The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (New York City Bar) has just published its Report on the Merger of the Bronx Supreme and Criminal Courts. Commenting on the Report in his June 11, 2009 New York Law Journal article, “City Bar Report Cites ‘Serious Problems’ With Bronx Merger”, Daniel Wise writes: “The merger of Criminal and Supreme courts in the Bronx has created ‘serious problems’ if additional judicial resources are not made available, a report by the New York City Bar Concluded.” In the Report it is recommended that “strong and immediate attempts” need to be taken to handle a growing backlog of felony cases.
The New York City Bar report was prepared by the Committee on Criminal Courts and the Committee on Criminal Justice Operations, both committees of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and released on June 10, 2009. Below is an excerpt from the Opening Statement and a link to the complete report:
Opening Statement Excerpt:
In early 2004, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye announced that the Supreme and Criminal Courts in Bronx County would be merged to create a new Criminal Division to handle all misdemeanor and felony cases.1 This judicial experiment was implemented in November, 2004. Prior to this, in New York Citys criminal justice system all post-indictment felony cases were prosecuted exclusively in the Supreme Court, and all misdemeanor cases were prosecuted exclusively in the Criminal Court of the City of New York. The stated purpose of Merger was: to promote the administration of justice in the criminal courts in Bronx County by authorizing deployment of the judges of those courts in a manner that assures that all present and future caseload demands in such county will be met as expeditiously as possible.
It was generally acknowledged prior to Merger that because of the overwhelming crush of misdemeanor cases filed annually, the Criminal Court of the City of New York was staggering under an insurmountable misdemeanor trial calendar. For example, in 2003, the last full year before Merger, out of more than 40,000 misdemeanor complaints filed in Bronx County Criminal Court, only 191 misdemeanor cases were tried. While the problem was not unique to Bronx County, the Bronx was chosen to serve as the judicial Petri dish for the purpose of determining whether Merger, if successful, should be extended to the other counties of New York City as well.
Merger has now been in effect for almost five years and it appears that while the program has reduced the backlog in misdemeanor trials it has had the unintended consequence of creating a far greater backlog in felony trials. This report will evaluate the stated goals of the Merger against an analysis of its actual results. It will address a statistical analysis of caseloads prior to and after Merger, the practical effects of implementing Merger, its future prospects, and a conclusion as to its effectiveness and potential expansion to other jurisdictions. This report is based upon statistics from the Office of Court Administration, and extensive interviews of members of the judiciary, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys.