We don’t know what got into the NYC Corporation Counsel, normally as staid as the title suggests, to suddenly turn wild-eyed reformer. The New York Law Journal, (that ceiling-high stack of yellowing newsprint in your law office) came out with an essay penned by Corp Counsel Cardozo (not the Cardozo) setting forth “10 Suggestions for Court Reform,” based on the astonishing observation that trial courts are a teeny bit inefficient.
Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door couldn’t have expected a more furious reaction. The Appellate Division whose turf is Manhattan shot back with a thundering denunciation, 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.”
The letter was signed by the whole caboodle of First Department judges except for two. One was NYC Golden Gloves Champion 1966, Peter Tom. The other judge was married to a lawyer in Corp Counsel’s office and wanted peace in the family.
We’re jealous. All that attention over a letter to a parakeet-cage liner of a newspaper when we’ve been saying far worse things about trial judges for years. Our appellate briefs are just lousy with imperious, insulting advice. Such as that judges should read a case now and then, especially when the defense lawyer puts it under their noses. Or that they might aspire to being more that ventriloquist’s dummies for the prosecution.
So 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, free coffee and entertainment for the many small children accompanying their parents to court.
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 could be repurposed as entertainers of children. See #1.
3. Stop haling people into court just to put the case over to another date.
4. End the humiliating practice of bringing incarcerated persons into the courtroom and making them stand at the table in handcuffs. A courtroom should look different from a jail.
5. The most radical suggestion: Schedule court appearances for a particular time. If dentists and hairdressers can do it, so can courts.