Yesterday the New York Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached a budget deal that includes $170M in cuts to the judiciary, representing 6.3% of the its budget. This is bad, bad news for anyone who values a competent justice system.
It was just three weeks ago that I wrote how we were going to lose 300 former judges now acting as Judicial Hearing Officers as part of $100 million in cutbacks. The budget deal, however, now advances those cuts to $170 million.
According to this New York Law Journal article today, the pain will be far worse than previously expected, and Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau said she doesn’t yet know where the cuts will come from.
My prediction: The civil justice system will slow to a crawl, and judges will become overwhelmed even more so than now. Retiring judges won’t be replaced. Staff will be cut. The judiciary will try to force litigants into less of the time-consuming motion practice that sucks up much of the limited resources. Many of the motions are merely “money motions” that were done to drive billable hours. Others are for a variety of recalcitrant discovery issues. Judges may be urged to deal more harshly, in terms of sanctions, in order to discourage that type of conduct.