Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ithaca DWI Lawyer: Is New York State's Judicial System a Mess?

New York State's Interesting
Court Architecture
We handle defending people in hundreds of little town and village Courts dotted throughout the farmy (yeah it's my own adjective) landscape of Upstate New York. But New York State's Court process is muddled, confusing, and in many ways antiquated. Traffic tickets don't have a natural flow or much information for those charged with even speeding. The Courts themselves are a communication nightmare. Many Courts, clerks, and judges don't have emails, some you can't leave voice messages, while others you need to call at a specific day and even hour. Navigating such a system is much like sailing a ship over dark and to us familiar waters. But enough with the doom and gloom, New York State is undergoing a reformation of the court process.

I believe a transformation is coming. This is evident because we currently have the first step in the process of healing, awareness of the problem. On a local level in Tompkins and Cortland counties we have a grassroots (not that Grass Roots) campaign to improve the process through communication.  

New York State's Constitution Uses 16,000 Words to Describe Our Court System

The Committee on the New York State Constitution said it takes only 375 words for the U.S. Constitution to authorize the creation of a federal court system, but the state constitution uses 16,000 words to describe New York's court system. 

The disparity between NYS and the Federal government is of course immense on many levels. But why do we need so many words to describe our court system? I know New Yorkers are verbose, I am one of those people but c'mon let's simplify things. The reason things are taking longer is that we are taking too long to say so little. The process for moving a case though the system has many stop gaps. You can call them bottle necks because they impede flow. Anything that slows the flow of the process needs to be loved at and modified.

We are Seeing Progress in Many Courts and in District Attorney Offices Upstate

Tompkins and Cortland counties both have new DAs in 2017. We have already seen some progress in the prosecutor to defense attorney communication process. The Cortland DA has told us to submit equity packages on each and every case. Tompkins County is now streamlining and organizing to focus their resources (their people) on priorities. Both counties offer us as defense attorneys "Open Discovery" of their files. This means we get the police reports, video, and other prosecution evidence to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our case and defenses early. This view before we negotiate, go to trial, or decide to accept a plea offer brings heightened fairness to the process.

Better Communication is a Key to Making a Faster, Smoother, and Fairer Process for Resolving Conflicts  

Communication in any relationship is the keystone of success. I can tell you that after almost 30 years with the same woman I have learned to always communicate. I don't guess at what she wants (I used to), and I don't hem and haw about what I need either. Isn't it better to tell each other what the other is thinking?

Fairness comes as a result of people coming to terms with each other's issues. Bringing equity to any situation means exploring both sides viewpoints. There are always multiple views of the same thing.

Equity Packages are One Way that Defense Attorneys can Communicate with Prosecutors. 

What's an equity package? It is a letter, possibly evidence and documentation of the potential trial defenses, the reasons for a request, the fairness of a disposition, an overview of the client and the charges behind requesting a plea reduction or a dismissal of some or all of the charges.  

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