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A07060 Memo:

submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
SPONSOR: Santabarbara
  TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the judiciary law, in relation to increasing the number of county court judges in certain jurisdictions   PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill will increase the number of county court judges in Schenectady County from one (1) to two (2).   SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1. Subdivision 42 of section 182 of the judidiary law is amended to change the word "one" to "two".   JUSTIFICATION: Pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 182 (42), Schenectady County only has one full-time resident County Court Judgeship. The caseloads of Schenec- tady County Court demonstrate that a second full-time resident County Court Judgeship is appropriate. The work of the County Court is extremely important. In addition to jurisdiction over certain civil matters, County Courts oversee all felony criminal cases. Statistics on the caseloads in Schenectady County, provided by the Hon. Felix J. Cate- na, Administrative Judge of the 4th Judicial District, demonstrate that Schenectady's case filings, dispositions, and trials are comparable with Counties enjoying two (2) full-time resident County Court Judges. The numbers alone demonstrate that the residents of Schenectady County would benefit greatly from having a second full-time resident County Court Judge. To further illustrate the fact that one (1) full-time resident County Court Judge is insufficient to manage the Schenectady County caseload, visiting judges have been assigned in every single term of Schenectady County Court dating back to 1999. Since 1999, at least one, and some- times two, judges have been assigned to hear cases in Schenectady. These visiting judges are not assigned on an ad hoc basis to hear a case-they are assigned for entire terms of the Court to hear cases as if they were a full-time resident County Court Judge. The fact that the Office of Court Administration and the Administrative Judge for the 4th Judicial District have assigned full-time visiting judges to Schenectady's *Coun- ty Court further demonstrates the need for a second full-time resident County Court Judge in Schenectady County. The assignment of visiting judges is not an effective long-term method of handling cases in Schenectady County. The reassignment of judges brings its own issues that negatively impact access to justice for resi- dents of both Schenectady County and the jurisdiction from which the visiting is reassigned. Preliminarily, judges in New York are elected by the people they serve. While an occasional visiting judge assignment is appropriate to address a conflict issue or a scheduling issue, the permanent assignment of visiting judges deprives the residents of Sche- nectady County of a judge answerable to the residents of the County. The residents of Schenectady County should have a right to evaluate the qualifications of potential judges serving the community, and to decide on election day the individual best suited to act on their behalf on the bench. In addition to visiting judges depriving Schenectady County residents from deciding who will work on their behalf, visiting judges assigned to Schenectady County deprive the judge's original jurisdiction of a full- time jurist working on their behalf. The residents of the judge's original jurisdiction deserve judges elected by them to be working for them in their own communities. By re-assigning judges, caseloads in the judge's original jurisdiction are not handled as quickly and efficiently as they otherwise would if that judge was permitted work in the juris- diction from which they were elected. Depriving the "sending jurisdic- tion" of their duly elected judges delays the access to justice for all residents in that community. Much work has been done, and continues to be done, in criminal justice reform. Ensuring jurisdictions have the necessary number of judges to efficiently hear cases, and ensure equal access to justice for all communities, is a necessary step in criminal justice reform. For these reasons, it is appropriate to amend Section 182 (42) of the New York State Judiciary Law to increase the number of Schenectady County Court Judges from one (1) to two (2). Numerous stakeholders agree that this legislation would greatly improve efficiencies and access to justice in Schenectady County. These stakeholders include Hon. Felix J. Catena, Administrative Judge of the 4th Judicial District; Schenectady County; Robert M. Carney, Schenectady County District Attorney; and Stephen M. Signore, Schenectady County Public Defender.   PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: None.   FISCAL.IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: To be determined.   EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately; provided, however, that the additional county court judge shall first be elected at the general election to be held on November 7, 2023 and shall take office January 1, 2024.
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