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NYS Exposed: New York's costly courts

July 06, 2018 10:27 AM

The question here is simple: if the New York state court system sees a million fewer cases then they did 10 years ago, why does their budget keep going up?

It started with Governor Andrew Cuomo taking a shot at the judiciary budget in his annual budget address.

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"The judiciary wants a budget increase, the people of the state have a right to know the courts are open and functioning from 9 to 5,"  said Gov. Cuomo.

Then it was former attorney Michael Friedman questioning the nearly $3 billion budget in a New York Law Journal op-ed

"It's not only a bad deal, it's an astoundingly bad deal," Friedman wrote. "The cost has gone through the roof and my concern is there doesn't seem to be any stop, there doesn't seem to be any accountability." 

Friedman points to the numbers. In 2008, New York courts saw 4.7 million filings. Last year, just under 3.3 million -- 1.4 million less and the number has declined every year.

Judiciary spending over that time? Up about 400 million.

"From a tax-payer point of view, you want to know what these people are spending," Friedman wrote.

So, News10NBC reached out to the administrators of New York courts. In a statement, they say the budget is 90 percent salaries and benefits.

The salary for New York state judges has gone up over 40 percent in the last eight years.

"Judges cannot do that alone," Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said. "Without an adequate number of court officers, court clerks, court reporters, court interpreters, and back office staff achievement of the goals of the Excellence Initiative will be problematic."

The Excellence Initiative is a push to clear a backlog of court cases state-wide. Locally, the 7th District has done that better than anywhere else in the state.

Friedman says it's only a result of judges seeing fewer filings. So are New Yorkers getting a bad deal? We took that question to News10NBC legal analyst and former Supreme Court Judge Joseph Valentino.

"He has made an effort in the past few years to do this," Valentino said,

News10NBC's Berkeley Brean: "In the article, he says New York spends a lot more money than Florida or California. Are they able to administer justice for a lot less money? 
Joseph Valentino:  "If you want to compare the systems, I think New York's criminal justice system is either the best or one of the best in the United States. If it costs money, then the tax-payer money is well spent.

The New York state budget pays about five times more per person than Florida to operate its court system.

However, it is important to point out that the state's constitution does require a supreme court judge for every 50,000 people. All but the New York City District fall short of that number.

WHECTV

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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