By Charisma Miller
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York State’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced the reassignment of judges to help resolve the case backlog crisis currently occurring in the Bronx.
At least 10 judges from districts outside of New York City will begin their temporary assignments over the next six months.
To assist in leading this effort, Lippman has enlisted the help of noted Brooklyn Criminal Justice Patricia Di Mango. Hon. Di Mango, deputy administrative judge of the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Criminal Term, has agreed to head this judicial “SWAT team,” a term used by Hon. Lippman to describe the reassigned justices.
According to a report conducted by the Office of Court Administration, the Bronx presently has 3,690 criminal cases that are more than 180 days old; 931 of these cases are more than two years old.
“This acute backlog of felony cases is entirely unacceptable to all of us in the courts and the entire justice community in Bronx County. It simply cannot continue any longer,” Hon. Lippman said.
In comparison, Brooklyn has 1,566 cases that are more than 180 days old, with only 150 of these cases being older than two years.
In order to jumpstart the backlog in the Bronx, Di Mango will meet with the parties in the oldest of the back cases in an attempt to facilitate plea negotiations and deals. If the plea negotiations fail, Di Mango will then assign the cases to one of the 10 temporary judges.
Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti said that the incoming judges have “extensive experience in felony matters,” and will hear “some of the very heaviest cases in the system."
A number of factors have been cited as causing or at least exacerbating the problem in the Bronx. One of which is the 2004 merger of the Bronx courts. The experimental merger of the Criminal and Supreme courts was meant to “expand the team of judges and non-judicial staff … to process cases more efficiently, clearing old backlogs and avoiding new ones,” said then-Chief Judge Judith Kaye. That plan backfired.
In 2008, the Bronx had a total of 2,696 cases older than 180 days, and by 2011, that number rose to 3,769. Hon. Lippman promptly reversed the merger.
Hon. Di Mango and the other judges will relocate their chambers to the Bronx and utilize "unused and renovated courthouse space," said Lippman.
The Bronx District Attorney, Robert Johnson, has expressed his excitement for this recent project to assist his district. Because defendants “liv[e] with uncertainty and anxiety" regarding the resolution of their cases, "I can't wait to begin this project," said Johnson. “It's so wonderful to hear there are going to be 10 judges here almost immediately to try cases.”