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Contact: Anita Aboulafia firstname.lastname@example.org 212-267-6646, ext. 225
NYCLA Report and Resolution Call For Ten-Year Terms for Housing Court Judges on Reappointment
November 29, 2010 – New York, NY – On November 8, the New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) adopted a report and resolution in support of a ten-year term for Housing Court judges after they have served one five-year term. According to the Resolution, “…the nearly year-long reappointment process faced by Judges of the Housing Court every five years has a clear potentially negative effect on the independence of these Judges, and the time, effort and expense necessary to review the qualifications of 50 Housing Court Judges every five years are a drain on the resources of the Housing Court Advisory Council and on the Court itself.”
The Report was prepared by the NYCLA Judicial Section, co-chaired by Hon. Helen E. Freedman and Hon. Joan A. Madden, the Section’s Housing Court Subcommittee, co-chaired by Hon. Jean T. Schneider and Hon. Michelle D. Schreiber, and the NYCLA Task Force on Judicial Selection, co-chaired by Hon. Margaret Finerty and Susan B. Lindenauer.
Quoting from a 1995 NYCLA report, the recently adopted report acknowledges: “A ten year term would also help to retain judges of note who now seek election to the Civil Court, which provides a less frenzied workload, higher salary and greater judicial independence with its ten year term.” In addition, “It is estimated that Housing Court judges spend 20 percent of each term – one year out of five – actively involved in the reappointment process.”
Twenty-eight of the 50 Housing Court Judges currently serving have been on the bench for 10 years or more. If the ten- year term were in effect, many fewer judges annually would be required to go through the reappointment process conducted by the Advisory Council.
Advisory Council’s Role in Housing Court Judges’ Reappointment
The Advisory Council reviews, on average, ten applications for reappointment each year, in addition to reviewing applications for new appointments to the Housing Court. For each applicant, it reviews written submissions, investigates and conducts both a subcommittee and full Council interview. According to the Report, “A ten-year term would lighten the interviewing workload of the court’s Advisory Council, allowing its members time to review judicial candidates more fully and to carry out their other assigned statutory duties, including issuance of an annual report.”
In recent years, due to the dwindling number of applicants for new appointments, the Advisory Council has been forced to repeatedly extend the deadline for application submissions. As the Report notes, “While this difficulty in attracting applicants is certainly partly the result of stagnant judicial salaries, of which the Housing Court Judges have the lowest in the State, it is possible that longer terms and greater job security would increase the attractiveness of the job to new applicants.”
Addressing any concerns about disciplinary procedures, the Report notes: “[W]hile Housing Court Judges are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, an articulated and formal disciplinary process exists within the Unified Court System. This disciplinary process has been utilized and is a safeguard against judicial misconduct. We believe that if a longer term on reappointment is adopted, there is a sufficiently developed procedure to impose discipline where warranted.”
NYCLA has a long-standing interest in the administration and functioning of the Housing Court and, according to the Report, “…the current proposal is limited in scope, has no budgetary implications, and appears therefore to be politically achievable at this time.” NYCLA urges other bar associations to support the amendment of Section 110 (i) of the New York City Civil Court Act to provide that Housing Court Judges be reappointed to a term of ten years after an initial five- year term.
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
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