Assemblymen Michael Montesano and Joseph Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda) discuss Public Protection Budget details prior to todays joint legislative hearing.
After attending todays Public Protection Joint Budget Hearing, I have a few concerns regarding funding for the judicial branch of government in the 2016-17 state budget. This year, the NYS Office of Court Administration is requesting a 2.4 percent increase, which is primarily due to the draconian cuts to their administration during the 2008-11 economic downturn. Included in this increase is funding to cover court operations, hiring additional staff and contractual obligations, as well as $15 million that would be added to the current $70 million in civil legal funds used to represent indigent litigants. I believe the $15 million increase is excessive under the current circumstances and, instead, should be utilized to help the legal system across the board. Additionally, the Office of Court Administration is seeking an additional $19 million to cover raises for judicial salaries granted by the judicial commission this past December. We have far too many specialty court programs that affect only a small population; we should, instead, be looking at the big picture to ensure benefits to the system as a whole. Our state court system, the Nassau County courts specifically, is in dire need of operational and financial support. Due to the current state of our local courts, more people are being incarcerated for longer periods of time pending a trial and disposition of their case, and constitutional rights are being infringed upon because the system is unable to operate properly. In many instances, civil litigants wait a number of years to have their case heard before a judge and jury. It is unfair and unjust to let the system fall further and further behind because of misguided decisions about funding. While the request for increased funding is laudable, the Office of Court Administration must do a better job prioritizing where this money goes. As the Ranking Minority Member on the Assembly Judiciary Committee, I encourage the new Chief Judge, Janet DiFiore, to take a hard look at the details of the budget and remain open minded to input from the Legislature as we move forward with negotiations.
Assemblyman Michael Montesano questions NYS Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks at todays Public Protection Joint Budget Hearing.