Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Top Judge Resists Cuomo’s Call for Cutbacks
Friday, February 18, 2011
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who asked all state agencies reduce spending by 10 percent, called on the judiciary to reduce spending despite resistance from the state's chief judge.
One of Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman's major budget priorities is getting $25 million for civil legal services. Right now, low-income individuals are guaranteed legal representation in criminal court but not when if they are facing foreclosure, eviction, or are being sued by debt collectors.
In his budget proposal, Lippman said the courts have become the emergency rooms for New Yorkers in crisis. A court spokesman said Lippman is committed to the proposal and it would save millions by keeping people out of social service programs.
A spokesman for the state's division of budget said Cuomo understands the importance of civil legal representation and will not be prescriptive about how the court should reach their goal.
Lippman's office said courts are different than other agencies because 90 percent of their costs are labor-related. Since the judiciary is a co-equal branch of government, the governor cannot change the budget but rather submits it as is to the state legislature, which may then approve or reject it.