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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Report Finds Court Cuts Cause 'Substantial Harm'

Report Finds Budget Cuts Result in 'Substantial Harm' to Courts
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko  -  January 19, 2012

ALBANY, NY - Budget cuts imposed on New York's state's Judiciary in 2011 have been "substantially harmful and far-reaching" to the operations of the courts, the New York State Bar Association concluded in a report released Jan. 18. The report, based on observations by litigants, lawyers and others, found that courts have been "less efficient" and that "judicial decision-making is less expedient" than before passage of the 2011-12 state budget, when $170 million was excised from the Judiciary budget of about $2.3 billion for the year beginning April 1, 2011. "Recent reductions in state court funding have been quite costly," the report says. "Although state fiscal constraints are very real in this economy, additional and imminent investment in the state court system is necessary. It is necessary to restore a sense of confidence in the judicial system, which ultimately is priceless." The report was prepared by the executive committee of the state bar based on a questionnaire it sent to lawyers, judges, court staffers and members of the public in the state's 13 judicial districts. It was released in preparation for a presidential "summit" at the upcoming annual state bar meeting at 2 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the New York Hilton in Manhattan. Former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will moderate the discussion about cuts in funding to federal and state courts. The president of the American Bar Association, William T. Robinson III, also is set to speak at the session on funding shortages.  Vincent E. Doyle III, the president of the state bar, said on Jan. 18 that he wanted one of the presentations to focus on what he thinks is a growing crisis in funding for state courts. (The other session, to begin at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 25, will focus on the obligations of defense attorneys to warn immigrants about the collateral consequences of conviction.)

New York's Judiciary has submitted a budget for 2012-13 that is down slightly overall but includes $27.7 million necessary for judges to receive their first raises since January 1999. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo reacted positively to the courts' spending plans in his budget proposal (NYLJ, Jan. 18). "We certainly support it," Mr. Doyle said of the Judiciary's request for 2012-13. "But we would love to see it at a higher level of funding." Mr. Doyle said the state bar wants Mr. Cuomo and legislators to understand that several years of flat budget proposals have had a "very noticeable impact on the functioning of the court system." Among the impressions gathered by the state bar is that the cutbacks have "led to delays in the administration of justice, increased costs to litigants, and the crowding of court dockets." With cases taking longer to adjudicate, the state bar said the reputation of the courts has suffered. "It results in less accessibility, loss of respect and diminished power," the report declares. Among the functions taking longer are signing off on uncontested divorces, even where no children are involved, and disposing of commercial matters, the report states.  "Reductions in staff have caused delays in courthouse operations," it says. "Something as simple as getting into the courthouse takes much longer due to fewer security personnel, and long lines form that can make a litigant miss a calendar call. The filing and processing of petitions, motions, and other court filings have been slowed."  The evidence is anecdotal, and the report offers no statistics about the magnitude of the delays or how much they have increased in the last year.  Lise Bang-Jensen, a spokeswoman for the state bar, said it was not practical for the group to perform a more scientific survey of court consumers. "It would be impossible to collect that data," she said. "How do you quantify how many people did not get into court because of the 4:30 p.m. closing time? How many people were unhappy because they did not get to be heard by 4:30 p.m. and could not come back the next day? There is no way to significantly measure this." Mr. Doyle, of Connors & Vilardo in Buffalo, said he expects his organization and other bar groups, such as the New York City Bar and the New York County Lawyers' Association, to be more aggressive this year in promoting the next state court budget than in the previous few years. Mr. Doyle said that will include joint news conferences like the one the state bar ran last year in conjunction with the city bar, NYCLA and other groups promoting passage of bills legalizing same-sex marriage and toughening ethics legislation for public officials in New York.  Both of those bills ultimately passed last year in Albany. Mr. Cuomo's office had no immediate response yesterday to the state bar's survey. Legislative leaders also had no immediate comment. The state bar's conclusions mirror the findings of a shorter New York City Bar report that found the operations of the state courts have suffered from the 2011 cutbacks (NYLJ, Jan. 10).  Joel Stashenko can be contacted at jstashenko@alm.com.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

As long as the harm doesn't include less money and power for the insiders, no one gives a crap.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. But all the judges got big raises, so they should be happy.

Isn't the motto of the Courts "Let them eat cake"?

Anonymous said...

The scum will ignore all the corruption of the judges, the courts and the lawyers. More money would only mean more corruption. Higher paid judges returned nothing for the increased compensation. The same old stupidity of government employees determining that more money is needed in their department. When are government swine satiated? Never. It's more and more and more. Their relatives want in. They want the People to be the enslaved servants of the government servants.

Anonymous said...

Another phony self serving report by the PR gangsters

Anonymous said...

The harm coming from the OCA is not just about cuts..as there are several extremely highly paid slugs make 6 figures still in operation and cannot train anyone.

The problems stem from the forced retirements and firings by OCA of very qualified workers and then replacing them with rookies who have no one to train them...as I hear from my sources at OCA.

As a long time employee..I went thru OCA'S layoffs in the 90;s and myself and another clerk personally wrote a clerk's manual and trained several new clerks and judges throughout those years..and there were really no problems afterwards.

OCA'S problems stem from massive hirings of do and know nothing political hacks and when they rid their courts of the real ..civil service tested workers..they are screwed by their self created inexperienced newly hired, idiot leftovers and the unsuccessful quack hacks...that atty Doyle and his old man Admin Judge Doyle and OCA... never really understands!
At least this is what is going in upstate WNY!

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