NYCLA Supreme Court Committee Statement Regarding Recertification Denials


NYCLA Supreme Court Committee Statement Regarding Recertification Denials

Statements & Letters
Published On: Nov 12, 2020

Russell D. Morris & Alyssa Goldrich

Co-Chairs, Supreme Court Committee


Stephen C. Lessard


Vincent T. Chang

Vice President

Adrienne B. Koch


Jai K. Chandrasekhar


Richard B. Swanson

November 12, 2020




We write on behalf of the New York County Lawyers Association Committee on the Supreme Court in response to the Memorandum from Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks, dated September 29, 2020, specifically regarding the decision to defund the essential program to certificate retired justices of the Supreme Court for continued service, pursuant to Judiciary Law § 115. We understand that there are over 45 justices whose continuing essential service would be eliminated should the disapproval of nearly all pending certifications and re-certifications be carried out.


While we recognize that the economic realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic are severe and must be addressed, we strongly believe that the most experienced members of the judiciary are now more valuable than ever. These difficult times require experienced judges to cut through the considerable backlog of cases built up from the pandemic. In short, we respectfully view this drastic action as a measure of last resort – eliminating our most valuable judicial resources at a time when they are needed the most.


We respectfully assert that the need to adapt to new budget realities imposed by the pandemic must not be divorced from the critical necessity to maintain essential resources that the citizens of New York require in order to protect their legal rights. Indeed, if Statewide cuts are necessary, the New York City courts – among the busiest in the world – must be spared. As proceedings have been delayed by the pandemic and budget constraints have already begun to take their toll, caseloads and backlogs are rising. Distress brought on by the pandemic will continue to have profound effects throughout the criminal and civil branches in New York City. Justices who have been certificated and will be available to continue performing their judicial duties will be key to eliminating the backlog.


The pandemic has unquestionably brought about increased demand for access to the trial courts, and the need for an adequate number of judges to handle the onslaught of old and new cases. In addition, eliminating certification will severely impact the operations of the appellate courts that New York citizens rely on to oversee the fair, efficient and consistent disposition of litigated matters. Prior to the pandemic, the Second Department was already severely backlogged – the loss of four justices will only serve to further cripple its operations. Nor can the First Department afford to lose two justices given the increasing backlog and appeals docket resulting from the pandemic.


Certificated justices are critical to helping the court system recover from the pandemic, and it would be counterproductive to limit their availability. With growing backlogs, there will be increased pressure, but decreased capability, to achieve the efficient disposition of matters in an environment where the availability of trial opportunities will be severely constrained. Certificated justices provide the requisite experience necessary to assess cases and move them to a fair resolution under the challenging and demanding circumstances New York’s judicial system is currently facing. A loss of this magnitude may well increase, rather than reduce, overall costs to the judiciary and the State through adverse impacts on the efficient disposition of cases. Pressures on existing judicial resources will also be compounded by the need to redistribute the dockets of retiring justices to others already dealing with increased caseloads and backlogs.

While we understand that the economic realities of budget constraints must be considered, and that the judiciary is not exempt from having to make adjustments to expenditures, limiting or eliminating the availability of the courts’ most valuable re- source – experienced justices, many of whom have continued to work diligently throughout the pandemic – is not the place to start. We urge you to make every effort to continue the certification of justices even in the face of new budgetary realities, and to seek every alternative to terminating a program that has provided, and will continue to provide, an enormously valuable contribution to the needs of the public and the courts.



  1.  The New York County Lawyers Association was founded in 1908 as one of the first major bar associations in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gen- der. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence, including through the work of its many committees that provide in-depth analysis and insight into legal practice areas.The views expressed here are those of the Supreme Court Committee only, have not been approved by the New York County Lawyers Association Board of Directors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Board.


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