Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Flacks Report [2nd December, 2009]

Heitler Replaces Carey---Speculation on Nora---The Gelobters' 50th---Supremes' Caseload

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Heitler Replaces Carey

Supreme Court Justice Sherry Klein Heitler was named today to replace Joan Carey. Heitler, the daughter of the late Supreme Court Justice Alvin Klein, will be the new administrative judge of Supreme Court, Civil branch, First Judicial District (N.Y. County). Carey, a Court of Claims judge, who is retiring at year's end, has reached the mandatory retirement age. It has been reported that Justice Heitler will be stepping down from the Appellate Term.

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Speculation on Nora

There has been speculation as to why the N.Y. County D.A.'s office is seeking to restore two previously-dismissed lesser-included misdemeanor counts in its poorly-written indictment against Surrogate-elect Nora Anderson (as reported in the The Flacks Report [20 Nov. 09]).

Some people have said that the two now remaining counts, both felonies, would be hard to prove, and the D.A. doesn't believe he can convict on the felony charges. The restoral of the two lesser misdemeanor counts would give the D.A. an option to convict her of something, so that she won't "walk," or to plea-bargain, if he loses the top two counts.

Anderson has stated that she is not guilty and shall not plea-bargain. The Surrogate-elect is in the Court, but not yet on the Bench.

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The Gelobters' 50th

Long-time West Side activists Ludwig and Barbara Gelobter, joined by their children and grand-children, celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary this month.

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Supremes' Caseload

To the Editor of the New York Law Journal,

Your story on the Commission on Judicial Conduct investigating the timing of judicial decisions requires comment, not on the case of Judge James P. Gilpatric alone, but on the near impossibility of judges keeping up with the exploding volume of work in the courts.

At Supreme Court NY County (Civil Division), for example, the number of judges has decreased significantly due to retirements and movement to other courts, but have not been replaced. The work they leave behind must be reassigned to other judges, adding to the enormous number of cases already being carried. Today’s New York Law Journal also reports on the influx of foreclosure conferences that will “require the courts to hold ‘tens of thousands’ of additional pre-foreclosure settlement conferences... .” You quote a spokesperson for OCA as saying this will place “a greater strain” on the courts. These conferences are important, even essential, but as they intrude on other motions, we, the judges at whom the Commission peers, cannot also be settling cases, hearing arguments, deciding motions and presiding at trials that may be equally important – at least as statistics. Also, a large number of judges are assigned to the “special parts,” such as the Commercial Division, leaving mounting work for the generalists, and longer waits for attorneys and clients dealing with general civil litigation. Also, with one law clerk and one secretary, it is virtually impossible to keep up with the law firms, inundating us with more and more litigation. Every judge is swamped, surrounded by overwhelming piles of motions from floor to ceiling. Chambers don’t have the time-saving devices of law firms, for example, not even photocopiers; to make a copy of anything (and everything) requires someone to take a walk around the building.

The idea that motions must be read, argued, researched, written, decided within 60 days, no matter how dense, voluminous, detailed and complicated they may be is unrealistic and oppressive. To make judges the scapegoats for all the existing problems may justify the work and funding of the Commission, but will not solve the problems. By the way, judges across the street in the federal courts have far less work, far greater staffs, and a minimum of six months to decide motions. Of course, they also have lifetime appointments and legislative creation to monitor their hours and work product.

No matter what we do, we cannot reasonably be expected to keep up. Think Lucy Ricardo stuffing bon-bons on the assembly line in an effort to meet her quota and you’ll get the picture.

Emily Jane Goodman
, Justice, N.Y.S. Supreme Court

[Published Friday, 20th November, 2009.]


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