Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Prudent Budgeting for the Court Administration

Like all other governmental agencies in New York, the judicial system is feeling the budget crunch.  New York's judiciary has many unique attributes, functions and dysfunctions.

Imprimis, the tribunals designated as the "Supreme Court" are in fact the LOWEST courts of general jurisdiction, a nomenclatural quirk that confuses those who learned the law in a school outside of the state.  There is one in every county.

Justices of the Supreme Courts (plural used intentionally) are elected for 14-year terms.  But there is another side-door ladder to the Supreme Court bench -- Appointment by the Governor as an Acting Supreme Court Justice.  This appointment is almost always of a judge from a lower court, who almost always continues to hear cases on the lower court bench.  And, in case you were wondering, appointment as an Acting Justice entitles one to the salary of a Supreme Court Justice, which is higher than the salaries of the lower court benches.

Statistics:  There are now 328 elected Supreme Court justices in the various counties of New York, and 329 Acting Supreme Court Justices.

Elevation to Acting Supreme Court status has long been criticized, especially by those lower court judges (County Court, City Court, New York City Civil Court, New York City Criminal Court, et cetera) who have not been so appointed, as political plums given to party favorites.  And there is evidence that some of those so appointed technically do not qualify.

So now, New York's Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti has begun an initiative to "weed out judges who are technically ineligible for or not needed in Supreme Court" in order to deal with cutbacks to the judiciary's budget.  She intends to develop a protocols and practices for the appointment of Acting Supreme Court Justices, ostensibly to save money and to rid the judiciary of political taint in the matter.

I happen to respect Gail's legal and administrative abilities, and do not wish to in any way detract from them.  But it ought be noted that Gail Prudenti is a political apparatchik by birth.  Her father was a county party chairman, and she herself has been known to make some political placements when she was the Judge of the Surrogate's Court back in 1996.  As an official New York State Taxpayer, I am pleased to no end that Gail seeks to tighten the belt of the judiciary.  I do believe that she wishes to faithfully discharge the duties of her office by finding some genuine dollar savings for the people of New York.

I remain unconvinced, however, that Gail truly intends to totally end the use of Acting Supreme Court Justice designations as political plums.


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