New York judicial officials have a plan to begin reforming the state's 300-year-old system of town and village courts, which have been criticized as outmoded, poorly supervised, and unfair, the New York Times reports. The plan, announced by state chief judge Judith S. Kaye, included changes that have been recommended for years by defense lawyers and legal experts. They include an increase in training for justices, improving their supervision, and monitoring whether they are protecting basic legal principles like the constitutional right to a lawyer.
The courts – known as justice courts – will be required for the first time to keep a word-for-word record of their proceedings, like other courts in the state. As outlined in Times articles in September, the courts have survived in part because the justices – most not even lawyers – have longstanding and deep ties to the upstate political system, and because of the substantial cost of replacing them with more professional courts. The State Assembly will begin a broad examination of the justice court system next month.