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.
At the same time that judges are being asked to manage their burgeoning caseloads, the maddening stalemate over judicial salaries continues. New York’s judges are about to enter their 12th year without a single cost-of-living adjustment. No other judges in the country have gone anywhere near that long without an increase.
Despite these extraordinarily challenging circumstances, our judges have been disposing of record numbers of cases – more than 1.5 million will be resolved this year in New York City alone. Their performance has been nothing less than remarkable, a fact that all too often receives less recognition than it should.
The author is chief administrative judge of New York.
______________________ *This letter also appears in the New York Law Journal, Tuesday December 8, 2009, p 6 col. 4