ALBANY — Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks testified before the joint legislative budget hearing on public protection Tuesday about what he sees as gains in unclogging a backed-up court system, and the $5.7 million the court system is requesting to address the new “Raise the Age” law.
Marks was first to speak in an all-day session that also included appearances by Commission on Judicial Conduct Administrator and Counsel Robert Tembeckjian, state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino, and state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci,
“In some of those cases people who are presumed innocent are sitting in jail,” Marks told the panel. “We have to move those cases more quickly.”
He said many of the delays are the result of foreclosure cases left over from the 2008 recession.
Marks also noted the $5.7 million that the Unified Court System is requesting in the 2018-2019 budget to handle changes resulting from the state’s decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 over the next two years. The judge said that money is needed for the resources that will have to be shifted to Family Courts, as most of these younger defendants will no longer be handled in criminal courts.
Lawmaker asked about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent proposal to eliminate cash bail for those charged with low-level non-violent offenses.
Michael Green, executive deputy commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, said the economic burden of cash bail falls more heavily on minority defendants, who are often unable to finance their release on bond due to poverty.
“We have had 45,000 people who sat in jail for more than five days on misdemeanor, non-violent offenses,” Green, a former prosecutor from Rochester, told the panel. “The concept of cash bail carries a fundamental unfairness that needs to be addressed.”
Tembeckjian also testified about the Commission on Judicial Conduct’s relatively flat budget, all while requests to investigate courts have increased.
“Consequently, it takes longer for us to complete our investigations, which is not fair to the innocent judge awaiting exoneration, or to the public which rightfully expects the guilty to be disciplined expeditiously,” Tembeckjian read from a statement.