Due to huge NY State cutbacks in the budget for NY courts, many courts are being forced to take drastic measures in an effort to reduce the cost of court operations.
One example right here in Chemung County is that ALL Chemung County courts will now be operating on a reduced schedule.
Chemung County courthouses will now be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but actual court hours will only be from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.
This is a far cry from the hours the courts used to be open when I first started practicing 25 years ago. Back in the “good old days,” the court schedule varied from judge to judge but it wasn’t unusual if you were in a long trial for a judge to “start early and stay late” so as to get as many witnesses completed in a day as possible. Under this new system, all hours are mandatory with no exceptions unless you get written permission from the Administrative Law Judge.
The “new” operating schedule for Chemung County courts has whittled the court day down to a meager six hours (three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon). We often hear judges at all levels complaining about the backlogs in their dockets. One thing is for sure: the “new” court hours are only going to make things worse for our local courts by contributing to their already significant backlogs.
Specifically, limiting the court day to only six hours will increase the number of days required for trials. Trials that would normally last three days under the “old” schedule now will last four or even five days under the “new” schedule. This will, in turn, force courts to delay or push back other proceedings before the court to later dates.
I fear that the increase in backlogs will negatively impact our clients by further delaying the completion of their cases. Even though obtaining compensation through our judicial system has always been a long journey, the shortening of the court day will only make things worse.
Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t blame our local judges for this mess as frankly this new schedule is not of their creation — it is required by the massive state cutbacks that have negatively impacted the courts in many different ways. In fact, NY judges have the biggest beef of all because they have worked without a pay raise for more than 10 years, which simply isn’t fair (but that is a subject for its own blog post!).