A state commission that investigates and sanctions complaints of misconduct against the state’s judges is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers for a roughly 6 percent increase to their annual budget, citing staffing constraints and a larger workload.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct said Monday that an increase of $359,000 over its current $5.7 million budget would help the panel tackle a 25 percent increase in its activity over the past decade.
The commission’s staff, meanwhile, has been cut by 25 percent over the same time period, it said. Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian, who will testify on the budget request before lawmakers in Albany on Tuesday, said the money is needed to maintain public confidence in the state judiciary.
“I know the state’s finances are not infinite. I also know the Governor and Legislature appreciate how important judicial ethics-enforcement is to public confidence in the courts,” Tembeckjian said. “In addition to having their good will, we hope to have their financial support.”
Their budget request is supported by the New York State Bar Association and the Fund for Modern Courts, a court reform advocacy group. The County Court Judges’ Association and New York State Magistrates Association have also passed resolutions calling for more funding for the commission.
The staffing constraints have lengthened the amount of time it takes the commission to resolve a complaint against a state judge, it said. There are currently 38 full-time employees at the commission, which is down from a high of 51 in 2007. The number of complaints reviewed by the commission has, meanwhile, increased from 1,700 each year to 2,100.
The commission disciplined 19 judges in 2018, which it said is more than any other year since 2012. Two of those judges were removed from office, while 12 resigned from their positions. The remaining judges were sanctioned.
Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks is also expected to testify before lawmakers Tuesday about the finances of the state court system. The Office of Court Administration is requesting a budget increase of about 2 percent over last year’s funding.