Carey R. Dunne
Date: Sept. 17, 2008
Hon. Ann Pfau
Special Commission Charged with Scrutinizing New York’s Justice Court System Releases Landmark Report
NEW YORK – The Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts, convened in 2006 by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye to study and propose reforms to the state court system, today released a comprehensive report detailing its findings and recommendations to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of New York’s Justice Courts. The report of the commission – chaired by Carey R. Dunne, Esq., a partner at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City – is based on the most extensive review of the Justice Court system in New York’s history, including visits to town and village courts in every judicial district in the state.
Chief Judge Kaye said, “The Justice Courts are New York’s oldest tribunals, dating back centuries, and today continue to serve a critical role in the state’s justice system, handling more than two million cases each year and collecting more than $210 million in fees annually. The work of the commission is unprecedented, the most exhaustive study of these courts in their very long history. Based on a fact-finding mission that included visits to almost 100 courts, in every corner of the state, the commission has given us a detailed and informed accounting of these courts, their strengths, their deficiencies, and the challenges they face. The commission has also offered concrete proposals to further strengthen the courts and ensure that they are well equipped to fulfill their important role in the twenty-first century. I offer my sincerest thanks to Chairman Dunne and all the commission members for dedicating their labors and expertise toward achieving a strengthened court system for all New Yorkers.”
Chairman Dunne said, “It is our hope that this study paves the way for significant reform and improvement of these historic courts, by moving us beyond the old debate between those who urge that the Justice Courts be abolished and those who argue that they should be left alone. Based on the commission’s comprehensive review of these courts, we offer a pragmatic middle ground, with specific recommendations that build on the strengths of these courts and effectively address their shortcomings.”
The Special Commission – a blue-ribbon panel of lawyers, civic leaders, government and private sector representatives, academics and sitting and former judges, including town and village justices – began its study of New York’s Justice Courts in April 2007. Commission members visited courts across the state to observe proceedings, inspect facilities and learn about court operations. In town-hall meetings and interviews, they discussed court issues and needs with town and village justices, local officials, public and private attorneys, law enforcement representatives and others. The panel also held public hearings in Albany, Ithaca, Rochester and White Plains, where it heard testimony and received submissions from 85 witnesses.
Among the commission’s findings and recommendations are:
In addition, Chief Judge Kaye today released the Action Plan for the Justice Courts – Two Year Update, a status report on the implementation of the comprehensive plan announced in November 2006 to provide increased state support for the local Justice Courts. The Action Plan was designed to provide immediate assistance to the Justice Courts, without the need for a fundamental restructuring of the system. Key accomplishments under the Action Plan include the appointment of Supervising Judges for the Justice Courts, state assumption of the responsibility for automation in the Justice Courts, the requirement that, for the first time, all Justice Court proceedings be recorded, and increased state aid for improving Justice Court facilities and security. Chief Judge Kaye said, “When it became increasingly clear in recent years that many local courts lacked the resources and support they needed to deliver the high quality of justice that the public deserves, we the in the state court system did not wait. I am pleased that our aggressive action is paying dividends in ways that the courts and the public they serve can feel.
The report of the Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts and The Action Plan for the Justice Courts – Two Year Update is located on the Unified Court System website at www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew.