The first indication I got that something was afoot was an invitation to a retirement party to be held for thirteen clerks and law assistants in the Nassau County Surrogate’s Court. It seems that they had all been offered "packages" to retire from civil service. Some of these extremely talented folks have been in the court system for more than thirty years and their departures will leave a void that will take a long time to fill. This is especially true since no replacements have been named yet and no transition plan is in place to provide some continuity in service to the bar and the public.
Apparently, this situation is not limited to the Nassau Surrogate’s Court. Queens County has lost several key people. It is not anticipated that the adoption clerk will be replaced until the first of the year –and no adoption petitions are being processed until then. Other Surrogate’s Courts throughout the region have also experienced substantial layoffs across the board from key clerks to law assistants.
We have all come to accept the fact that surrogate matters do not proceed quickly. The system itself is geared to progress slowly and deliberately. Now, procedures which have statutory delays built into them will be further delayed as a smaller number of clerks and law assistants (some of whom are freshly appointed and learning the ropes) ramp up to speed to handle the huge quantity of papers which regularly flow through the courts. Unfortunately, it would appear that the bar and the public we serve are in for some difficult times in the months ahead. Hopefully, the excellent and hardworking personnel who remain will help us through this transition period.