Report from New York’s High Court: “Let Them Eat Cake”
The New York State Court of Appeals is the most inactive Court in the Country. Each year the High Court is in session for sixty six days, which means their off for approximately 299 days a year. Each of the seven Judges draws an annual salary of $165,000, which includes a staff, a state car and a driver. The Judges also get to choose an office that’s convenient to their home.
But former Chief Judge Kaye’s outrage over the denial of a pay raise was an injustice she could no longer bear. Judge Kaye quietly began construction of a 23 million dollar palace in Albany for those 66 days she and her seven colleagues had to actually show up for work. Seven luxury apartments were being constructed to suit each of the Judges needs, which included a garage and other perks. But that came to a grinding halt last week.
Friday’s Daily News reported that the state halted construction on the palatial apartments that were underway. The construction will continue through the state’s fiscal year which ends in March 2012. How many millions of dollars have already been wasted remains unclear. The “Marie Antoinette” project was conceived while hundreds of court employees are being laid off as the court system is forced to cut 170 million dollars.
Judge Kaye’s rationale for the 23 million dollar project was that the hotel stays for the seven Judges 66 days of work was costing the state $37,500 a year.
But it’s not all about the money. In a civilized society it’s our courts where we resolve our disputes, which gets back to my original point. What do those Judges that are only in Albany for 66 days do the other 299?
The average criminal court Judge in New York City can hear as many as 60 cases a day. The seven member high Court in Albany hears an average of 60 criminal cases a year.
Everyday we read of the wrongfully convicted finally being exonerated, some after a decade in prison. This gives some the impression that our system is working. But just exactly who is working?
Virtually every case involving the wrongfully convicted has their conviction overturned in Federal Court, which means New York’s high court declined to review the case. The result costs taxpayer’s millions, lives destroyed, and justice delayed for years.
The solution to Albany’s no show Judges is not a pay raise, or a 23 million dollar palace.
John O’Hara is an attorney. He lives in Brooklyn.
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