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#7: Alphabet Soup Or … Everything You’ve Wanted To Know About Common Legal Acronyms But Were Afraid To Ask, Part 2 of 3

7 Post 2011-10-19 Depositphotos_1886589_XS.jpgContinuing from the prior post, here are a few of the more common abbreviations and acronyms you will hear when you listen to attorneyspeak, together with a very brief description of what they stand for:

26. FFH – “Fact-Finding Hearing

This is just a fancy name for a trial. In Family Court, there are no jury trials, so this would be what is called a bench trial (before a judge only). In most cases, the standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence (50% + 1) and no hearsay is allowed (unless it meets one of the many exceptions to the hearsay rule).

27. FO – “Family Offense

This is one of a variety of approximately twenty-six (26) acts, more specifically defined by the Penal Law, for which a person can seek the family court’s (and the local criminal court’s) intervention, usually in the form of an order of protection or, in extreme cases, incarceration of the offending party. This issue was more fully addressed in my 4th post, on October 9, 2011, “It’s Just An Order Of Protection. No Big Deal, Right?”

28. FWOA – “Finding Without Admission”

In Article 10 (Child Protective Proceedings) cases, one alternative to trial that is sometimes offered by DSS is what is called a “finding (on consent) without admission”. It is similar to an Alford plea, in criminal court. It essentially means that while you refuse to admit any guilt or wrongdoing, you nevertheless consent to a finding of neglect to avoid the potential minefield of a trial. Normally, DSS will require a person accepting this alternative to agree to a series of terms and conditions for the ultimate return of their children.

29. JD – “Juvenile Delinquent

Almost everyone knows what this is. Essentially a juvenile delinquent is a child who has committed an act for which they could be criminally prosecuted, if they were an adult. It is basically a child who has committed a crime but who will be dealt with through family court.

30. JFC – “Judge, Family Court”

If you’ve ever seen “JFC” after the name of a judge, it means that the person is a family court judge.

31. JHO – “Judicial Hearing Officer

This is normally a retired judge who now presides over cases as a quasi-judge. The most interesting characteristic of judicial hearing officers is that they legally require your consent to preside over your case. If you feel that they are in any way biased against you, all you have to do is refuse to grant your consent. If this occurs, the matter will almost always be referred to a judge, who will preside over your case regardless of your consent.

32. LG – “Law Guardian

This is the name used for attorneys now called attorneys for the child. One of the biggest problems with the name was that second word. Too many people thought they were something other than what they really were: attorneys for children.

33. LH – “Lincoln Hearing

These are often called “in camera hearings” as well. This is a special hearing where the child meets with the judge in the presence of the attorney for the child and a court reporter. The hearing is confidential and closed to the public. Such hearings do not often occur and usually occur only if the judge feels it is necessary.

The Lincoln hearing gets its name from the landmark case of Lincoln v. Lincoln, 24 N.Y.2d 270, 299 N.Y.S.2d 842 (1969), from the Court of Appeals. It is a relatively short case (by Court of Appeals’ standards) and well worth the time to read.

34. MD – “Motion to Dismiss”

These are not often seen in family court. However, they do appear from time to time. They are usually made at the beginning of the litigation, often claiming that the petition is defective or that there is no substantial change in circumstances allowing the petition to be filed.

35. MHL – “Mental Hygiene Law

This law usually does not appear often in family court. However, in instances where a person may be mentally ill, courts need to consult this law in order to know how to proceed in a case involving the interests of a mentally ill person.

36. Misc2nd – “Miscellaneous Second”

Like the Appellate Division Third, this is an official reporter. This specific reporter concerns itself with lower court cases from trial courts such as supreme, family, county, surrogate’s, city, district, and, in novel or interesting cases, possibly town and village courts as well.

37. NY2nd – “New York Second”

This is another official reporter, this time of the highest court in the state: the Court of Appeals. Most attorneys yearn to find a case in this reporter that supports any aspect of their case insofar as it greatly helps their position. Where Court of Appeals cases directly apply statewide as controlling law, Appellate Division cases directly apply as controlling law only within a particular judicial department; outside of that judicial department, such cases are treating merely as informative but not controlling. Similarly, lower court cases are rarely controlling law but are often quite useful in illuminating local issues that have been dealt with by other courts before.

38. NYCCCCA – “New York City Civil and Criminal Courts Act”

It says what it means and means what it says. This is the series of laws which establish these two (2) courts, which are the largest (by far) in the state. If you’ve ever watched a television show dealing with crime in New York City, such as one of my favorites, “Law And Order”, then you have observed a stylized (and sanitized) version of this particular court system within a court system.

39. NYCRR – “New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations”

If you think statutes are complicated, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Multiply the volume of information found in the statutes by about one thousand and maybe you have come close to the volume of information found within the NYCRR. To read your way through the entire NYCRR I suspect would take at least a lifetime. Or more. The NYCRR really has to be seen to be believed. And to make things even more complicated? The NYCRR is always changing, seemingly updated on a daily basis. And these extremely complex regulations can prove to be the difference between success and failure in the courtroom. Whoever said “the devil is in the details” must’ve been an attorney who was very familiar with the NYCRR.

The NYCRR largely exist to allow the thousands of federal, state, county, and local agencies to implement the law of the state of New York in highly specific ways, by establishing a single, uniform standard via which these agencies may operate and interact with one another on a daily basis. Therefore, when you reach a level of complexity so extreme, it should not be surprising that the NYCRR can literally change on a daily basis.

40. NYS2nd – “New York Supplement Second”

At long last: an unofficial reporter for New York. In fact, this reporter is so heavily relied upon by most attorneys that you will often find that the only cite given for a case is none other than to this reporter. Three (3) of the reasons for this heavy reliance are obvious: 1) more cases are cited in this reporter than all of the other three (3) official reporters combined; 2) it sets forth large lists of “unreported” cases which it does not publish in print but are easily acquired online (with a paid subscription); and 3) it makes searching for highly-specific points of law very easy.

41. OCA – “Office of Court Administration

The big kahuna. This is the agency that runs the judicial branch of government in New York State. Just about anything you can think of, which pertains to courts, judges, and attorneys, is controlled by OCA.

42. OF or OOF – “Order of Filiation

If paternity is at issue, once genetic testing is done – and the suspected father turns out to be daddy after all – the court will thereafter issue an order declaring that a person is the legally-recognized father of a specific child. This is essentially what an order of filiation is. An order of filiation puts to rest any (legal) doubts as to a child’s parentage, while officially vesting certain rights and responsibilities in the legally-recognized father of the child.

43. OP or OOP – “Order of Protection

An order of protection is one of the principal weapons in a judge’s arsenal. Violate it and you will very likely find yourself in jail. There are several kinds of orders of protection, for various offenses, issued by various courts. This issue was also more fully addressed in my 4th post, on October 9, 2011, “It’s Just An Order Of Protection. No Big Deal, Right?”

44. OS or OOS – “Order of Supervision”

Once an Article 10 proceeding is concluded, the respective parties will enter into an agreement whereby the parties will usually agree to several specific terms and conditions with the Department of Social Services, with the goal of either having the children returned to the parents or of having DSS ultimately removed from the picture altogether. This agreement is then turned into what is called an Order of Supervision, which is often strictly monitored by DSS personnel. Chronic non-compliance with an Order of Supervision will likely result in a return to court on a violation of the order.

45. PE – “Psychological Examination

In highly-contested matters – especially where a person’s mental status has been seriously questioned or their judgment or actions have been deemed odd – a court will order the parties to be subjected to one or more examinations, by either a psychologist or a psychiatrist, which analyze their personalities and how they interact with others – specifically the other party and the children. Normally, the parties are expected to pay for these (often expensive) examinations.

46. PHR – “Permanency Hearing Report

This is the formulaic and often lengthy document which is generated by DSS and must be sent to the parties to an Article 10 proceeding well in advance of any permanency hearing. It is essentially a concise summary of the important matters in a given case that have occurred in the time frame since either the last permanency hearing or the last permanency hearing order.

47. PINS – “Person in Need of Supervision

Such an individual is basically a child who is either misbehaving at home or at school and has been deemed to be “out of control” by either a parent or a school official. A child adjudicated to be a PINS is often required to report to probation so that their ongoing behavior may be closely monitored. Should probation determine the child’s ongoing behavior to be non-compliant with what is expected of the child, the chances of the child being placed outside his or her home increase substantially.

48. PL – “Penal Law

This is the series of statutes that specifically describe the acts (or failures to act) which constitute violations and crimes (misdemeanors and felonies) and can therefore be prosecuted under the criminal law with wide ranges of potential penalties. Frankly, the various crimes set forth in these statutes are quite interesting and, more importantly, are often added to. It never ceases to amaze me that what was once considered merely bad behavior is now a serious crime.

49. POP or POOP – “Permanent Order of Protection

Such a document sets forth the terms of a person’s behavior relative to another person or persons for a specific period of time, ranging from mere days to many years. This issue was also more fully addressed in my 4th post, on October 9, 2011, “It’s Just An Order Of Protection. No Big Deal, Right?”

50. PPG – “Permanency Planning Goal

If you are a conscientious parent who is actively working to get your children back, the PPG in a permanency hearing report should always be one thing and one thing only: RTP (return to parent). If you are not a conscientious parent, and appear indifferent to DSS in reacquiring your children, then the PPG will ultimately change to the much more ominous “free for adoption“. Cue the creepy music.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in legal acronyms and terminology. And you will need an able navigator to guide you through the dire straits of the legal system. Just give me a call and we can nimbly wend our way safely past the scylla and charybdis of your opponent and the modern court system itself.