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New York Courts Discuss Restructure of Court System


A New York Criminal Lawyer said the Court Officers Benevolent Association of Nassau County (“COBANC”) is the exclusive bargaining agent for certain court employees located in Nassau County, including employees in the Major I title. The Petitioner, is currently the president of COBANC and co-petitioners, are all employed in courts in Nassau County in the title of Major I (JG 26).

COBANC has its principal place of business in Nassau County and the petitioners reside in Nassau County. The Unified Court System constitutes the Judicial Branch of Government of New York State, established and organized in accordance with Article VI of the New York State Constitution.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said the Respondent, is the Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts of the State of New York and maintains an office from which to administer such duties and responsibilities.

A Nassau County Criminal Lawyer said the New York State Unified Court System (“UCS”) Major I (JG 26) and Major II (JG 28) titles are designated as noncompetitive-confidential. The UCS Title Standard for Major I provides that such employee works “[u]nder the general direction of an Administrative Judge, Executive Assistant or Security Coordinator”

There are no employees in the UCS Major I title in the City of New York. The UCS Title Standard for Major II provides that such employee works under the direction of an Administrative Judge or Chief Clerk. There are no UCS employees in Nassau County who hold the Major II title.

A Queens Criminal Lawyer said in a memorandum, the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of the New York City Courts, conveyed the following: Chief Judge and Chief Administrative Judge recently announced plans to streamline the administrative structure and operations of the NYC Civil and Criminal Courts. Under the plan, each county in New York City will have a County Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters and a County Administrative Judge for Civil Matters; Richmond County will continue to have a single Administrative Judge. The County Supervising Judges for the Civil and Criminal Courts will now report directly to the respective County Administrative Judge.

This emphasis on local accountability requires changes in the current security and reporting structures in the Citywide courts. Security operations in Supreme Court will continue to be overseen by a Major in the Criminal Term and the Civil Term, who report to the appropriate county Chief Clerk. A Major will also be appointed for the Civil and Criminal Courts in each county. In consultation with their respective Supervising Judges and Borough Chief Clerks, the Civil and Criminal Court Majors will oversee security operations, supervise uniformed personnel in their respective courts, and will report to their respective County Chief Clerk.

The current Citywide Majors for the Civil and Criminal Courts will assume the new positions of Citywide Security Coordinators, working out of the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge’s office and reporting to the Citywide Chief Clerks. In this new capacity, they will address security issues of a citywide nature, work to ensure uniformity in security practices throughout the Citywide courts and provide assistance and support to local security supervisors. The management of the Community Courts will be assumed by the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge and the security officers assigned therein will be supervised by the Citywide Security Coordinators.

22 NYCRR Part 25, Rules of the Chief Judge, provides in pertinent part:

§ 25.5. Classification and Allocation

(a) The Chief Administrator of the Courts shall have the power to classify and reclassify, and to allocate and reallocate to an appropriate salary grade, all positions in the classified service of the unified court system.

(b) The Chief Administrator of the Courts may, in order to implement a plan for the progressive advancement of employees in an occupational group, based on their acquiring, as prescribed by the Chief Administrator, training or experience or both, reclassify the positions of the incumbents who meet the prescribed qualifications to titles allocated to higher salary grades, the advancement of an incumbent pursuant to this subdivision shall not be deemed a reallocation.

(c) The effective date of any classification, reclassification, allocation or reallocation shall be such date as is determined by the Chief Administrator of the Courts. No employee whose salary would be increased by any classification, reclassification, allocation or reallocation shall have any claim for the difference, if any, between his or her former salary and that which he or she should receive as a result of that classification, reclassification, allocation or reallocation for the period prior to the date the change in title or salary grade becomes effective.

(d) Review of Classification and Allocation. Any nonjudicial employee, employee organization or court administrator directly concerned in any classification or allocation of a position in the unified court system may seek review of that classification or allocation by submitting a request, in writing, to the director of personnel of the unified court system setting forth the basis of the change requested, together with any supporting papers. The director of personnel shall conduct such inquiry as is necessary and recommend to the Chief Administrator any required adjustments in the classification or allocation. The Chief Administrator shall determine the request for review and shall notify the employee, employee organization or administrator of that determination.

(e) No classification or reclassification of a position of a permanent employee shall diminish any existing salary compensable on an annual basis so long as such position is held by the then permanent incumbent.

The respondents premise their motion to change the venue of the instant special proceeding from Nassau County to New York County, upon CPLR § § 506(b), set forth herein above, and 510(1)(3) which provide:

“The court, upon motion, may change the place of trial of an action where:

1. The county designated for that purpose is not a proper county; or 3. the convenience of material witnesses and the ends of justice will be promoted by the change.”

Interestingly, they do not cite to subdivision (2) of CPLR § 510 which provides:

2. there is reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be had in the proper county.

However, the Respondents take the position of an Affidavit, in support of their motion: “in order to promote an impartial trial of the issues and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in the determination of this matter, respondents request that the trial of this proceeding be changed from Nassau County to New York County.”

With respect to the concerns of an appearance of impropriety expressed by the Respondents, this Court finds and determines that such concerns are without merit. For “the mere fact that a party to an action is of some prominence or holds an official position in the county does not justify an inference that an impartial trial cannot be had in that County.”

Addressing the Respondents’ motion to change venue, the burden to show that the Petitioners did not designate a proper county is upon the movants and such a motion will be denied where the movants have failed to sustain their burden of showing that the Petitioners did not have the right to designate Nassau County as the venue of this special proceeding.

Pursuant to CPLR § 506(b) the Petitioners had the discretion to designate venue in the County “where the material events otherwise took place.”

In the instant special proceeding, notwithstanding the fact that the Respondents’ decisions were made in New York City, the Petitioners work in Nassau County Courts, they are complaining of actions taken by their superiors which affect their work in Nassau County and nearly all of the undisputed facts as set forth herein above took place in Nassau County.

Accordingly, the Court finds and determines that the Petitioners’ designation of Nassau County is a proper venue for the instant proceeding. Therefore, the Respondents’ motion to change the venue herein, pursuant to CPLR § 510(1) is denied.

Accordingly, in order to support its CPLR § 510(3) motion, the Respondents must demonstrate that “the convenience of material witnesses” would be better served by the change.

To make the aforesaid showing, the Respondents must satisfy the following five (5) criteria:

“(1) the identify of the proposed witnesses, (2) the manner in which they will be inconvenienced by a trial in the county in which the action was commenced, (3) that the witnesses have been contacted and are available and willing to testify for the movant, (4) the nature of the anticipated testimony, and (5) the manner in which the anticipated testimony is material to the issues raised in the case.”

Furthermore, a motion under CPLR § 510(3) requires specificity. Counsel for the Respondents in his Affidavit in Support of the instant motion to change venue at pages 6 and 7 states:

“It is anticipated that this proceeding will be decided on the pleadings and the papers submitted by counsel, and that there are no witnesses who will be inconvenienced by a change of venue.”

Accordingly, based upon all of the above, this Court finds and determines that, as a matter of law, the Respondents have not met their burden to justify a change in venue, pursuant to CPLR § 510, nor have they persuaded this Court to exercise its inherent discretion to change the venue herein.

Therefore, the cross-motion of the Respondents is denied in all respects.

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