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Further Information David Bookstaver New York State OCA Communications Director Unified Court System Mai Yee, Assistant Director (212)428-2500 Jonathan Lippman Chief Administrative Judge Paul Browne, Court of Appeals (518)455-7711

Release: Immediate, May 12, 1998


Court Restructuring Proposal Prompts Broad Display of Support

At New York Court of Appeals

ALBANY—A diverse coalition of citizens groups representing women, children, domestic violence, victim's rights, business, religion and the law converged today at the Court of Appeals to show support for the court system's proposal to restructure New York's trial courts. Representatives from the over 50 groups that comprise the coalition joined Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman in advocating for a constitutional amendment that would overhaul the state's convoluted nine-tier court system, replacing it with a simplified system consisting of a Supreme Court and District Court.

Speakers at the event included Chief Judge Kaye; Chief Administrative Judge Lippman; James C. Moore, President-Elect of the New York State Bar Association; Evelyn Stock, President of the League of Women Voters; Jeanne Mullgrav, Director of Court Programs for Victim Services Agency; Acting Supreme Court Justice Lewis L. Douglass, Chair of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission on Minorities; Acting Supreme Court Justice Charles J. Tejada, President of the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage; Albany County Family Court Judge W. Dennis Duggan; and Gary Brown, Executive Director of the Committee for Modern Courts. Robert R. Kiley, President and CEO of the New York City Partnership, was unable to attend the event but strongly endorsed the restructuring plan.

The following organizations have joined the coalition to formally express their support of court restructuring:

Chief Judge Kaye said, "New York's court system is the most complex in the nation and is daunting even for lawyers to navigate, let alone the average citizen. We are committed to the creation of a system that is easy for the people of New York to understand and use. A change of this magnitude cannot be achieved through the efforts of the court system alone but depends in a large measure on the support of civic-minded individuals and groups. I am truly heartened to see the tremendous outpouring of support from such a diversity of organizations and sectors of the community. By their presence, the many organizations here today show that they recognize the critical importance and long-range benefit of court restructuring."

Judge Lippman added, "Restructuring the state courts is the key to modern and effective justice in the 21st century. Not only would the enactment of this proposal make the courts more comprehensible for New Yorkers, it would also promote fairness, improve services and save taxpayers a substantial amount of money—over $90 million in five years. Court restructuring is an idea that makes sense both operationally and financially and promises to improve the quality of justice statewide."

The constitutional amendment would require passage by two successive State Legislatures and approval by the voters. Should the proposal receive first passage by the Legislature in 1998 and second passage in 1999, voters will be provided with an opportunity to vote on the measure in November 1999. If approved, the proposal would take effect on January 1, 2000.

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