A look inside the construction of a courthouse facility

This article provides a nice peek into the construction of the Ulster County (N.Y.) Family Court, a $10 million project that will eventually house new courtrooms, conference rooms, hearing rooms, office space, and a holding facility. There is nothing particularly unusual about the project, but if offers a glimpse into the community’s vision for the building.

This paragraph in particular struck me:

The new court’s location near the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Social Services, and the Office for the Aging — all at Development Court — will mean Family Court and the services most used by people who come through the court will be in one place, providing for a better continuum of care, Hein said.

That’s a point that could be easily overlooked, but it makes a big difference to the court’s primary users.

 

Public defenders walk out of NYC courts to protest ICE raids, are replaced with private attorneys

The New York Times reports on a walkout by some New York City public defenders, who left their jobs while court was still in session yesterday in order to protest courthouse arrests by federal immigration authorities. It was the second such walkout this week. Having warned the PDs not to leave their posts while court was in session, court administrators quickly reassigned ten cases to private attorneys. From the story:

The public defense organizations saw it as punishment for political advocacy; court administrators saw it as a matter of keeping the courts running.

“We say, ‘By you doing what you did, you are disrupting operations,’” said Lucian Chalfen, the spokesman for the O.C.A. “We won’t have that. It helps no one.”

The Legal Aid society argues that the reassignments were retaliatory, but at first blush it seems that the court administrators were in the right. Their job is to keep the criminal justice system moving, and assure that indigent defendants are adequately represented. Whatever one thinks of the policies motivating the walkout, the primary harm of the walkout is to the clients who need representation right then and there. Nor was the walkout directly tied to the PDs’ ability to represent their clients in New York State court; there was no direct benefit to their clients.* That this was the second walkout this week, and the fifth this year, justifies the court’s firm response.

* I recognize the argument that many of the PDs’ clients are the very people most susceptible to ICE raids. So there is certainly some overlap between the policies motivating the walkout and the needs of defendants who need public defenders. But the relationship is still indirect, and ultimately too tangential to warrant direct and continued disruption of court operations.

A good primer on how drug courts work

Howstuffworks.com has a detailed and very interesting article on the history of drug courts and the work they do today, with a particular focus on the courts in Buffalo, New York. It’s a good read for those interested in how the court system has adapted to contemporary challenges.

New high-tech courtroom for Brooklyn’s family court

Brooklyn’s family court will now benefit from a new high-tech courtroom, which will permit remote sharing of evidence, videoconferencing, and remote court interpreting.

This is a wonderful thing.  As the Brooklyn Daily Eagle story explains:

“This automation is overcoming barriers,” Dr. William Bell, whose organization Casey Family Programs helped pay for the ICT part in Brooklyn, said. “Barriers of language and barriers of location. Even though [someone] may be incarcerated, they can participate in a hearing about their child’s future. That is barrier that has far too long been nearly insurmountable. The fact is that we no longer have to bring people into this courtroom in chains in front of their children in order for them to have a say in their child’s life.”

Kudos to the court system for initiating these updates. (If only they could do something about the clunky, formal name for the courtroom: The Kings County Integrated Courtroom Technology Part. How about something a little snappier?)

Brooklyn judicial elections take an even more dismaying turn

This blog has been closely following the Democratic primary elections for county judge in Brooklyn, New York, where voters were forced to choose between candidates approved by the Democratic party machine and a group of “insurgents” running on an independent slate. The election took place earlier this month, and the results are … flabbergasting.

Continue reading “Brooklyn judicial elections take an even more dismaying turn”

New York judicial candidate has spent over $33K from campaign coffers on other candidates and causes

Typically, critiques of money and judicial politics focus on the concern that donors to judicial campaigns will expect favors from a judge after election, compromising the judge’s impartiality.  In a bizarre twist, the Buffalo News reports on a judicial candidate who is spending her donors’ contributions on other, unrelated campaigns:

When local attorneys, business people and others donated a record amount of money to Acea M. Mosey’s campaign fund, they knew they were giving money to an experienced lawyer and Democratic Party stalwart running for Erie County Surrogate Court judge.

What they may not have known is that some of their donations – at least $33,393 – would go to political parties, political organizations and seekers of a wide variety of other political offices, including candidates for Congress, Erie County sheriff, the mayor of Buffalo and chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee.

Mosey’s campaign organization, Mosey for Surrogate committee, this year has given money – either in donations or expenditures – to a total of 167 political candidates, parties and organizations, according to a Buffalo News analysis of state Elections Board records.

Mosey, by the way, has raised $900,000 for her judicial election campaign even though she is running unopposed.