ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to clear up trial court backlogs by having judges certify they’re working eight-hour days isn’t necessary because the backups are diminishing, the head of New York state’s court system said Tuesday.
Lawrence Marks, chief administrative judge for the Office of Court Administration, testified at a state budget hearing Tuesday that New York’s judicial system is clearing up case backlogs on its own and doesn’t need Cuomo’s initiative aimed at unclogging trial court schedules.
“It’s a problem we have been addressing the last two years,” Marks said.
Cuomo has said making sure state-paid judges are keeping their courts open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is one way to clear up extensive court backlogs, especially in New York City. The Democrat’s $168 billion budget plan includes a proposal for judges in trial courts to certify each month that they worked full eight-hour days.
The proposal would require the comptroller’s office to conduct audits to make sure some 1,300 judges are working 40-hour weeks. His plan was prompted by the judicial system’s request for a $44.4 million increase in funding in the new fiscal year that starts April 1.
Marks said the governor’s idea wasn’t necessary because significant headway has been made in slashing court delays thanks to the Excellence Initiative launched two years ago by Janet DiFiore, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.
The successes include a 34-percent reduction in foreclosure cases in a western New York judicial district and a 36-percent reduction in older civil cases in Supreme Court in Brooklyn, Marks testified.
Lawmakers also questioned Marks over two-plus hours on a range of judicial issues, including plans to expand Buffalo’s successful drug intervention court to other areas of the state hit hard by the opioid overdose crisis.
Marks was the first on a long list of officials and advocates set to testify on Cuomo’s public safety spending proposals. Those proposals include reforming the state’s bail system and launching an $11 million campaign to discourage recruitment by such violent street gangs as MS-13, blamed for 25 slayings on Long Island over the past two years.
Cuomo administration officials in charge of homeland security, criminal justice services, state police and prisons also testified, while representatives from unions representing law enforcement officers such as state troopers and prison guards were scheduled to offer testimony.