Court Unification Court Unification is defined as the proposal that seeks to centralize and integrate the diverse functions of all courts of general, concurrent, and exclusive jurisdiction into a more simplified and uncomplicated scheme. Pros and Cons of Court Unification The New York State Legislature and the voters of New York have an opportunity this year to play important roles in unifying our court system.
Last year, the Legislature took the first step required to enact an amendment to the state Constitution, which would merge a variety of existing trial courts into a single statewide court of original jurisdiction. Depending on the nature of an action and where you are in the state, a case must now be brought in the Supreme Court, the Court of Claims, the Surrogate’s Court, the Family Court, the County Court, the District Court, the New York City Criminal Court or the New York City Civil Court.
Sometimes it is necessary to go to more than one court on the same matter, with resulting confusion, delay and expense. Combining the above courts would alleviate these problems, facilitate procedural uniformity and reduce the burden of administering our judicial system. To complete the process begun last year, the amendment must be adopted by the Legislature again this year and approved by the voters on Election Day. Unless the Legislature acts this year, the opportunity to enact the court-reorganization amendment will be lost for at least two years.
The New York State Bar Association supports the measure and urges the Legislature to vote for second passage. Changes and successes of unification and its remaining challenges, the results indicated that: (Anonymous Author, Significance of Jurisdiction) • Many courts had improved services to the public through reallocation of judicial and staff resources. • Court operations were generally becoming more efficient as courts reorganized administrative operations along functional rather than jurisdictional lines and eliminated the duplication inherent in the former two-tier system. Some courts had expanded programs, such as drug courts, domestic violence courts, and services to juveniles, and had expanded their hours of service and improved their filing and payment procedures. • Improved court calendars and case management practices had reduced backlogs and improved case disposition time in some courts. • Judges were hearing a wider range of cases than before unification. • Local rules, policies, and procedures were being standardized to support the countywide structure of court operations. Limitations in court technology and facilities were increasingly apparent as courts—now larger and more complex organizations—strove to deliver services throughout their counties. References/Sources Henderson, Thomas, University of Michigan (January 1, 1984) Structuring justice: The implications of court unification reforms: policy summary Anonymous Author, University of Michigan Library (January 1, 1984) The Significance of judicial structure: The effect of unification on trial court operations Berkson, Charles Larry, University of Michigan Library (January 1, 1978) Court unification: History, politics and implementation