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Saturday, April 23, 2011

More On Empire State Court Mess

Courts feel first hits of state budget cuts
The Buffalo News by Tom Precious  -  April 21, 2011

Early courthouse closings, cancellation of evening small-claims hearings among actions taken

ALBANY, NY -- Now come the effects of the state budget cuts. Among those feeling the reductions earliest is the state court system, which in Western New York has started closing courthouses early, canceling evening small-claims hearings and scaling back programs that use social workers to handle everything from custody battles to legal disputes between neighbors. The 8th Judicial District, an eight-county area in Western New York, has already shut down a program that uses retired judges with for jury selections, asbestos cases and other matters to help ease caseloads. And by the end of May, layoffs of court employees are expected as part of a statewide reduction of up to 500 workers in the judicial system. "My biggest concern is making sure the courts are open five days a week [so] people can get their cases heard," said Judge Paula L. Feroleto, administrative law judge for the sprawling 8th District.  The judge, who has had to add a busy schedule of asbestos-related claims to her own schedule after a retired judge with expertise in the issues had to be let go, said the priority will be to protect the flow of cases in family and criminal courts. "Civil cases will be delayed more than anything else," the judge said. As part of this year's state budget negotiations, New York's court system offered up $100 million in cuts. But in the final state budget adopted March 31, the courts found themselves suddenly scrambling with a total cut package of $170 million. In Albany, lawyers from around the state met Friday with Ann Pfau, the state's chief administrative judge, to hear about cutbacks and layoffs that are on the way. "Lawyers have to know that life is not going to be the same in terms of moving cases through the courts," said Scott Schwartz, president of the 3,800-member Bar Association of Erie County, who attended the Albany meeting. "If people are looking for expeditious resolution to various civil matters, their expectations may not be met and it may result in a financial hardship under particular circumstances," he said. A variety of programs are already being cut, including those using outside social workers to help expedite cases and find resolutions between warring parties before going to judges. In Western New York, Catholic Charities has been told its contract with the courts -- handling work like social work assessments for Family Court visitation scheduling -- has been scuttled. Child & Family Services of Buffalo has seen its contract reduced; it handles a range of services for the courts, including dispute mediation in Buffalo City Court in landlord/tenant issues and visitation fights between divorced parents. And a contract with the YWCA, which provided child care for people with court dates, has been eliminated in City Court and reduced in Family Court, Feroleto said. The administrative judge said officials are working to ensure the impact is not felt too deeply in places like Family Court, which had relied on the private social workers for doing initial assessments on families before going to a judge. One idea is to transfer some workers doing matrimonial casework to Family Court. "That, in turn, will hurt the divorce cases," the judge said. The judicial hearing officer program -- which cost statewide about $7 million annually -- has already been eliminated. The program paid retired judges, including a pool of about 30 in the 8th Judicial District, who helped supervise jury selections, heard property tax assessment claims, issued orders of protection and, in the case of one former hearing officer, oversaw asbestos-related lawsuits with 80 pending cases. In a recent alert to its members, the Civil Service Employees Association union said it expects layoffs of central Office of Court Administration staff to be effective May 4 with layoffs in other court units taking effect June 1. The bumping system for laid-off workers is complicated, though, and could result in workers being transferred or asked to work on matters with which they are unfamiliar in order to keep their jobs. The CSEA memo said some members have asked the union to support a furlough plan to avoid layoffs, but the courts have refused unless all 11 unions in the court system back the idea -- and nine have already said no. Officials in the 8th District said they do not know how many workers will lose their jobs, though Feroleto said she expects a "very small percentage" of the region's 950 workers will lose their jobs because the local system is already carrying 65 vacant slots from an early retirement program last fall. To reduce overtime pay of court staff, judges already have been told to be off the bench each day by 4:30 p.m. to give time for litigants and staff to clear the buildings by 5 p.m. Emergency procedures, such as orders of protection, can still be handled up until 5 p.m., officials said. Evening small-claims hearings, which were convenient for people with jobs, are being scrubbed. "We're still waiting to see if anything else is going to be cut," Feroleto said. The judge said the court system is working to avoid cuts seen in some other states, such as going to four-day-a-week court sessions. Schwartz, the local bar association president, said the state's chief administrative judge told lawyers Friday that clients and lawyers have to be made aware of funding cuts' impact on court caseloads. He said it appears some programs will be saved, such as an alternative dispute resolution program that helps process civil court cases. The looming cuts come a week after the state's top judge, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, warned of the "unprecedented impact" of the $170 million cut. "Let there be no mistake: The impact of our reduced budget will hurt our ability to serve all New Yorkers, and in particular those who come to our courts seeking justice," the judge said in a video message to court employees. tprecious@buffnews.com

9 comments:

angry said...

I am confident that the court mess can brought to lower lows. Thankfully, Lippman and Pfau have unmatched experience in wasting tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

A mess it is. Where are the feds?

Anonymous said...

Today the Buffalo News again reported on their Editorial page.. this huge headliner...the subject being...JUDICIAL GAMESMANSHIP!
The article is again a plus for the BNS...but it also remains absent from their online section.
Such a big critical article, such an important topic for discussion and such a need for further investigation into the affect these parties and most importantly the CONSERVATIVE PARTY'S position as a MINOR party in influencing serious public affected judicial issues, as well as the multiple years of ongoing internal judicial turmoil with the hiring of their power infected families.
Why Buffalo News are you reporting things that are desperatly in need of public commenting...but then you blatantly void that opportunity, so that the story that is meant to inform, is never to be discussed and possibly resolved.
Not sure the media's agenda in outing OCA and then keeping insiders or informers from adding to the meat...don't worry I don't participate in your public outing of commenters, so the blocking you use to do for my information..won't be a problem...just want others to expose or vent.
Good article for those who can obtain it..but will surely piss you off about living in NY state and having OCA apply the laws.

Anonymous said...

"Garbage in = garbage out" has been updated in NY to "crooked judges in = crooked mess out."

Anonymous said...

11:51 AM

ITS CALLED A 'LIMITED HANGOUT'
IN SPOOK CIRCLES , AND PROPAGANDA PARLANCE
I.E. THE EVIDENCE IS OVERWHELMING AND CANNOT BE CONTAINED SO THEY DO THE BARE MINIMUM
I.E. ACKNOWLEDGE THE UNAVOIDABLE AND TRUNCATE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

WHEN YOU WONT PROVIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT YOU ARE LATER FORCED TO PROVIDE THE 'VENEER ' OF LAW ENFORCEMENT .
CAPICHE ?? I HOPE THIS HELPED

Anonymous said...

11:06 AM
THE FEDS ???
THE FEDS ARE ROLLING ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING THEIR ASSES OFF BECAUSE;

ALMOST TEN YEARS AGO ON 9/11/01 THEY CARVED A PLANE SHAPED GASH IN THE GROUND IN SHANKSVILLE PA (JUST LIKE BUGGS BUNNY RUNNING THRU A WALL) PUT SOME SMOULDERING CHARCOALES IN THE MIDDLE:
AND CALLED IT A PLANE CRASH
(THE PLANE ??? IT DISSAPEARED !)
USING THIS AS A PRETEXT TO ROB YOU OF TRILLIONS
THE COURTS THAT YOU ARE GRIPING OVER ARE JUST THE LOCAL CLERKS FOR

"GREAT LYING WONDERS"

HAPPY EASTER !!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

They should rent out Lippman`s hotel. Transfer it to the state and then lease it out.
After all it is the state`s money.
They have the money they are doing it to scare people, give us more money or we will close your courts.

Anonymous said...

I hope this Easter Sunday Judge John K. McGuirk from the Supreme Court in Goshen New York County of Orange, chokes on an easter egg. Judge John K. McGuirk is a pig who helps the kidnapping of children for the purpose of child porn and prostitution. I hope you get rape and sodomized in the same manner my child has been raped and sodomized because your criminal activities to sell him to the abuser.

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2