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DON'T BLAME ASSEMBLY FOR DELAYED REFORMS

Your Aug. 15 editorial "Albany Bobbled Court Restructuring" unfairly suggested that the New York State Assembly is obstructing meaningful court reform just because it prefers its own reform bill to the one proposed by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye.

The fact is that neither the Senate nor the Assembly passed a bill this year. There are substantial areas of agreement, but substantial areas of disagreement, as well. They can best be addressed by a joint conference committee of the two houses. Such conference committees have operated publicly and effectively in the past to resolve differences.

The major elements of our proposal on judicial reform were well known for months. We streamlined our original proposal to address the concerns raised at the four joint public hearings held around the state. In hopes of winning quick passage of compromise legislation, our proposal kept such major points as the merger of family and county courts into Supreme Court and the creation of a new appellate division, which the Kaye proposal also contained.

If opponents want to allege that the Assembly majority sabotaged reform because we insisted on swifter, more certain access to justice for more people, we plead guilty.

Our proposal to create a permanent fund to support legal services for domestic violence victims, senior citizens and other low-income families -- far from being "extraneous," as The News editorial termed it -- has been unanimously endorsed by a distinguished commission appointed by Judge Kay and bar associations throughout the state.

The Assembly majority is not willing to abandon its commitment to access to justice simply to reach a compromise. Nor should we.

New York's courts do need restructuring. The Senate should join us in establishing a conference committee to expeditiously resolve our differences and recommend a court system of which New Yorkers can be proud.

Helene E. Weinstein Chair,
Assembly Judiciary Committee
Albany

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