impressive. He concluded his presentation
by pointing out that the Separate Co-op/Condo Part will be
able to function even in his absence. Because it is a Resolution
Part, Judge Cavallo's law secretaries are able to carry on
the work of the Separate Part when he is out sick or on vacation.
CNYC, along with and three sister organizations, the Coordinating
Council of Cooperatives the Federation of New York Housing
Cooperatives and the H.D.F.C. Coalition, has long advocated
a Separate Part in Housing Court for Co--op and Condo Issues.
In 1996, the City Council passed a law supporting this proposal.
In the summer of 1997, Chief Judge Judith Kaye presented a
proposal for sweeping reform of the court system designed
to streamline the system and to take advantage of technology.
A constitutional amendment will be required to implement the
reform program, but several pilot programs, including the
Separate Co--op/Condo Resolution Part, have been implemented
as pilot projects.
CNYC is currently seeking State legislation to specifically
mandate the continuation of the Separate Part in Housing Court
for Issues Involving Cooperatives and Condominiums, and to
establish a Trial Part in addition to the Resolution Part.