New York’s Non-Lawyer, Small-Town Judges Resist Reform Efforts


The most ambitious efforts in decades to reform New York State's vast network of small-town courts – where sessions can be held in a garage, and 1,450 judges who are not lawyers conduct trials – have stalled, the New York Times reports. Even a seemingly modest compromise that would allow a defendant to request that the judge be a lawyer seems doomed.

The proposal to request legally trained judges has been angrily opposed by the judges, who in addition to conducting trials, also rule on search warrants and send people to jail. It has also been opposed by the state's top court administrators, who often walk a tightrope as they work to keep the courts running. A sponsor, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, said colleagues had told him that it threatened the stature of the justices, who are often tightly woven into local politics.

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