About a year ago, the NYC Corp Counsel, not exactly known as a wild-eyed reformer, wrote an essay called “10 Suggestions for Court Reform,” based on the astonishing observation that trial courts might be a teeny bit on the inefficient side. See NYLJ 12/07/09.
The response was a thundering denunciation from AD1 in a letter beginning, “Cardozo’s court reform suggestions are misguided, misplaced and insulting. In an imperious outpouring of advice, NYC Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo purports to offer insight into how to improve inefficiencies in the courts in order to increase performance and accountability. We feel compelled to respond to his misguided assertions, his misplaced blame and his attacks on the state trial judges.” See NYLJ 12/17/09.
The letter was signed by the entire First Department except for two judges: one whose wife worked for Corp Counsel, and the other, that radical nonconformist, Justice Tom.
We’re terribly jealous. We can’t even get one of those judges to read our appellate briefs, let alone call them imperious outpourings, although we say far worse things about trial judges. Which would you rather be called, inefficient or making the Framers of the Constitution spin in their grave?
Therefore we’ve come up with our own misguided, misplaced and insulting suggestions to improve the efficiency of trial courts. Not having the resources of Corp Counsel, we have only five.
1. Do something about the way court officers bully and mistreat members of the public waiting in line to get into the courthouse, or waiting for hours in the courtroom. It’s silly to forbid them to text or read newspapers. The court should be providing magazines and free coffee to help them pass the time.
2. One reason court officers are so cranky is that they’re bored from sitting around doing nothing, especially in courtrooms where the judge doesn’t show up until 11:30. They should be taught to knit.
3. Stop haling people into court just to put the case over to another date. Use Twitter to find out if the lawyers are available and ready.
4. End the humiliating practice of bringing incarcerated persons into the courtroom and making them stand at the table in handcuffs, without a showing that the individual is dangerous. A courtroom should look different from a jail.
5. The most radical suggestion: divide the day into time slots and schedule the cases for a particular hour. If dentists and hairdressers can handle this, so can a court.