Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: July 17, 2006

Seal of the Unified Court System

Chief Judge Appoints Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts
Panel Charged with Redesigning State’s Arcane Trial Court Structure

NEW YORK - Modernizing the archaic structure of New York State’s trial court system—which has gone virtually unchanged for 45 years—will be the focus of a special commission appointed by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. The Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts has been charged with assessing the effectiveness of the state’s current court structure and proposing reforms that will enable the courts to better meet the needs and expectations of New Yorkers in the years and decades ahead.

The commission—a prestigious blue-ribbon panel of respected lawyers, civic leaders, government and private sector representatives, academicians, and sitting and former trial and appellate court judges—will be chaired by Carey R. Dunne, a partner at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City.

The commission will study the effects of the current constitutional structure as it relates to a wide range of important objectives such as productivity, efficiency and access to justice. The commission will also appraise and comment on the many significant policy and political implications of structural change to the New York courts. The commission will draw upon the resources of governmental, civic and academic institutions across the state and examine court systems across the nation for ideas.

Chief Judge Kaye announced the formation of the commission during her 2006 State of the Judiciary Address and indicated that its efforts would be patterned after the influential work of a temporary state commission from the 1950s (popularly known as the Tweed Commission after Harrison Tweed, a leading figure in the New York bar). The Tweed Commission was the driving force behind the last significant revisions of the Judiciary Article of the New York State Constitution in 1961, when its recommendations for structural and procedural reform of the judicial system received the approval of the electorate.

“The basic court structure we have today was fixed in the State Constitution of 1962, nearly two generations ago,” said Chief Judge Kaye. “For more than three decades now my predecessor Chief Judges and I have urged a revision of this structure so as to make the courts more efficient, accessible and understandable to the public and to improve the delivery of justice for all New Yorkers. I have no doubt that the work of this commission will finally provide the foundation for the kind of landmark reform long needed in this state. I am grateful to Carey Dunne and all the commission members for agreeing to contribute their valuable time and expertise to this critical task.”

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, who joined in announcing the formation of the new commission, said, “No organization can perform effectively in the long run without periodic modification and redesign. Our accountability to the public and the other branches of government demands that we carefully examine how the present mixture of trial courts and jurisdictional boundaries is contributing—or failing to contribute—to the quality of justice in New York State and our ability to address the changing needs of our citizenry. I look forward with great anticipation to the commission’s proposals, which will surely lay the groundwork for achieving a cohesive, modernized judicial system for New York.”

Mr. Dunne stated, “I am honored to head this distinguished panel, which harnesses a wealth of experience in the law, academia and government to focus on an issue of utmost importance in our state. On behalf of myself and my colleagues on the commission, I thank Judges Kaye and Lippman for the opportunity to contribute to the critical dialogue about court modernization in New York State and to lead the public inquiry in this area.”

The Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts is expected to report its findings and recommendations to the Chief Judge early next year.

The New York State court system presently comprises 11 separate trial courts—the Court of Claims, Supreme, County, Family, Surrogate’s, City, District, New York City Civil, New York City Criminal, Town and Village Courts.

Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts - Membership Roster

Chair - Carey R. Dunne: New York, NY; Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell

Richard J. Bartlett: Glens Falls, NY; Partner, Bartlett, Pontiff, Steward & Rhodes, former and first Chief Administrative Judge, Office of Court Administrative

Seymour W. Boyers: New York, NY; Partner, Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman & Mackauf; former Associate Justice, Appellate Division, 2nd Department

Gary S. Brown: Westchester, NY; Chief Attorney, New York State Department of Law; former Executive Director, Fund for Modern Courts

Elizabeth A. Bryson: New York, NY; Board Member, Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Eve Burton: New York, NY; Vice President and General Counsel, The Hearst Corporation

A. Vincent Buzard: Rochester, NY; Partner, Harris Beach PLLC; immediate past president, New York State Bar Association

John P. Collins: Bronx, NY; Administrative Judge, State Supreme Court, Bronx County, Criminal Division

Tandra L. Dawson: Bronx, NY; Judge, Family Court, Bronx County

John Feinblatt: New York, NY; New York City Criminal Justice Coordinator; former Founding Director of the Center for Court Innovation

Daniel L. Feldman: New York, NY; Executive Director and General Counsel, New York State Trial Lawyers Association; former State Assemblyman

Evelyn Frazee: Rochester, NY; Justice, State Supreme Court, Seventh Judicial District; Co-Chair, New York State Committee to Promote Public Trust and Confidence in the Judicial System

Samuel L. Green: Buffalo, NY; Associate Justice, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Henry M. Greenberg: Albany, NY; Partner, Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Robert L. Haig: New York, NY; Partner, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP; Co-Chair, New York Commercial Courts Task Force

Kermit L. Hall: Albany, NY; President and Professor of History, University at Albany, State University of New York

Theodore T. Jones: Brooklyn, NY; Administrative Judge, State Supreme Court, Kings County, Civil Term

Judy Harris Kluger: New York, NY; Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Court Operations and Planning for New York State

James J. Lack: Hauppauge, NY; Judge, New York State Court of Claims; former State Senator and Chair Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Abraham Lackman: Albany, NY; President, Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities; former Secretary, New York State Senate Finance Committee

Milton Mollen: New York, NY; Counsel, Herrick, Feinstein LLP; former Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, 2nd Department

Richard P. Nathan: Albany, NY; Co-Director, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, State University of New York

Nelson Roman: Bronx, NY; Justice, State Supreme Court, Bronx County

Jay G. Safer: New York, NY; Partner, Lord, Bissell & Brook, LLP

Richard D. Simons: Rome, NY; Counsel, McMahon and Grow; former Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals

Elaine J. Stack: Roslyn, NY; Justice, State Supreme Court, 10th Judicial District

David W. Sussman: New York, NY; Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Business and Legal Affairs, MTV Networks

John W. Sweeny, Jr.: Carmel, NY; Associate Justice, Appellate Division, 1st Judicial Department

William Treanor: New York, NY; Dean and Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

Kathryn S. Wylde: Brooklyn, NY; President and CEO, Partnership for New York City

Web page updated: August 16, 2006