April 16, 2018: New York State Bar Association Approves Report on Ways to Improve Town and Village Justice Courts
The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has approved the report and recommendations of its Criminal Justice Section regarding issues in the state’s more than 1,200 town and village courts.
The report, which was approved at the State Bar’s House of Delegates meeting in Albany April 14, addresses counsel at first appearance; education and training of justice court staff; and centralization including court consolidation and centralized arraignment. The report also includes recommendations for improvements.
“The findings in this report highlight the ways the justice court system should be modified to promote the effective and efficient administration of criminal justice,” said State Bar President Sharon Stern Gerstman. “The State Bar Association remains committed to ensuring constitutionally mandated due process throughout New York.”
Recommendations in the report include the following:
• Expanded use of courts of record with jurisdiction over all felony and misdemeanor matters, including study of how to implement this measure most effectively and efficiently.
• All counties should adopt a counsel-at-first-appearance plan that fulfills the vision and goals of the Hurrell-Harring settlement, which ensures those accused of crimes who cannot afford an attorney have competent legal representation at the state’s expense.
• All counties should adopt a centralized arraignment plan and all arraignments should include defense counsel and district attorneys.
• All arraigning judges should use the Language Line resource for non-English-speaking defendants, whenever necessary.
• All justice courts shall have access to the proper paperwork relating to all forms of bail and be better trained in all forms of bail. Justice court judges and clerks should also be trained in diversity and inclusion. Training attendance should be tracked.
• Each judge’s written and/or recorded work should be audited randomly for compliance with training. The existing public access database that tracks judges’ disciplinary records should also be made easily accessible to the public.
In June 2015, NYSBA’s Criminal Justice Section created the Town & Village Justice Courts Committee to study and report on key issues in the justice courts, to educate the legal community about those topics and to make recommendations regarding them.
The State Bar’s House of Delegates also approved a memorandum from NYSBA’s Committee on Families and the Law in support of state funding and oversight of mandated parental representation provided to indigent parents. Existing laws and policy recognize that high-quality representation is essential to protect fundamental familial rights and interests. The report recommends that the state pay the entire cost of mandated parental representation, or at least the costs of elevating the quality of representation provided, and have a mechanism for statewide oversight of such representation.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Christian Nolan