NYS Assembly holds hearing on court system budget cuts

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A judge’s gavel is shown in a file photo. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- New York is facing heavy budget cuts due to a loss of revenue related to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools, local governments, not-for-profits, and other organizations have not been spared from the impact of the state budget.

The court system is also not going to be exempt from budget cuts. Thursday the New York Assembly held a hearing to discuss a 10% cut to the court system budget. With an annual judiciary budget of $3 billion, the court system is looking at a $300 million cut.

New York’s court system is made up of 12 separate trial and appellate courts spread across more than 300 locations, in 62 counties. This includes Supreme, Family, Surrogate, District, City, County, Criminal, Housing, Appellate, and specialty treatment courts such as Veteran Courts, Domestic Violence Courts, Human Trafficking Courts, Mental Health Courts, etc. Each year 3.5 million new cases are filed in the New York State court system. To meet the needs of the 19.5 million people in New York, the State Judiciary budget is approximately 3 billion dollars. The work is done by over 1,200 state judges, 2,400 town and village justices, and 15,500 non-judicial employees. The budget for the New York State Judiciary includes 100 million dollars in funding for civil legal services, helping to close the gap in justice for many individuals across the State.

NYS Assembly

In the hours long hearing judges and multiple organizations talked about the backlog of cases mounting due to the shutdown of courts to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Office of Court Administration has already said they will not be recertifying senior judges over the age of 70 in response to the budget cuts.

The budget includes $100 million in civil legal services funding, according to the State Assembly Judiciary Committee. President and CEO of the Empire Justice Center, Kristin Brown, said a cut to these services will make it difficult for low-income New Yorkers to get the legal assistance they need.

When the coronavirus pandemic put record numbers of New Yorkers out of work, forcing them to apply for unemployment there were significant delays due to the overwhelming influx of applications. The Empire Justice Center created a hotline to answer people’s questions and offer assistance. Brown said a budget cut in the justice system could mean services like this will be unavailable in the future.

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