From my own experience and from reading the comments by local residents and elected officials, there appears to be a lack of knowledge about the purpose and the functioning of the New York State Unified Court System: how it is administered and if it is administered in our local Fifth Judicial District in a manner that ensures equal justice under the law.
It is my understanding that the only judges paid for by local monies are the town justices. The rest of the judges — city, county, Family and Supreme Court — are paid by the state even though they are elected more locally. What the judges are paid throughout the state varies based on a state-set schedule, perhaps based on the amount of business to be carried out in the court by the justices to ensure equal justice in a timely fashion.
I wonder how busy our local courts are as compared to those in other parts of the state. My own experience with one of our local courts is that the average case in the state is settled in less than a year, and yet our simple case took almost three years in the local court. This resulted in unnecessary stress and legal expenses as the court dragged its feet. We need to know if our local courts are serving us in a timely fashion and ensuring equal justice for us all.
I would like to see Jefferson Community College serve the public by doing a study and letting us know how well we are being served by our local courts in compared to other areas in the state. A great public service on the part of the Watertown Daily Times would be to educate us on the general functioning of the Unified Court System in New York. Students in our high schools would likely benefit from learning more about how this system works.
Even local officials could use an education on the purpose and general functioning of our courts to ensure timely court action and equal justice. With more knowledge, we all can make better decisions and be better citizens.
Barbara B. Schell