Daily Coronavirus Update: Gov. Cuts Judiciary Budget By $300 Million

By Christian Nolan

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Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks issued a memo today to the state’s administrative judges informing them that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has exercised his emergency powers granted to him by the Legislature by cutting the Judiciary budget 10 percent, or approximately $300 million.

Marks said the cut has prompted them to implement “a range of painful measures,” including a strict hiring freeze, elimination of all non-personal services spending, and a deferral of substantial payments owed to the next fiscal year.  He said the last time the Judiciary budget was cut was in 2011-2012 when it was cut by $170 million.

“At this point, we have been able to avoid employee layoffs but there is no telling what the coming months may bring,” wrote Marks. “One thing is increasingly apparent – the next fiscal year will be as difficult, if not more difficult, than this year.”

However, Marks informed the administrative judges that the Administrative Board has decided to disapprove all but a small handful of pending judicial applications for certification or recertification that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

“This extremely difficult but necessary determination will save the court system more than $55 million over the next two years. (Under the law, a certificated or recertificated justice serves a two-year term),” explained Marks. “This will far better help enable the court system to avoid layoffs, or greatly reduce the number of layoffs should that extreme measure become unavoidable.”

New Online Tools for Mediation

The court system’s Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has rolled out three new online tools to encourage the use of mediation.

  • A statewide mediator directory to assist litigants, court staff and others in locating a court-approved mediator with relevant experience who serves a particular county. The directory also offers users the option to select a mediator who is an attorney or who has expertise in a specific area or speaks a second language.
  • A statewide mediator application that is a handy way for qualified individuals to join one or more court mediator rosters at the same time, via a single application, with the aim both to increase the number of court-approved mediators and the diversity of the court-approved mediator pool. The online directory lists some 750 mediators from around the state, each meeting the court system’s training and other requirements, with more applicants being added daily
  • An online post-mediation survey giving participants in a mediation a convenient opportunity to evaluate the quality of the mediation services offered.

The court system states in a news release that ADR has proven a meaningful, efficient and cost-effective way to resolve disputes. Among other benefits, ADR, particularly mediation, enables parties to communicate, gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their case, come up with creative solutions and reach mutually acceptable outcomes.

Last year, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore launched a statewide initiative in which civil cases would be referred to ADR as early as possible where appropriate. The plan, dubbed “Presumptive ADR,” forms a key part of DiFiore’s Excellence Initiative, which, since 2016, has worked to enhance court processes and procedures to improve the quality of justice services statewide.

COVID-19 Webinars

Wednesday, Sept. 30 – Family Law Online Trials: Tips For Success.

Friday, Oct. 2 – Pre- and Post-Trial Motions: Including Motions in Limine – NYSBA Trial Academy Virtual Conference.

Monday, Oct. 5 – Nursing Home Reform: The COVID Crisis and Regulations, Oversight and the Economics of Nursing Homes.

Latest NYSBA.ORG Coronavirus News

We are adding new content each day to our website related to the coronavirus public health emergency and its impact on the legal community.

For condominiums, cooperatives and homeowner’s associations, the novel coronavirus has presented myriad legal issues. However, dealing with COVID-19 has provided one benefit. There is now an opportunity to develop a blueprint for condominiums and cooperatives to follow when, and if, the next similar crisis occurs.

In addition to coronavirus updates, we are adding other interesting new content to our website.

Today we take a look at what will happen if a president who loses the election asserts, “I’ve won; I’m staying”? Also, in anticipation of what could go wrong in a 2020 presidential recount, the lessons of the 2000 Florida presidential recount are examined.

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