State of the Judiciary
January 10, 2000
Judith S. Kaye
It's appropriate to start the first State of the Judiciary Address
of Y2K with two sets of greetings. Let me first extend actual
greetings to those of you seated in this magnificent courtroom--surrounded
by symbols of stability, continuity and tradition in the law.
Second, I want to extend virtual greetings to today's plugged-in
audience attending via the internetall of you focused, no doubt,
on that quintessential symbol of innovation and change, a computer
screen. Continuity and tradition; innovation and change--I must
say, it's a little dizzying to be at the intersection of these
two markedly different cultures.
But isn't that the perfect metaphor for the challenge facing the
courts in the 21st century? On the one hand, cherishing traditions,
preserving core values that have nourished and sustained our system
of justice since this nation's birth. On the other hand, being
willing to change, to innovate, to take advantage of new tools,
new thinking, new solutions.
Without question, the best way to begin the new millennium is
by being honest with the public and with ourselves. Honest in
two ways: first, we have to acknowledge the shortcomings in the
system and try to correct them. Second, we have to acknowledge
the strengths of our system and make sure those aren't overlooked.
We hear plenty these days about what's wrong with our courts.
It's easy to be a critic, easy to lose sight of the fact that
there's still a lot that's right with our courts. One of the key
questions as we enter this new century is, how do we build public
trust and confidence in our justice system? The short answer:
confront our challenges, and spread the word about our strengths.
Clearly, our justice system does not want for challenges as we
stand at the crossroads of the centuries. Once again last year,
the New York State courts received over three million new cases
for resolution. That's not just millions of pieces of paper--it's
millions of human dramas, millions of contests about rights and
responsibilities, about rights and wrongs.
Given the size and sweep of our dockets, I could speak about shortcomings
and strengths until the next millennium. Above all, I'd enjoy
talking about successes and advances during 1999--not only record
dispositions but also our national model Family Courts in Erie
and New York Counties, our new domestic violence courts, the expansion
of our much-heralded business court, our Ethics Institute for
lawyer professionalism, and on and on and on. I'd enjoy describing
our new Civil Justice Program, which-- after a long year of fine-tuning
in cooperation with bench and bar--will be launched on January
31, bringing modern management techniques to civil litigation,
the largest portion of our caseloads.
The fact is, we have ongoing programs that reach into every single
corner of our operations--reforms for Housing Court, Family Court,
Town and Village Justice Courts, matrimonial initiatives, a comprehensive
program to computerize the courts and upgrade facilities all across
the State. The objective is to assure that always our court system
is impartial, fair and effective, yet also modern, efficient and
For all of the achievements of the New York State Judicial Branch,
I am grateful to my Court of Appeals Colleagues, to the Administrative
Board--with a special tip of the hat this year to Presiding Justices
Betty Weinberg Ellerin and Dolores Denman for their exemplary
service--to our superb Chief Administrative Judge, Jonathan Lippman,
to Deputies Traficanti, Carey, Pfau, Silbermann and Newton, to
the entire administrative team, to each and every one of our hard-working
judges and nonjudicial personnel, to our partners in government
and in the bar.
THE PERSISTENT LOW-LEVEL
But instead of covering the waterfront, today I have chosen to
isolate three subjects. The first two are highly specific challenges:
the persistent nonviolent criminal offender and access to justice.
My third subject is more general--our Year 2000 Program to promote
public trust and confidence in the courts.
We can immediately recognize the challenge
presented by my first subject, the persistent low-level nonviolent
offender. An individual who is arrested for a relatively minor
offense-like possession of a small amount of marijuana, shoplifting,
disorderly conduct, fare beating or unlicensed vending-too often
takes a plea, receives a minimal sanction, and upon release simply
starts the process all over again. Make no mistake: today there
are thousands of offenders like that in our courts. In the New
York City Criminal Court alone, nearly two-thirds of those arrested
and prosecuted last year had a prior arrest history. Over 30,000
had 10 or more prior arrests, and over 10,000 had 20 or more prior
arrests. And the picture is not appreciably different outside
New York City, where more than half of the low-level offenders
who are arrested also have a prior arrest history.
Clearly, this sort of behavior is in itself a cause for concern--it
corrodes and degrades our neighborhoods and communities. But even
more disturbing is the threat that persistent petty offenders
may turn to violent crime, on occasion even to a horrendous, sensational
crime. When that happens, the front pages explode. The public
understandably is outraged. How in the world could they let that
guy manipulate the process like that? What's wrong with our criminal
justice system? What's wrong with our courts?
Let's be frank: many institutions, not just courts, have a role
in dealing with chronic unlawful behavior--families, schools,
community centers, law enforcement, hospitals, mental health,
social services, to name but a few. All of these institutions
and many more have important roles to play in preventing, and
remedying, the conditions that can lead to persistent antisocial
behavior. The courts are a place of last resort. When other systems
fail, the problem arrives on our doorstep, and we are expected
to provide a meaningful intervention.
That's an enormous challenge for courts. It's tempting to ignore
the challenge both because it is so immense and because our role,
as neutral adjudicators, is a limited one. "Let's just dispose
of this case, and proceed to the next one. There's no way we're going
to conquer this mountain." And of course-whatever else
we do-we do first and foremost have to adjudicate each case and
impose punishment on the guilty in accordance with the law. But
additionally, we can-as we are trying to do-roll up our sleeves
and see how we might become part of a more durable solution.
Repeated low-level crime is, after all,
not just a problem for society. It swells our dockets and is therefore
also a problem for the courts.
Drug Courts and
I could talk today about the big picture, the causes of persistent
antisocial behavior. Common sense tells us that the problem often
begins with troubled children and dysfunctional families. Authoritative
studies tell us that too. We know, for example, that a high percentage
of prisoners have been found to have spent time in foster care.
But I'm going to resist the temptation to detail our important
foster care and Family Court initiatives--initiatives to speed
up permanency for children, to help drug-addicted moms overcome
their habit and raise their families, to promote children's basic
good health as early as possible, to make every Family Court appearance
a valuable one. Instead, I want to focus more narrowly on positive,
concrete steps we are taking to address the human recycling in
our criminal courts, to try to change the course of petty antisocial
behavior before one misdemeanor offense leads to a second or a
third or a fourth arrest. Admittedly, these steps are not a cure.
They represent a start on a complex, multi-dimensional response
to what is unquestionably a complex, multi-dimensional social
To begin, we know for a fact that drug
addiction is a major force fueling this revolving door. Simply
put, the courts have a drug problem. Studies show that in urban
areas 75 percent of all arrestees test positive for drugs. Close
to half of all felony filings involve drug offenses, more if you
include crimes resulting from drug abuse. Drug offenses now account
for nearly one-half of all prison commitments. Twenty years ago
they were only one-tenth of the total. That is precisely why we
recently appointed a high-level Commission on Drugs and the Courts,
chaired by Robert Fiske. I am confident that their recommendations
will help us craft additional sound approaches for dealing with
the courts' drug problem.
For the moment, experience tells us that Drug Courts are a solid
step in the right direction. Drug Courts operate on the premise
that, for many of the people recycling through the courts, arrest
is both a moment of crisis and a moment of opportunity, and that
active judicial involvement in monitoring the treatment process
is an effective way to stop drug abuse and re-route these offenders
to productive lives.
Past experience has shown that, under the traditional criminal
case processing approach, as many as half of those arrested for
drug offenses are rearrested for drug-related crime. Yet study
after study has found that Drug Courts sharply reduce these recidivism
rates-and the expense of drug treatment is minimal compared to
the more than $30,000 annual cost of incarcerating a single individual.
Drug Courts are a good investment. You can measure their dividends
in dollars and human lives.
So let's make the investment. Let's establish Drug Courts throughout
the State and really integrate them into the infrastructure of
our justice system. The court system has made funding for expansion
of our Drug Court program a high priority in this year's budget
request. Our goal is to have more than 30 Drug Courts operating
throughout the State by the end of the fiscal year. We can be
the first state in the nation to institutionalize a comprehensive
approach to drug-related crime. New Yorkers deserve nothing less.
Drug Courts are one significant step toward breaking the devastating
cycle of persistent nonviolent crime. Community Courts are another.
Pervasive quality-of-life offenses can drain any neighborhood.
They can start a downward spiral where disorder invites more disorder,
and eventually law-abiding citizens don't feel safe to walk the
streets. Community Courts make the connection between low-level
crime and community well- being. They take these offenses seriously,
often imposing sentences that include a mix of sanctions and services
designed to restore the community and change future behavior.
Defendants may be ordered to paint over graffiti or tend community
green space. They also may be ordered to drug treatment, health
counseling and job training.
Our first experiment was the Midtown Community Court, which focused
on quality-of-life crime in midtown Manhattan. Within weeks, we'll
be cutting the ribbon for the Red Hook Community Justice Center
in Brooklyn. And in the coming months we'll be opening the Harlem
Community Justice Center.
Red Hook and Harlem will be the nation's first multi- jurisdictional
Community Courts. The Red Hook Court will hear mainly misdemeanor
criminal cases, but also selected Housing and Family Court matters.
Often, courts treat these legal problems in isolation when in
reality they may be linked: a domestic violence offense may impact
a child custody matter; a criminal case may be related to a housing
dispute. Again, the court's goal is to find durable solutions
to problems that recur in the community--to stop the recycling
of people and start the process of renewal. I urge all of you
to visit these courts to see, firsthand, community-based justice
So one concrete approach for dealing with the problem of the persistent
low-level offender is to institutionalize Drug Courts and expand
Another step is to enlarge our misdemeanor
trial capacity. Last year each judge sitting in the New York City
Criminal Court, on average, handled nearly 5,000 cases. With calendars
that huge, the system is reduced to a plea bargain mill, with
no true trial capability offering balance to the process. It's
no secret. Everyone--including the repeat offender--knows this.
Some have called the system McJustice-it's fast, but not necessarily
good for anyone. It's not necessarily good for defendants who
want a trial to test the charges against them in a swift, certain
manner. And it's not necessarily good for the public when the
pressure of case volume, not the merits of a case, drives the
Without question, we have to increase the size of the New York
City Criminal Court bench. In recent years, this Court has seen
a 40 percent-plus increase in its filings. Yet in the past 30
years, only nine new Criminal Court judgeships have been added.
After an exhaustive analysis of local criminal court caseloads
around the State, we are calling on the Legislature to create
23 additional judgeships in New York City and thereby reduce individual
judges' caseloads to somewhat more manageable levels.
As a stopgap measure, we plan to have Criminal Court judges presently
sitting by designation in Supreme Court conduct misdemeanor trials.
This is by no means an ideal solution, because--obviously--it
diminishes our capacity to try felony cases. But by temporarily
realigning judicial resources, we can help to address the present
avalanche of misdemeanor cases. In the end, however, we have to
face the fact that we need more Criminal Court judges to provide
true misdemeanor trial capability.
Yet another alternative for increasing trial capacity would be
through restoration of some analogue to the former Misdemeanor
Trial Law. As a constitutional matter, a defendant's right to
a jury trial attaches only when charged with a crime for which
the maximum penalty is more than six months' incarceration. From
1984 to 1990, the Misdemeanor Trial Law reduced the maximum penalty
for a number of Class A misdemeanors from one year to six months--so
that these cases could be tried by a judge instead of a jury.
Because bench trials are less time-consuming than jury trials,
this law did indeed increase our misdemeanor trial capacity during
the years it was in effect.
The court system will propose a revised Misdemeanor Trial Law
permitting New York City prosecutors in Class A misdemeanor cases
to stipulate that they will not seek a sentence of more than six
months, allowing the matter to proceed to a bench trial. This
legislation would--for all concerned--be a major improvement over
the current plea bargain mill.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
And those, in short, are concrete steps we propose as a start
on a solution to the problem of the chronic low-level nonviolent
offender. We will use our own resources as fully and as creatively
as present law allows and we will pursue appropriate statutory
reform to enable us to better deal with this frustrating modern-day
Civil Legal Services
A second major challenge for the courts is the issue of access
to justice. Justice is a cherished public resource. That means
it should be available to all citizens regardless of economic
But we know that in reality our system makes it more difficult
for low income people to obtain equal justice. And that is a shortcoming
to which the courts must respond. With the creation this year
of the Office of the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice
Initiatives, we now can strengthen our own efforts in this regard.
Under the stewardship of Judge Juanita Bing Newton, the court
system will work to eliminate barriers and ensure one-tier justice.
In no area is this more vital than the
provision of civil legal services. Currently, because of funding
cuts and waiting lists, many poorer citizens are forced to go
into court on their own to protect the very necessities of life-shelter,
income, food and health services. We are doing what we can to
assist self-represented litigants, but we still know that the
scales of justice balance best when both sides have equal access
to legal representation. That means we need a reliable system
of civil legal services, including a secure source of funding.
We achieve that by establishing a structure that can meet the
I propose that New York follow the example of states like Maryland
and Washington and create a centralized Access to Justice entity
that can serve as a vehicle for enhancing the availability of
civil legal services and, most critically, promoting new revenue
sources. I hope the Legislature will take the first step by this
year providing the necessary seed money to create such an entity.
Next, there is no question that a bedrock component of our State's
commitment to equal access to justice is the availability of qualified
assigned counsel to represent indigent litigants in criminal and
Family Court matters. Unfortunately, our ability to honor that
commitment is at risk. And the reason is clear. The fees for this
work--$40 an hour for in-court time, $25 an hour for out-of-court
time--were barely adequate in 1986 when they were set. They are
completely out of line with today's economic realities. The result
has been a mass exodus of attorneys from the assigned counsel
Today I release a report that graphically illustrates this crisis.
As the report shows, the acute shortage of appointed counsel severely
undermines the processing of criminal and Family Court cases,
to the great detriment of crime victims, families, prosecutors
and defendants, and ultimately the public. This cannot continue.
To address this crisis, we convened members of the bench, bar
and law enforcement, as well as representatives of local governments
around the State. The result is a bill supported by every interested
party, including the localities. The bill, which we will submit
this legislative session, would raise the current rates to $75
an hour for felony and Family Court cases, and $60 an hour for
nonfelony cases. It also would establish a commission to review
the rates periodically and make non-binding recommendations for
rate adjustments when needed.
Of course, rate increases will mean additional costs for government.
Historically, the great burden of these costs has fallen upon
local governments. Last year, I suggested a potential source of
State revenue to ease this burden: the mandatory surcharge paid
by every person in the State convicted of an offense. Until recently,
this money was dedicated to criminal justice programs. Now, most
of it--nearly $70 million a year--goes into the State's General
Fund. It makes good sense to fund the needed increases in assigned
counsel rates from these revenues, which are paid by those who
violate the law. Modest increases in the mandatory surcharge could
also help to offset the cost of the increase.
Promoting Pro Bono
I have an additional proposal in this regard. Each year millions
of dollars in court fines and mandatory surcharges go unpaid.
Not all of this money is collectible, but undoubtedly much of
it is. Experience has shown that governmental institutions are
not equipped to function as collection agencies and are therefore
not particularly successful at this task. But government can put
in place effective mechanisms to collect monies due the State.
To better serve the public, in the coming months the court system
will be contracting on a pilot basis with private firms to collect
fines and surcharges in six designated localities, where we estimate
that millions of dollars are outstanding. With the help of the
Legislature, this program can and should be expanded Statewide,
with collections dedicated to increased fees for assigned counsel.
A comprehensive, Statewide program to collect outstanding fines
and surcharges can greatly ease the fiscal burden of raising assigned
counsel fees. And it can also increase the accountability of offenders
who might otherwise ignore these judgments.
Finally, our efforts to promote equal
access to justice cannot be limited to funding issues. The magnitude
of unmet needs also requires exploration of alternative sources
of legal representation, including the expansion of pro bono programs.
While many members of the bar have generously supported pro bono
work, a court system report last year found that less than half
of New York attorneys provided pro bono services. The most frequently
cited reason was a lack of time. To address this concern, and
provide even greater incentive, we will amend our Continuing Legal
Education rules, becoming the third state in the nation to allow
partial CLE credit for pro bono work. Through this amendment,
we hope to materially increase pro bono services Statewide without
the need for mandatory pro bono.
YEAR 2000 PROGRAM
And that, in short, is our solution-oriented approach to today's
second subject: the challenge presented by the need for equal
access to justice. Again, the court system is pursuing lasting
solutions by better use of existing resources, by thinking innovatively
about new approaches and by seeking necessary statutory reform.
My third subject today is the Y2K challenge. Here I refer not
to the computer bug we've heard so much about, but to the new
century's urgent challenge to promote public trust and confidence
in the courts. For the justice system, public trust and confidence
is not a luxury, it's a necessity.
It is ironic, isn't it, at a time when our popular culture is
drenched with law-based entertainment that we have to work doubly
hard to make sure that the public comprehends what courts and
lawyers really do, and what a tremendous difference their work
really makes in our society. Post-modern couch potatoes can watch
Law and Order reruns while taping the latest Divorce Court and
skimming the new Grisham novel. But do people understand the significance
of the rule of law? Or do they just wonder why real courts get
so hung up on technicalities, when on TV they just cut to the
chase--with plenty of time left for commercials.
The challenge is clear. We have to make sure that the public understands
that courts provide more than just prime time plotlines. Courts
protect our fundamental liberties. And lawyers aren't just fodder
for punch lines. Lawyers help keep this society orderly and free,
a model for the world.
During Year 2000, we will be making a sustained effort throughout
the year to reach out to the public in order to communicate the
intrinsic worth of our system of justice. Two important elements
of that Program are continuing jury reform and community outreach.
Each year in New York State, we summon
more than 600,000 citizens as jurors. Despite hours in front of
the tube watching the likes of Judy and Gerry, and Ally and Amy,
for many of these citizens jury service will be their first real-life
encounter with the courts. That's more than 600,000 opportunities
every year to show the public our system at its best. Talk about
New York can be proud of its record on jury reform. In the last
years of the 20th century, we repealed all automatic exemptions
from service so that today even Governors, Mayors, legislators
and Chief Judges are summoned. We expanded source lists, slashed
terms of service, raised juror fees, spiffed up facilities and
started a snappy juror newsletter complete with crossword puzzle
and court news. And that was just for openers.
And you know, people began to notice a difference. My mail changed.
Now I regularly get letters from jurors not only asking for answers
to the crossword puzzle, but also telling me how much they enjoyed
the experience, how helpful and courteous they found our personnel,
how much they learned. I've even received reports of juror romances,
All during Year 2000 we plan to continue the momentum, because
there's a lot more to be done. Next Fall we will convene a first-of-its-kind
national jury summit in New York. Representatives from across
the nation will gather here to exchange ideas and experiences,
to hear about innovations and possibilities, and to address a
broad spectrum of issues ranging from the technological to the
During the months leading up to the summit, we plan to accelerate
efforts to modernize our own jury system. We've recently designed
a more user-friendly summons that is easier to read and understand.
When jurors were showing up at the courthouse at 6:30 A.M. instead
of 8:30 because they couldn't read the summons, we knew something
was wrong. The new summonses contain detachable juror badges with
scannable bar codes that will eliminate that annoying tradition
of juror roll call, reduce juror waiting time and speed up the
We are also modernizing the jury qualification process, using
a breakthrough new technology: the telephone. In the very near
future, you will be able to answer your qualification questionnaire,
not by snail mail, but by touch-tone phone. Again, automation
will save time, speed the receipt of data and lower cost.
As a result of a report issued last March by our blue-ribbon Grand
Jury Commission, several pilot projects to improve this long-neglected
part of the justice system are under way. We are, for example,
actively evaluating less burdensome terms of service in cooperation
with the District Attorneys of Albany, Kings, Monroe, Onondaga
and Saratoga Counties. We are developing a new standardized charge,
investigating the possibility of more frequent payments for lengthy
service, and planning a new grand juror handbook and orientation
Outreach and Education
Successes to date with improving the jury experience--from every
point of view--are encouraging. These efforts will continue throughout
The second major element of the Year
2000 Program that I want to touch on today is our plan for direct
outreach to the community to inform and educate people about the
Regrettably, most adults today know little about the American
tripartite system of government, and even less about our judicial
system, because schools today give scant attention to law and
citizenship issues. We are working with educators all across the
State to try to change that disappointing picture. As is readily
apparent in every day's newspapers, law, the courts, the justice
system are a vital part of American life today. It is a time for
all of us to learn and know more about American justice. And,
as we've discovered, that is an effort we--the justice system
So beginning today we have a comprehensive year-long calendar
of programs and events designed to educate the public about the
courts. We want to forge new partnerships with local governments,
schools and community and civic groups throughout New York State.
Our Community Outreach initiative will, for example, include "Justice
in the Schools," a grade-appropriate education program to
go hand in glove with visiting judges and court employees. A special
website for students will be linked to the courts' general website
providing information about court operations as well as access
to written materials about the courts. Our toll- free telephone
line, 1-800-COURTS-NY, will tell you everything you ever wanted
to know--and more--about us. You will even be able to take a "virtual
tour" of a courthouse on the web. And "Justice for Seniors" days
will familiarize an important but sometimes overlooked constituency about legal
issues that particularly affect our older population.
Like our other initiatives, no single piece of this program will "solve" our
Y2K problem, but together the program is a systematic approach to increasing
public understanding of court
operations and the fundamental principles of our justice system.
I cannot close without a word on a subject
that is of paramount importance to us: restructuring, or court
A modern, efficient court structure is fundamental to all of our
objectives. Here I join with my predecessor Chief Judges, and
with dozens of citizen and good-government groups, unanimously
urging this reform. I was both heartened and dismayed to learn
that court merger continues to be a priority for the League of
Women Voters. Heartened because the League sees that court reorganization
is absolutely essential for the women, children and families of
this State, and has the tenacity to continue to fight for it.
Dismayed because court reorganization has been a League priority
for nearly half a century.
As we know all too well, our current maze of separate trial courts--nine
in all (a national record, I believe)--confuses and frustrates
citizens seeking justice. Our proposal would consolidate the nine
trial courts into two: a Supreme Court with unlimited jurisdiction
and a District Court with limited jurisdiction over civil and
criminal matters. It is no exaggeration that perpetuating a fragmented,
incomprehensible court structure is, in its own way, a denial
of access to justice. We must simplify our court structure if
we are to serve the public well.
There is particular urgency to the issue this year: if court restructuring
does not pass in the year 2000, the second year of the current
Legislature, it will be another two years before we can try again.
Governor Pataki, Senator Bruno, Speaker Silver: let's seize the
spirit of the new century and streamline New York's antiquated
and unwieldy court structure. Let's all get it done together.
I started this address by telling you that, in my view, the best
way to begin the new millennium is by being honest with the public
and with ourselves-honest about our shortcomings, honest about
our strengths. I'd like to conclude by returning to that theme.
Unquestionably, we have to do everything in our power to earn
the trust and confidence of the public in the integrity, reliability
and efficacy of our courts. And there is only one place to begin
improving public perceptions about our court system: by improving
the realities. The comprehensive measures I've been describing
are an effort to do exactly that.
But only days ago another challenge seized the headlines- one
that concerns the most basic value of our court system, its integrity.
I refer, of course, to the allegations regarding court appointments
of lawyers and other fiduciaries made on the basis of political
party affiliation and service.
In general, I recognize that the political process is vital to
our democratic system and has long served New Yorkers well. And
as to last week's events in particular, I recognize that without
the facts, we cannot prejudge what improprieties have actually
occurred. But it is also absolutely clear to me that public confidence
in the courts is put at risk when judicial appointments are based
on considerations other than merit. Simply put, the public must
have faith that the courts operate free of favoritism and partiality.
I am therefore taking the following steps.
First, I am directing the establishment, within 30 days, of an
office of the Special Inspector General for Fiduciary Appointments
in the Unified Court System to monitor and enforce existing court
rules governing judicial appointments. These rules cover appointments
of guardians, guardians ad litem, receivers, referees and others
that assist in resolving cases before the court. The rules create
procedures designed to avoid favoritism in the making of these
appointments-including filing requirements and restrictions on
the number of allowable appointments. The new Inspector General
will, on an ongoing Statewide basis, examine whether the existing
rules are being followed, and will work closely with the Commission
on Judicial Conduct, the attorney disciplinary committees of the
Appellate Divisions and other appropriate authorities as necessary,
to ensure compliance.
Second, Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman will direct
each of the Administrative Judges, Statewide, immediately to examine
the practices in their own localities as they relate to fiduciary
appointments, and to present recommendations as to any necessary
changes. This will ensure that swift corrective action is taken
to regulate how these appointments are made and to assure that
our rules are working the way they were intended.
Third, the time has come to reexamine these rules. The current
system was put in place over the last two decades after examination
by members of the bench and bar of how best to structure the fiduciary
appointment process to ensure impartiality. We maintain the public's
confidence only if this process is effective and beyond reproach.
Therefore, I will within the next month appoint a blue ribbon
panel to examine the current fiduciary appointment process and
make appropriate recommendations for reform.
An independent Judiciary depends on public trust in the integrity
of the judicial process. Partiality and favoritism destroy that
trust. As Chief Judge, I will not allow that to happen.
Confronting our challenges and building upon our strengths- those
are the two polestars that will guide our Judiciary as we enter
the new millennium. I thank you all for the achievements of 1999,
and for the prospect that the year ahead again will be a good
one for the New York State courts.