The New York Bar Foundation Launches the Hon. Theresa B. Whelan Memorial Fund for Families and Children

The New York Bar Foundation announced today that it has established a charitable fund that will honor the late Judge Theresa B. Whelan, who served as a Suffolk County Family Court judge and the county’s Surrogate’s Court judge.

Donations to the fund will help provide grants to New York nonprofit organizations whose mission includes providing assistance to local families and children in need.

“This memorial fund has been established to continue the legacy of my wife, the Hon. Theresa Whelan, who tirelessly worked for the betterment of families and children as well as initiatives to improve court practices to meet the needs of the public,” said Thomas Whelan.

“My children and I hope that her legacy lives on through this fund and through every family helped by our local nonprofits making a difference for those who need assistance. I offer my sincerest thanks to The New York Bar Foundation for its support in this endeavor and for all the good work the organization does in our communities,” he said.

During her 17 years in the Supreme Court, Justice Whelan worked in nearly every part, including civil litigation, guardianship, tax certiorari and condemnation cases as well as matrimonial matters. In 2019, she became Suffolk County’s surrogate, presiding over proceedings involving wills, trusts and estates as well as guardianship matters. She retired in the summer of 2022, marking 32 years with the New York State court system.

During her tenure, Justice Whelan launched several initiatives that helped families and children and expanded access to justice for all court users. She was a catalyst of the FOCUS (Family Overcoming Crisis through Unified Services) initiative, a program that expedites access to services that address the trauma and developmental needs of children and parents in the court system.

She also served as lead judge of the Suffolk County Child Welfare Court Improvement Project, part of a statewide initiative to address court practices in cases where the court has removed children from their parents’ care.

In 2016, Chief Administrative Judge Larry Marks appointed her to the Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee. Two years later, New York’s then Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed her to the New York State Commission on Parental Representation, which reports on the status and quality of lawyers representing parents in child welfare cases.

She also served as chair of Suffolk County’s Attorneys for Children Advisory Committee, which is responsible for considering the qualifications of new applicants to the Attorneys for Children panel and reviewing applications for recertification.

Justice Whelan died in December of 2022 at the age of 60.

The New York Bar Foundation is a non-profit philanthropic organization that receives charitable contributions and provides grants to financially support law-related programs of legal services organizations, nonprofits, bar associations and other organizations throughout New York State.