Letter From The President Of The New York County Lawyers’ Association

2011-11-15 11:30

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

Judicial Budget Cuts – Have Your Voice Heard

In this time of increasing fiscal challenges, bar associations have an important obligation to speak out on behalf of the judicial branch of government, which does not have a vote in the budgeting process. The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) takes this obligation very seriously. Earlier this year, NYCLA developed a task force to investigate and evaluate the effects of judicial budget cuts. The work being done will not only assist the courts but also will assist attorneys, members of the business community and the public, all of whom are affected by these cuts. Since the summer, our Task Force on Judicial Budget Cuts – led by Michael Miller, a past NYCLA president, and Justice Steve Crane – has conducted research and held meetings in order to evaluate the effects of the budget cuts.

In August 2011, the task force issued preliminary reports concerning judicial budget cuts in New York state courts in Manhattan and in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (an investigation also is underway regarding the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York).

Some of the key findings in the preliminary reports include:

  • Reductions in the numbers of court officers assigned affect security for judges, staff, lawyers and the public.
  • Many fewer jurors are being called, potentially leading to delays, especially in civil trials.
  • Hours of operation were reduced with most courtrooms now open only from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Trials are taking longer, inconveniencing lawyers, witnesses and litigants and making trials more expensive.
  • Small claims court is operating on a drastically reduced schedule, creating significant backlogs of cases.
  • After 15 years, child care facilities were reduced in family courts (and eliminated in all other courts), making it more difficult for parents to participate in often emotional proceedings.
  • There are serious security issues in the Southern District of New York.

Detailed information and the reports can be found at www.nycla.org.

Next Steps

The Task Force recently prepared a questionnaire to multiple audiences to dig deeper into the challenges faced as a result of the cut backs. This questionnaire complements the Task Force’s continuing work, which will include a public hearing at NYCLA, and the preparation of more comprehensive and detailed reports.

In these times of economic uncertainty it is essential that attorneys speak out in favor of access to justice – I am proud that NYCLA can help be part of this. This is one of the things NYCLA can do for you and the public.

Sincerely,

Stewart D. Aaron