Albany, NY – The New York State Legislature has unanimously approved a constitutional amendment that seeks to reduce court backlogs by expanding the jurisdiction of New York City’s civil court system. The measure will now appear on ballots statewide in the November general election to take place on November 2, 2021 where it will need to be ratified by statewide popular vote. The proposed amendment will not require a signature from the Governor.
The legislation, sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, seeks to update a jurisdictional limit set in 1983 that caps the value of money, chattels, and foreclosures of mechanics liens and liens on personal property at $25,000. The current cap was itself raised in 1983 from $10,000 in order to adjust for inflation and to help lift a burden off of a backlogged New York State Supreme Court system (which holds jurisdiction for civil cases with a value in excess of this threshold). Now in 2021, the same backlog exists in the State Supreme Court system – a problem that has been prioritized by the New York State Unified Court System. If ratified by the people of New York, New York City’s civil court system would be able to process cases with value up to $50,000.
The legislation passed unanimously in both houses in both 2019 and 2021.
This is the fifth proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the upcoming November general election ballot. It joins proposals to authorize no-excuse absentee voting, to expedite the redistricting process, to authorize same-day voter registration, and to guarantee a right to clean air and water and a healthful environment.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D - Bronx) said: “I am very proud to have authored a potential amendment to our state constitution. This is an important reform that will help make our judicial system more efficient and better able to serve the needs of New Yorkers. It almost goes without saying that $25,000 from four decades ago is not the same as it is today, and we should modernize this requirement. Thank you to my colleagues for supporting this bill, twice, and I urge all New Yorkers to ratify the amendment in November.”