Action Plan for the Justice Courts


New York’s town and village court judges do not need to be lawyers.

This report from the New York State Unified Court System is an effort to comprehensively review and improve the administration of New York’s 1,277 town and village courts, with a particular focus on cost effectiveness and efficiency. The first part of the report outlines the history and structure of New York’s courts, and the second announces dozens of specific changes implemented by the Office of Court Administration.

You can read the full text of the report here. Additionally, FFJC’s New York Campaign is pushing to reform municipal fines and fees practices statewide.

Key Findings
  • The “balkanized” structure of New York’s town and village courts makes state oversight of courts and standardization of justice very difficult.
  • Town and village courts themselves are not monolithic: larger courts “convene frequently, employ full-time and relatively large professional staff, and use advanced case-processing technologies to manage court dockets and finances,” whereas smaller courts “meet no more than once or twice per month, employ no full-time staff, have no dedicated facilities or security, and use little or no case-management technologies.”
  • Town and village court judges do not need to be lawyers.
  • Town and village courts will allow credit card payment of fines and fees at no additional cost.
  • All town and village courts must report to OCA on their compliance with legal mandates related to indigent defense and right to counsel.
  • OCA will “fundamentally reinvent” and double the length of required training for non-attorney town and village court judges.
  • OCA requested $10 million from the New York legislature to fund town and village court programs.
Judith Kaye, Jonathan Lippman, New York State Unified Court System