Pro Bono News

It's Time to Fix NY's Broken Court System

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

It's Time to Fix NY's Broken Court System

"It is universally acknowledged that New York has an overly complex, unduly costly and unnecessarily inefficient court structure.

Despite being called the Unified Court System, it is anything but. There are 11 different trial courts and multiple levels of appellate courts, far more than any other state in the nation. In fact, California, a state with approximately double the population of New York, has only one trial level court.

This is why the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has long and repeatedly advocated for the restructuring and modernization of the New York court system, as comprehensively chronicled in the 2017 report by our Committee on the New York State Constitution. It is a matter of supreme importance to the legal profession and the public we serve.

NYSBA applauds Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who in her extraordinary State of the Judiciary Address last week, prioritized restructuring the state court system and noted how closely the recommendations in our report parallel the judicial branch’s proposals. We are also encouraged that state Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Hoylman is considering holding hearings on court reform and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz has acknowledged that court reform needs to finally be discussed by the Legislature.
We embrace the opportunity to present our recommendations on how to bring the state’s judicial structure into the 21st century. For instance, New York would be better served by consolidating its trial courts into two levels – a Supreme Court, which would have original jurisdiction over most cases around the state, including criminal, civil, family and probate matters, and a District Court, which would handle housing and minor criminal and civil matters.

This would make our court system more accessible to the people it serves while also reducing the cost and burden to clients and their attorneys forced to navigate our multi-faceted court structure. As it currently stands, certain matrimonial cases involving domestic violence must be heard in three courts simultaneously, with each court authorized to decide a piece of the entire case..."

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