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New York City Bar Association Supports Judiciary’s 2014-2015 Budget Request

The New York City Bar Association strongly recommends that the Legislature adopt the Judiciary’s 2014-2015 Budget Request in its entirety.

After sustaining a $170 million dollar budget cut in 2011, and zero growth budgets in 2012 and 2013, it is essential that the Legislature fund the Court’s modest 2.5% proposed increase in its 2014-2015 budget request, states the Association in a report by its Council on Judicial Administration. “The proposed budget is fiscally prudent and helps address vital unmet legal needs of New York’s most vulnerable individuals.”

With this small proposed increase (amounting to $44.2 million dollars), the Office of Court Administration (OCA) reports that it will be able to maintain, restore and enhance essential court functions by continuing to streamline administration and reorganize and consolidate offices and programs, a process it began in 2011 when the courts sustained a $170 million cut in funding.

The Judiciary “Road to Recovery” Budget proposed by OCA would add $15 million in funding for vitally needed Civil Legal Services (which studies show save the State money), permit the Judiciary to fill some critical positions, and allow the courts to remain open until 5:00 p.m. instead of shutting down at 4:30 p.m. to avoid overtime expenditures.

In addition, OCA has proposed adding 20 new Family Court judgeships throughout the State, a proposal which would need to be separately enacted and funded by the Legislature. The City Bar supports adding these judgeships to handle the enormous need, as the number of judges has increased only 8.8% statewide over the past 30 years while the Family Court caseload has increased 90%. “Family court is stretched to the breaking point, if not beyond,” states the report.

The City Bar outlines how cutbacks in the Judiciary Budget over the last three years have had a “devastating impact on the courts and the people they serve,” with the judicial workforce being reduced by more than 1,900 positions, including long lines to get into courthouses, lengthy trial delays impacting everything from commercial cases to guardianship and child custody cases, inability to retrieve necessary court files and certificates, and longer incarceration time for criminal defendants.

The City Bar’s report concludes, “Any reduction in this budget will result in the de facto denial of justice to countless New Yorkers, including many pro se individuals seeking to maintain a roof over their heads, public assistance for the basic necessities of life, and access to frozen bank accounts and garnished wages.”

The report may be read here: bit.ly/1nOUdsS

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