On November 13 and 21, 2019, the New York State Assembly and Senate will hold joint hearings on the court simplification reforms proposed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. The proposed amendment to the State Constitution would streamline the court system by:
- Consolidating New York’s 11 trial courts into three tiers: Supreme Court, Municipal Court, and Justice Courts. The Court of Claims, County Courts, Family Courts, and Surrogate Courts would be abolished and merged into a Supreme Court that would consist of six divisions: family, probate, criminal, state claims, commercial, and general. New York City’s Civil and Criminal Courts, Long Island’s District Courts, and the 61 City Courts outside of New York City would likewise be abolished and merged into a new Municipal Court. The proposed amendment does not affect the Justice Courts. Nor would this reform affect how judges are selected (whether appointed or elected).
- Removing the constitutional cap on Supreme Court judgeships. The court system would be able to allocate judicial resources where needed, as opposed to where they are constitutionally (and arbitrarily) apportioned. This would reduce backlogs, such as in family court, and also result in a more diverse pool of judges at the appellate level (which would continue to draw only from the pool of Supreme Court judges).