NYCLA Report Highlights Impact of Court Cutbacks

, New York Law Journal

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The New York County Lawyers' Association issued a report Tuesday warning that budget cuts continue to imperil the operation of both the federal and state courts. As with four other reports generated by the group since 2011, the latest study details disruptions both large and small on court operations based on flat or diminishing government support.

For instance, the group's Task Force on Judicial Budget Cuts said reduced staffing and increased caseloads have resulted in less thorough presentence reports on potentially dangerous offenders by the federal Pretrial Services and Probation Officers. Staffing for security at federal courthouses has been reduced due to budget cuts, as have the operations of clerk's offices in district and bankruptcy courts, the group reported.

State cutbacks have curtailed hours to the extent that most people are unable to take advantage of Small Claims Court unless they take time off during the day, the group says.

The study was based on testimony from nearly two dozen prosecutors, court administrators, defense attorneys and others at a public hearing last month on judicial budget cuts sponsored by NYCLA (NYLJ, Dec. 4).

NYCLA President Barbara Moses said that lack of funding remains the most serious challenge facing the courts, as Chief Judge John Roberts warned in his recent report on the state of the federal judiciary (NYLJ, Jan. 3).

"Our Task Force Report demonstrates that this is not an issue that can be put off another year, lest we jeopardize our most basic values, including access to justice and due process of law," said Moses, counsel at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello.

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