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New York's chief judge calls system overhaul a 'top priority'

Feb 18, 2022 12:30 am

Robert Gavin is reporting for the Times Union New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore on February 16, said rebuilding New York's outdated trial court structure that too often fails to be racially and financially equitable is her top priority. In her annual State of the Judiciary address, DiFiore highlighted the findings of former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh [Jay] Johnson, whose independent review of the state courts found a “second-class system of justice for people of color” and  “dehumanizing” and “demeaning” culture in criminal, civil, family, and housing courts. DiFiore commissioned Johnson to review the system after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer led to a nationwide conversation on historic inequities facing people of color. DiFiore said it would take the three branches of state government to remedy what she described as "an absolutely unacceptable state of affairs." New York’s court system includes 11 separate trial courts, the most in the country. It has not been substantively updated in 60 years, according to DiFiore, who also is the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. DiFiore said the problems are most apparent in the high-volume courts that serve families dealing with issues such as eviction, child custody and support, consumer debt, and other critical matters. Legislation that seeks to simplify the court system is currently pending in both the state Senate and Assembly. Read the full story in the Times Union.