DECLINE IN CASES FILED IN NEW YORK COURTS IN 2011 YET COURTHOUSE ACCESS THREATENED

By Thamanna Hussain

As more than 400 court employees were laid off in 2011 by state lawmakers, and courts began to shorten their hours by cutting down the system's budget by $170 million, a significant decrease in the number of filings was noted in the 2011 annual report from the Office of Court Administration. According to the 2011 annual report, there has been a notable decline in the total number of criminal and civil cases filed in 2011. The total number of cases filed dropped about 7%, to 4.22 million, from the usual record highs seen in recent years in 2008 with about 4.67 million cases.

Although the report did not offer an explanation for the decrease in filings, it can be seen that the drop came as state lawmakers cut programs and began to lay off its employees. The Rheingold firm has experienced delays in justice for our clients in all local boroughs: Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Length to trial is longer, and individual trials drag out as overworked judges interrupt trials for other administrative matters. Longer trials means annoyed jurors, which is never good for proper justice.

We echo the concern as reflected in the recent comments of Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti who stated in the report that at the same time as the layoffs, the economic decline had worsened the legal needs of many individuals and families across N.Y state. Other highlights of the report included that many Court administrators followed a number of proposals that would increase and provide access to legal services for those in need.

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