Hofstra Law Student Explains the Importance of Note-Writing in the Family Court Review
Family Court Review (FCR) is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal published under the umbrella of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). It is an international, interdisciplinary family law journal in which research, proposed legislation, philosophies and scholarly works are all shared to promote ideas and change among those in the family law community. With 4,700 subscribers worldwide, it is one of the most influential and widely read journals in the field of family law.
Family Court Review Editorial Staff
The student editorial staff that prepares articles for publication in FCR is composed of 40 students from Hofstra Law serving in numerous capacities, both as junior and senior staffers. Students are initially selected to be a part of FCR following Hofstra Law’s annual writing competition, which takes place at the end of the spring semester and is sponsored by the Hofstra Law Review. First- and second-year law students have the opportunity to participate in the competition. The 20 junior staff members — those who are new to the journal — are selected by the managing editor (the equivalent of editor-in-chief on other Hofstra Law academic journals) after a thorough analysis of the writing competition submissions, the level of interest in family law, and other relevant considerations.
The Note-Writing Process
A “Note” is an article that identifies a legal issue and presents a novel solution to that issue. At Hofstra Law, being on an academic journal requires junior staff members to write a Note that will count toward a writing credit. FCR has published Notes on such diverse topics as immigration, criminal justice reform, assisted reproductive technology, and ethics. Junior staff members are tasked with researching and picking general topics of interest before the academic year begins. The Managing Editor of Notes and Comments (MENC) meets with each junior staffer to develop his or her topic following an orientation held at the start of the semester.
I am the FCR’s MENC, and in such capacity, it is my responsibility to supervise and assist the junior staff members with the entirety of their Note-writing requirement. Finding a topic within family law that interests the student while not being “preempted” is a challenge. The “preemption” process involves a thorough check to determine whether the Note topic that has been selected has already been published by someone else, in which case that topic cannot be used for a Note. Students are encouraged to read the New York Law Journal, Bloomberg, and other law-related news sites in order to identify hot issues in family law.
Throughout the fall semester, the MENC, along with the notes and comments editor (NCE), teaches a weekly class to the junior staffers in order to assist them with the Note-writing process. The students are required to submit periodic preemption checks to demonstrate that they are not preempted from writing on their chosen topics. They meet periodically with the MENC and NCE to work through any such problems. They also have weekly assignments which include formal presentations of their Notes to a panel of professionals from the family law community and subsequent page submissions containing proper Bluebook citations. With each assignment comes another round of edits and critiques from the MENC and the NCE. In January, students submit their full 25-page Note for a first-round review and edits by the MENC and the NCE. By February, the students submit their final Note, and the managing editor, along with the faculty advisor, choose up to eight of the 20 junior staff Notes for publication in subsequent issues of FCR.
The Author’s Published Note
As a junior staff member, I wrote my Note on frozen-embryo-disposition-contract enforcement. I had read an article in the news relating to this topic and I felt very strongly about it. After working through any preemption issues with my MENC, I came up with a tailored problem and solution. The problem that I identified was the lack of uniformity and authority with respect to enforcing frozen-embryo-disposition contracts across the country. Very few states have statutes that address this issue, and in those that do not, the courts have been left to making their own interpretations of whether or not these contracts should be enforced. From state to state you will find drastically different outcomes. Some states throw out the contract regardless of its contents and find for the party who wishes not to procreate; some courts find for the parent who wishes to procreate, often with an extenuating circumstance (infertility); and some courts enforce these contracts.
My solution is to develop a comprehensive federal statute that provides procedural and substantive safeguards to ensure contract enforcement for those wishing to create frozen embryos. Disposition contracts should be enforced because they allow the parties to plan ahead for any circumstance that may arise, as opposed to letting a non-party judge decide. These safeguards include psychological counseling, legal representation, individual gamete freezing, limiting the term of the agreement, informed consent, and liability for the professional or facility if they do not abide by the procedures set forth within the proposed statute.
After an extensive editorial process, my Note was published in the October 2017 issue of FCR. I was able to present my Note to others through the presentation process that FCR offers junior staff members during the fall semester and at the Siben symposium event entitled “Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Family Law: The Real and the Ideal” which was held this past November at Hofstra Law. The entire experience has been extremely educational and rewarding for me, and admittedly, it was quite a thrill to be published while still a law student.
The Importance of Notes Published in FCR
The reason that Notes published in FCR are so important is that someone on the other side of the country — or the world, for that matter — may read the Note and spur legislative action to promote change. For example, my Note may encourage additional research by local psychologists, or a judge or judicial officer may read it and implement new court training procedures for this issue. Due to FCR’s substantial readership, the opportunities and ramifications that result from writing and publishing articles and Notes in the Family Court Review are numerous and far-reaching, all with the goal of making the family law community a better place for all of those involved.