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Reform of the New York State Justice Courts


To examine the need to reform the New York State Justice Courts and to discuss and analyze proposals to improve their operation.


December 14, 2006, 10:00 AM
Roosevelt Hearing Room C
Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor
Albany, New York


The New York State Justice Courts operate in the towns and villages throughout New York State. They possess civil jurisdiction for claims under $3,000, preside over misdemeanor criminal cases and possess preliminary jurisdiction over all felony cases. These Courts have existed in their current form for decades and predate the creation of the Unified Court System.

Recent press accounts have highlighted various shortcomings which call into question the ability of the Justice Court system to administer quality justice in both civil and criminal cases. The common theme of these accounts was that the decision-making and accountability in some of these Courts was haphazard.

This hearing will consider what actions, if any, the New York State Legislature should take to modify the current Justice Court system in order to improve operations and ensure accountability. Several possible reforms that witnesses may wish to address are:

  1. Should legislation be enacted to require Town and Village Judges to be attorneys admitted to practice in New York State? Under current law, the justices do not have to be attorneys and most are not. Participants should consider whether and how to implement this requirement. For example, should this be accomplished at the next election cycle, or only after the currently sitting justices no longer seek re-election.

  2. Should legislation be enacted to ensure the Justice Courts meet the current requirements to keep records of all judicial proceedings? Justice Courts are required under section 107 of the Uniform Justice Court Act to keep records of all judicial proceedings. We seek comment from participants on whether these courts are complying with this requirement and how the state could improve compliance.

  3. Should legislation be enacted to ensure that the Town and Village Judges receive additional training? Under current procedures Town Justices receive training from the Office of Court Administration. Participants should comment on whether additional training should be required.

  4. Should legislation be enacted to permit and encourage greater consolidation of these Courts? Current law permits adjoining towns to combine courts. The Assembly has passed legislation which would allow contiguous towns to combine courts [A.690 - Parment].

  5. Should legislation be enacted to facilitate a State takeover of the financing and management of the Justice Courts? This major reform carries significant consequences and participants are encouraged to address the many issues.

  6. Should legislation be enacted to expand the Office of Court Administration's oversight over the Justice Courts?

This hearing will consider whether these measures, or any other measures, should be adopted by the New York State Legislature.

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to ten minutes duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committee's interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Helene E. Weinstein
Member of Assembly
Chair, Committee on Judiciary

Joseph R. Lentol
Member of Assembly
Chair, Committee on Codes


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail or email same to:

Clayton Rivet
Assembly Committee on Judiciary
Room 831 - Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5462
Email: rivetc@assembly.state.ny.us
Fax: (518) 455- 5752

box I plan to attend the following public hearing on reform of the Justice Courts to be conducted by the Assembly Committees on Judiciary and Codes in Albany on December 14, 2006.

box I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to ten minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement to the Committee.


I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

box I do not plan to attend the above hearing.

box I would like to be added to the Committee mailing list for notices and reports.

box I would like to be removed from the Committee mailing list.


I will require assistance and/or handicapped accessibility information. Please specify the type of assistance required:








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