The state spending plan that was settled over the weekend will bring deep cuts to many areas of state government, not the least of which will be the courts.
The plan slashes $170 million from the Office of Court Administration, which oversees and funds all courts — from village justice courts to the Court of Appeals — and has court officials reeling over how to absorb the cuts. The reduction is roughly 6.3 percent of the court’s current budget.
State lawmakers originally wanted to cut $270 million, or 10 percent. The state’s top judge, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (pictured, above), volunteered to cut $100 million by eliminating, among other services, courthouse child care centers, grants for town and village courts and a program that pays retired judges to work part time as judicial hearing officers.
Now Lippman and other administrative judges around the state must find ways to cut an additional $70 million in spending.
“What is clear is this will be painful by any standards,” he said. “There will be more more spending cuts, layoffs and hardship that anticipated. It will have a tremendous impact on the system.”
It’s too early, Lippman said, to know the number of court employees will lose their jobs, but he said that every kind of court employee will be be targeted for reductions.
“There will absolutely be a workforce reduction with a lot of layoffs,” he said. “There will be very significant cuts. It is a night and day difference between $100 and $170 million.”
Lippman, who lives in Rye Brook, said he didn’t yet know how the cuts statewide would affect the 9th Judicial District, which covers Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties. Different areas of the state would be affected differently, he said.
“We’re going to prioritize and figure out where to go from here,” he said. “I’m an optimist and I’ll do everything I can to keep the judiciary viable and strong. But this is certainly going to test us. This is tough stuff.”