Articles Posted in The Judiciary

@ the Center is the flagship e-newsletter of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). It highlights major projects, publications and conferences related to the work of NCSC.. Even though this newsletter is of redcent vintage (still Volume 1) it has already caught the attention of many in the judiciary. If you are interested in more information click here. Below are highlights of the March 2010 issue.

Volume 1, Issue 6 March 2010

Budget resource center expanded Interactive maps show extent of cost cutting across the country

Thanks to Carole Levitt, President of Internet for Lawyers, for alerting us to the “key steps to improve public access to feferal courts by increasing the availability of court openions and expanding the services and reducing the costs for many users of the Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) system”.

Below is Carole’s e-mail with a link to an Interner for Lawyers newsitem on the topic.The newsitem in turn contains links to both the March `16, 2010 Judicial Conference Press Release and to The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet.”

March 18, 2010

Two days ago I posted information on this blog related to the New York Court of Appeals decision (Maron v. Silver, 16 ‘ Larabee v. Governor, 7 ; Chief Judge v. Governor, 18) addressing judicial compensation in that state within the framework of separation of powers. Today I have learned that the State of Connecticut is also confronted with separation of powers issues related to its judiciary. These issues relate at least in part to the unilateral reduction of Other Judicial Expense line items (where the law libraries are placed) by the Office of Policy and Management (Executive Branch) after the initial budget allocations have presumably been agreed upon.

Of special concern to many readers of this blog is the severe negative impact these judicial line item reductions are having on judicial law libraries in the State of Connecicut, as indicated in testimony of the Connecticut Chief Court Administrator to the Appropriations Committee included in this post and by the many expressions of concern among Connecticut citizens as reported elsewhere.

The Chief Court Administrator of Connecticut, Judge Barbara M. Quinn has argued before the Appropriations Committee on February 9 that the unilateral reduction of Other Judicial Expense line items by the Executive Branch infringes on the Separation of Powers and can be remedied by OPM simply transmitting the Judicial request unchanged to the legislature. Two sections of Judge Quinn’s testimony are especially important and are highlighted below in this posting. The section on Law Libraries which highlights the importance of law libraries in Connecticut to both the Judiciary and the public has relevance both in Connecticut and throughout the nation. A second part of Judge Quinn’s testimony highlighted below is her statement on “Concurrence in Allotment Reductions and Rescissions,” which frames the issue nicely.

February 23, 2010
In a 5 – 1 decision the New York Court of Appeals found that the legislature and the executive branches had undermined the independence of the judicial branch by tying judges pay raises to unrelated legislation, including bills to raise legislators own salaries, thereby violating the separation of powers doctrine. The last pay raise for New York judges was in 1998.

In his dissent Judge Robert S. Smith stated that while he shares his colleagues’ dismay at the Legislature’s behavior in dealing with, or rather failing to deal with, judges’ salaries, he “cannot agree that any of its actions or inactions are unconstitutional….”

The current Chier Judge of the Court of Appeals, Jonathan Lippman, recused himself from the deliberations because he was a plaintiff in one of the cases the ruling addresses.

Public Statement of Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, delivered on February 23, 2010 at 1:PM.

Here are excerpts from the beginning and end of the decision:

PIGOTT, J.:

“The constitutional arguments raised in these judicial compensation appeals are premised upon, among other things, alleged violations of the New York State Constitution’s Compensation Clause and the Separation of Powers Doctrine. Because the Separation of Powers doctrine is aimed at preventing one branch of government from dominating or interfering with the functioning of another co-equal branch, we conclude that the independence of the judiciary is improperly jeopardized by the current judicial pay crisis and this constitutes a violation of the Separation of Powers Doctrine.”

Conclusion It is unfortunate that this Court has been called upon to adjudicate constitutional issues relative to an underlying matter upon which all have agreed; namely, that the Judiciary is entitled to a compensation adjustment. By ensuring that any judicial salary increases will be premised on their merits, this holding aims to strike the appropriate balance between preserving the independence of the Judiciary and avoiding encroachment on the budget-making authority of the Legislature. Therefore, judicial compensation, when addressed by the Legislature in present and future budget deliberations cannot depend on unrelated policy initiatives or legislative compensation adjustments. Of course, whether judicial compensation should be adjusted, and by how much, is within the province of the Legislature. It should keep in mind, however, that whether the Legislature has met its constitutional obligations in that regard is within the province of this Court (see Marbury v Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 [1803]). We therefore expect appropriate and expeditious legislative consideration.

Accordingly, In Maron, the order of the Appellate Division should be modified, without costs, by remitting to Supreme Court for – 35 – No. 016; 017; 018 – 35 – further proceedings in accordance with this opinion, and as so modified, affirmed.

In Larabee, the order of Appellate Division should be modified, and in Chief Judge, the judgment of Supreme Court and the order of the Appellate Division should be modified, without costs, by granting judgment declaring that under the circumstances of these cases, as a matter of law, the State defendants’ failure to consider judicial compensation on the merits violates the Separation of Powers Doctrine, and by allowing for the remedy discussed in this opinion, and, asmodified, affirmed.

SEE FULL TEXT OF DECISION AT:

New York Court of Appeals Judicial Compensation Decision February 23, 2010
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From the New York Times February 17-18, 2010.

The following are two very informative profiles from the New York Times:

The first profile contains both information about Hon. Jonathan Lippman and emphasizes the impact he has had during his first year as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals:

Includes both useful resources and a request for information from the courts.

Nora Sydow reports that the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has recently developed a Social Media and the Courts web module. Included in this module is a state links page that links to courts that are using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. In an effort to make this page as complete as possible, we are asking for your help.

(1) If your court is using a social media site, could you please send me the link(s) so we can include them in our state links page?

Yesterday January 19, 2010 New York State Governor David Paterson proposed a 2010-11 Executive Budget that according to a Press Release from the Governor’s Office “makes significant spending reductions in order to eliminate a $7.4 billion deficit and institutes key reforms to put New York on the road to economic and fiscal recovery. The Executive Budget proposal includes spending reductions across every area of the budget; limits State spending to far below both the Governor’s proposed spending cap and the rate of inflation; implements the most significant public higher education reforms in a generation; and provides fiscal relief to local governments through an aggressive mandate reform agenda.”

Below are links to some of the documents related to that proposal. Some of these documents are related primarily to the proposed State of New York Executive Budget as a whole while others include various agency presnetations, A link to State of New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s commentary on the Governors observations regarding the judiciary part of the budget proposal is also included.

Link to Press Release , video presentation and various other documents related to Governors budget Address on January 19:

Hon. Randall T. Shepard, Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, has been selected as the recipient of the Sixth Annual Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence. Chief Justice Shepard was chosen by a three-member panel: Hon. Judith S. Kaye, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals; Justice Ronald Robie, California Court of Appeal–Third Appellate District; and Judge Frederic Rodgers, Gilpin Combined Courts, Colorado. The award will be presented in early 2010.

See this American Judicature Society News Release for more details.

Letter:

Remarkable Work By State Judges*

In “10 Suggestions for Court Reform,” New York City Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo notes that our nation’s state courts are in crisis. Many of society’s most intractable problems end up in the state courts, particularly during economic downturns. In New York, this has been especially true. Throughout the state, filings continue to spiral, in every case category. Over the past five years, filings in New York City have risen in Family Court by 24 percent and in Criminal Court by 19 percent, as well as in Civil Court and in Supreme Civil and Supreme Criminal. One result of this, for example, is that a judge in the Civil Term of Supreme Court in New York City has a caseload that exceeds 600 cases, and a judge in the New York City Family Court can handle over 1,000 cases at any one time. Recent efforts to create additional judgeships, which will help alleviate these massive inventories, have yet to meet with success.

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