Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Kali Holloway, Deputy Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: December 01, 2010

Hon. Ann Pfau
Chief Administrative Judge

Seal of the Unified Court System

www.nycourts.gov/press

Court Leaders Submit Reduced Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-2012

NEW YORK – Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau today announced the release of the judiciary’s fiscal year 2011-2012 budget request. The courts’ proposed negative-growth operating budget, with a reduction of .02 percent, reflects a careful balancing of the judiciary’s obligation to address the state’s fiscal crisis while ensuring the courts can meet their constitutional duty to provide equal justice for every New Yorker. Despite sharp increases in caseloads statewide – including dramatic rises in foreclosure filings – aggressive cost-control programs and re-engineering of court operations have reduced spending, decreased costs and produced significant savings. These measures have enabled the judiciary to propose a total budget of $2.7 billion that is fiscally responsible while still providing the courts with the resources they need to handle their staggering workloads and address the critical need of low-income New Yorkers for adequate legal representation in civil proceedings.

Chief Judge Lippman said, “In the midst of the ongoing economic recession, the New York State courts have become the emergency room for millions of New Yorkers in crisis. In courtrooms around the state, judges are confronting caseloads that continue to grow in volume and complexity, including record numbers of foreclosure filings. Despite these daunting challenges, we have not only continued to meet the diverse justice needs of all New Yorkers but have also cut spending through a vigorous cost-control program. The result is an austere operating budget for 2011-2012 that has been reduced over the previous fiscal year in recognition of the difficult fiscal problems facing the state at this time.”

Chief Administrative Judge Pfau added, “The judiciary’s negative growth operating budget carefully balances our responsibility to work with the other branches of government in addressing the state’s ongoing fiscal challenges with our constitutional obligation to provide fair and timely justice to every litigant who comes into our courts.”

Civil Legal Services

The judiciary’s budget includes $25 million in funding for civil legal services in response to the recommendations and findings of The Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York. The Task Force found a major gap in state funding support for legal assistance involving the “essentials of life”: housing, family matters, access to health care and education, and subsistence income. The judiciary's funding request is based on the Task Force's comprehensive fact-finding record, which included statewide public hearings, surveys and exhaustive research. The Task Force, chaired by Helaine M. Barnett, recently retired president of the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, D.C., is the centerpiece of Chief Judge Lippman’s efforts to improve access to justice for low-income New Yorkers in civil cases involving fundamental human needs.

Chief Judge Lippman said, “The court system’s budget request embodies the judiciary’s commitment to ensuring that New York State meets the crucial civil legal assistance needs of its low-income citizens. Indeed, no issue is more fundamental to the constitutional mission of the courts than providing equal justice for all. For us to properly fulfill that mission, our fellow citizens must have access to legal representation – particularly where fundamental human needs are at stake. My most sincere thanks to Helaine M. Barnett and the members of the Task Force for their tireless work on this report, which puts us on the road toward equal access to justice in New York.”

Helaine M. Barnett, Chair of the Task Force, added, “At the hearings presided over by the Chief Judge, business leaders, landlords, bankers, local government officials, district attorneys, educators, healthcare providers and judges all supported the need for increased funding for civil legal services. Providing civil legal assistance reduces the cost of litigation, increases court efficiency, saves taxpayers millions of dollars and provides help to the most vulnerable New Yorkers when faced with legal problems involving the “essentials of life.” The Task Force report is unanimously supported by all 31 members of the Task Force, who represent diverse perspectives and different experiences, and concludes that as an initial first step $25 million dollars in new funding should be targeted to address this important need and help close the gap in access to civil justice for low-income New Yorkers.”

Kathryn S. Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said, “A fair and just legal system is essential to sustaining the business sector's confidence in our city and to encouraging future investment and growth. This is why ensuring adequate representation for lower income New Yorkers dealing with our civil legal system is so important to the economic future and well-being of our city.”

The report of The Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York – which includes representatives from the courts, civil legal services and pro bono providers, bar associations, private law firms, government, law schools, the business community and civil legal services providers – is located on the Unified Court System website at www.nycourts.gov/ip/access-civil-legal-services. The judiciary's fiscal year 2011-2012 budget request can be found online at www.nycourts.gov/admin/financialops/Budgets.shtml.