New York Chief Justice wants to unify the court network

For decades, governors and legislators tried unsuccessfully to overhaul New York’s aging and fragmented court system, considered one of the most complex navigation systems in the country.

A family, Egmay have to appear in State Supreme Court for divorce, in Family Court for child custody matters, and in Criminal Court if domestic violence is involved. – appear before multiple judges in different courts on related matters.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Janet DiFiore extended her push modernize and simplify the court systema labyrinth filled with backlogs of work, higher litigation costs and redundant court appearances, advocates of reforming it say.

Judge DiFiore, who presides over the state’s highest court, announced a plan to effectively merge most of the state’s 11 trial courts into two: the existing State Supreme Court and the new Municipal Court. established.

“We are forced to operate one of the largest and busiest court systems in the world under the constraints of the most inefficient, outdated, fragmented and unnecessary trial court structure of all. country,” Judge DiFiore said in the annual Address of Justice. “We need to streamline and modernize the outdated trial court structure, but inexplicable reform is never seriously pursued.”

The plan, similar to one that Judge DiFiore announced in 2019, would require a constitutional amendment to be enacted, an escalation of difficulty in the State Legislature. The lengthy process would require lawmakers to pass the bill two years in a row before allowing voters to consider it in a referendum.

Real, previous efforts of the chief justice to strengthen the courts has traditionally been stymied by politics and has faced stiff opposition from some judges concerned about how they would be seated in a new system. They argue that the proposed structure would threaten their judicial independence and potentially undermine diversification efforts.

The actual process of consolidating the vast court system will require administrative reform of 1,350 government-paid judges and 15,000 court employees, such as clerks and officers, whose public servants The group has previously raised concerns.

Gathering public support around a complex issue if consequential justice issues can also be difficult.

“It will be an uphill task to implement the kind of change that Judge DiFiore wants to see, just because it can’t happen or some of it won’t happen,” said Rep. The Judiciary Committee, who is sponsoring a bill featuring the chief justice’s recommendations. “Some of these courts were part of our unified court system that predated the American Revolution.”

Efforts to streamline the courts have been supported by a coalition of bar associations, good government groups, legal service providers, domestic violence advocates and even Leading business associations cite the inefficiencies and high costs associated with the current court system as a drag on the economy.

“We cannot delay this hugely important initiative if we are to achieve our most cherished ideals – ensuring public confidence in our justice system and guaranteeing the right to justice. access to justice,” said T. Andrew Brown, president of the New York State Bar Association, in a statement.

These groups argue that the current setup lengths the justice system by requiring more than one judge to hear different cases on related issues, leading to more court appearances and a backlog of cases. more stagnation.

They say it is especially damaging for families who have to split their time between different courts and potentially spend money on different attorneys.

ONE report by the Commission on Modern Courts, a nonpartisan organization that supports reform, found that the state could save at least $65 million annually in administrative costs by unifying the courts.

ONE separate analysis of the Special Committee on the Future of the New York Court found that simplifying court structure could save litigants $443 million annually by reducing redundant court appearances resulting in fees. higher attorney, loss of salary and other expenses.

Under Judge DiFiore’s proposed changes, the Court of Appeals, as well as the County, Family, and Representative Courts, would be abolished and the State Supreme Court would take over the jurisdiction their judgement. Those judges will become judges of the Supreme Court.

Six divisions – family, probate, criminal, state claims, commercial and general – will be created under the new version of the Supreme Court, with the goal of improving coordination and helping the system easier navigation. (Despite its name, the State Supreme Court is not the highest court in New York; it is the Court of Appeals.)

The new City Court will take over the civil and criminal courts of New York City, the District Courts on Long Island, and the 61 surrounding city courts. There will be no changes to town and village courts.

The plan will not change the way judges are selected; some judges in the state are elected, while others are appointed.

But the proposal received strong opposition from the unions representing the elected State Supreme Court justices. They have raised concerns about the power that court administrators will have to move judges outside of the districts they are elected to serve, arguing that the plan will wrest control from judges and voters. .

They also argued that Judge DiFiore’s approach to court reform would lead to a more complex system.

“Besides just replacing the word ‘court’ with the word ‘division’, this proposal would create more complexity and confusion for voters and litigants,” a more nuanced approach directed at a single issue. fragmentation or inefficiencies in the existing system in a targeted and deliberate manner.”

In a statement Wednesday, Judges Barbara R. Kapnick and Mary Ann Brigantti, the heads of the associations, argued that the plan “will centralize power to the judges and courts in the Office of Management Courts, this would reduce the efficiency and independence of judges over the state.”

The Legislature, controlled by Democrats, held two hearings in November 2019 on Judge DiFiore’s plan to restructure the court system, but efforts have stalled since. .

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who chaired the Judiciary Committee and introduced the restructuring bill in the Senate, said one of the biggest issues emerging from the hearings was whether the proposal would dilute public opinion. judicial diversity or not.

Opponents argue that diversity in a state’s Supreme Court could be diluted because appointed judges, a sometimes more homogeneous group, become judges of that court. They will also be eligible for appointment to the higher Appellate Division.

“I think my colleagues in both chambers think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restructure the courts,” Mr. Hoylman said. “How we encourage diversity on the bench, which is a big deal outside of New York City, is a top concern.”

Mr Hoylman, whose new bill was revised to address diversity concerns and other issues raised during the hearings, added that the court restructuring is like a half-century. bang your head against the wall. “ New York Chief Justice wants to unify the court network

Fry Electronics Team

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