Budget cuts in New York have meant the disappearance of vital judicial hearing officers, who often support jury selection and other backroom court procedures. In a situation like this, delays have become inevitable. As a New York personal injury lawyer, I have found that simple court procedures that should not take more than five minutes with the help of a judicial hearing officer, have taken much longer than that. You can read my views on the budget cuts on Thomson Reuters.
The budget cuts were affected in March, and since then, judiciary hearing officers have virtually disappeared. Earlier in 2011, there were about ten judicial hearing officers presiding over jury selection. After the budget cuts kicked in during the first week of April, there were no officers remaining. The Association of Supreme Court Justices which was initially opposed to the elimination of judicial hearing officers had no other choice but to concede when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an order that would dramatically slash court budgets.
Judicial hearing officers play a number of different roles. In family law cases, judicial hearing officers can help to settle several important matters, like establishing the value of common assets. In other cases, judiciary hearing officers can oversee civil trials. Judicial hearing officers are not as busy as full-time judges which means that they’re free to help two opposing sides reach a settlement.
According to estimates, cutting the services of judicial hearing officers will save the state $5 million. Unfortunately, it also means a long cycle of delays.