The New York State judiciary’s submission of a proposed budget this year has had the unexpected result of shining a light on the widespread public perception that many judges do not work a full day.
The New York Post has cited a “court source” as saying that judges “closing up shop early” is a “pervasive problem.” Similarly, a court insider told me that the problem is “widespread.”
When the Office of Court Administration (OCA) submitted its budget request earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo refused to pass it on to the Legislature unless the judiciary agreed to an audit of judges’ hours. OCA sought a 2.5 % increase in its budget, but the Legislature only approved a 2 percent increase, which amounted to $44.4 million for the year.
Judges’ failure to work full days is causing delays in the handling of cases, Cuomo claimed in demanding the audit.
Chief Judge Rule 3.1 directs that all state funded courts “shall commence not later than 9:30 a.m. and conclude not earlier than 5 p.m.” i.e. seven and one-half hours with an hour off for lunch. Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks has authority to authorize variances from that schedule, but daily court sessions must total “not less than six hours.”
OCA’s response to the Governor’s call for an audit of the hours that judges put in each day has been anemic at best.