NYSBA To Co-Host Civic Education Convocation

By Christian Nolan

Court of Appeals

The New York State Bar Association and the state Court of Appeals are co-hosting a “Convocation on Civic Education” May 20 in Albany.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore discussed the convocation in her State of the Judiciary address on Feb. 26.

DiFiore said leading lawyers, judges, educators, policymakers, students and members of the media will convene to develop concrete strategies and programs for how the bench and bar can work together to strengthen civic education and knowledge in schools.

“There is no better way to understand the role and functions of the three branches of government than to learn about them in school,” said DiFiore. “And teaching New York’s children the value of being civic-ready citizens will be the unique focus of this convocation in May.”

During her speech, DiFiore personally thanked NYSBA President Hank Greenberg and President-elect Scott Karson for taking on this task.

“Untold millions of Americans know nothing about the constitutional history of our government nor about our constitutional traditions and norms,” said Greenberg. “Lawyers are society’s problems solvers and the foot solders of the Constitution. We have an opportunity to perform an important public service by teaching our fellow citizens why we need an independent judiciary, the apolitical administration of justice and equal justice under the law.”

Also, in talking about the convocation, DiFiore quoted U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who recently said:
“[W]e have come to take democracy for granted, and civic education has fallen by the wayside. In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital.”

Stayed tuned in the coming weeks as NYSBA announces further details about the upcoming civic education convocation.

Court Reform
DiFiore devoted a significant amount of time to discussing her plan for court reorganization during her State of the Judiciary address and thanked NYSBA for its leadership role in urging court reform.

“Recognizing the imperative before us, the 70,000-member New York State Bar Association and the Fund for Modern Courts have jumped to the forefront of the movement to simplify our system, and we thank them for their leadership, engagement and commitment to achieving responsible reform of the courts,” said DiFiore.

For decades, NYSBA has pressed for the need to modernize New York’s court system. NYSBA supports DiFiore’s plan to eliminate the state’s 11 trial courts and replace it with a simplified three-level structure.

Other reforms NYSBA supports as part of the Chief Judge’s court reorganization proposal include:

  • Consolidating trial courts into the Supreme Court and establishing divisions within those courts, as necessary, and direct court resources where they are needed.
  • Continuing to elect or appoint all judges impacted by court modernization as they are under existing law.
  • Abolishing the population cap that limits the number of Supreme Court Justices per judicial district to one per 50,000.
  • Creating a Fifth Judicial Department, which is currently barred by the state Constitution, to help relieve the caseload of the Second Department, which handled more appeals in 2018 than the other three departments combined.

Overall, the plan would enable a more efficient resolution of cases with fewer court appearances, allow the state court system to make the best use of their limited resources, and diversify the courts, especially outside of New York City.

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