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Judicial task force on Constitutional Convention now focused on legislative reforms

November 17, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has refocused her task force to look for other ways to make changes to the state court structure since voters decided against a constitutional convention in New York state. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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As part of her Excellence Initiative, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore created a judicial task force aimed at studying the potential benefits to the courts of holding a constitutional convention.

Since voters decided against a constitutional convention, DiFiore has instead decided not to disband the task force and will refocus it with the goal of advancing legislative reforms instead.

“Constitutional reforms should be considered where necessary to remove roadblocks to improving the work of the courts and to make court operations more efficient and less costly to the taxpayers and the litigants,” the Chief Judge said on Friday in a statement.

“The members of the Judicial Task Force on the New York State Constitution, with their deep understanding of New York state government, are uniquely positioned to contribute to this reform initiative. Thus, I have asked the Task Force to resume its work, this time identifying practical constitutional reforms that may be achievable through the legislative process.”

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The taskforce is led by Hon. Alan D. Scheinkman and Dennis E. Glazer, a retired partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. Other members of the task force include Hon. Ariel E. Belen, Hon. Richard Brodsky, Hon. Craig Doran, Hon. Howard A. Levine, Hon. Milton Tingling, Gerald Benjamin, Christopher Bopst, John P. Cahill, Carey R. Dunne, Peter J. Galie, Henry M. Greenberg and Roberta A. Kaplan.

DiFiore created the task force so that it would be prepared to make recommendations on complex issues had the voters decided on a constitutional convention. This included a thorough review of the Judiciary Article of the state constitution, which sets the rules, structure and jurisdiction of the court system.

The possibility for another convention will not come around for another 20 years, but DiFiore is looking for other ways of enacting reforms. In addition to a convention, the state constitution may be amended by a proposal of a revision by act of the state Legislature.

The Excellence Initiative is designed to make the court more efficient by looking at ways to streamline the court’s structure.

“The work of the Chief Judge’s task force survives the referendum vote,” said Task Force Co-chair Richard Brodsky, a retired state assemblymember. “We now have an opportunity to focus on specific changes to the Judiciary Article that will streamline our court system and improve the quality of justice for the people of the state.”


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