THE CITIZEN COURT MONITORING
PROGRAMS
REPORT ON THE DUTCHESS COUNTY
TOWN AND VILLAGE COURTS
January 2008

TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.
Introduction
1
A. Citizen Court Monitoring
1
B. Monitoring Town and Village Justice Courts
2
II.
Project: Court Monitoring in Dutchess County Town and Village Justice Courts
4
A. Dutchess County and Its Town and Village Justice Courts
III. Monitors’ Observations of Dutchess County Town and Village Justice Courts
7
A. Proceedings Observed
8
B. Court Facilities
8
C. Court Operations
14
Maintenance of Order
14
Caseload and Scheduling
16
D. Criminal Cases
19
Arraignments
19
Appointment of Attorneys for Indigent Defendants
24
Juvenile Defendants in the Town and Village Justice Courts
26
Domestic Violence Cases
28
E. Traffic Cases
32
F. Civil Cases
34
Landlord-Tenant cases
34
IV. Summary of Recommendations
36
Appendix I
Monitoring Form
41
Appendix II
Listing of Number of Observations by Court
51
Appendix III
Additional Court Facilities Observations
53
Appendix III
Additional Observations on Justice Courts Observed
59
Dutchess County Court Monitors
67
Acknowledgments
68

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I.
INTRODUCTION
The Fund for Modern Courts is an independent, statewide court reform organization
committed to improving the judicial system for all New Yorkers. Our court monitoring program,
along with our citizens jury project, education and advocacy programs, identifies problems that
affect our State’s courts and offer information and recommendations about how to make the
courts more effective, fair and accessible to all residents of the state. In addition, by building
relationships with community members, other advocacy groups, and state and local governments
Modern Courts works with all who want to ensure an independent and highly qualified
judiciary.
This report describes the results of Modern Courts’ court monitoring program of Town
and Village Justice Courts in Dutchess County initiated and completed during the fall of 2007.
A.
Citizen Court Monitoring
The Citizen Court Monitoring program, which began in 1975, is a statewide program that
recruits non-lawyer, local volunteers to observe court proceedings in their communities. The
monitors' findings and recommendations are published by Modern Courts and released to the
public, court administrators, judges, court personnel, government officials1, lawmakers, bar
associations, civic groups, and the media.
Monitors are local volunteers who look at the courts from an average citizen's viewpoint,
thereby providing a fresh, common-sense perspective on how courts serve the public. In the past,
Modern Courts' court monitoring program has been influential in publicizing problems that exist
in the courts; urging those responsible for the courts to make improvements, particularly in
facilities and court operations; and educating citizens about the daily functions and operation of
1 This report will be shared with the town and village governments that are responsible for the operations of the
Town and Village Justice Courts in Dutchess County.

2
their courts in order to create a constituency of citizens who understand the problems facing the
court system and who support efforts to assist the courts to function efficiently and effectively.
B.
Monitoring Town and Village Justice Courts
Recently, serious questions have been raised and concerns expressed about the nature,
operations and quality of New York State’s Justice Court system in government studies such as
the May 2006 report of the Office of the State Comptroller that identified the mishandling of
money in one third of the justice courts audited and urged reform of their budgetary management
and operations systems, and the June 2006 report of The Spangenberg Group on the status of
indigent defense in New York2.
In addition, the release in November 2006 of the Action Plan for the Justice Courts,
prepared by the New York State Unified Court System, focused public attention on the
significant needs of the Town and Village Justice Courts and outlined dozens of new initiative
and programs to assist those courts.
During 2007, Chief Judge Kaye’s Commission on the Future of the Courts (chaired by
Carey Dunne) held extensive hearings and traveled across the State to study the Justice Courts
and provide recommendations for reform. Criminal defense attorneys, civil legal services, court
clerks, individual judges, victims of domestic violence, lobbyists for mayors and towns,
government agencies, bar associations and others have addressed the Justice Court issues.
Articles in local newspapers and in the New York Times also highlighted problems within the
Town and Village Justice Court system.
As a result of these questions and concerns, Modern Courts determined that it was
essential to a full and fair discussion of those justice courts, which have been described as “the
2 Prepared for New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services.

3
face of justice for a great many New Yorkers3,” for local citizens to monitor their Justice Courts
and report their findings.
Town and Village Justice Courts
Located in every county (57 in number) outside of New York City, there are more than
1,200 Town and Village Justice Courts, with nearly 2,200 judges throughout New York State.
Town and Village Justice Courts hear a broad range of criminal and civil cases. The criminal
matters include a wide variety of crimes (e.g. assaults, criminal trespasses, and petit larcenies),
domestic violence cases, and driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases, in addition to traffic and
other violations, and arraignments and other preliminary hearings for felony cases. The civil
jurisdiction includes cases involving amounts up to $3000, landlord tenant matters, and local
ordinance violations.
Although local Town and Village Justice Courts are constitutionally part of the New
York’s Unified Court System, these courts are funded and administered by local town and
villages. This means that the locality funds, operates and maintains its court facilities, hires it
own personnel, provides its own security, and determines the Justice Court’s hours of operation.
Many of these justice courts meet in the evenings; some meet as infrequently as once a month.
Justice Courts are unique in several other ways – they are the only courts in which non-
attorney judges4, who are elected, are allowed to preside after completing a brief Office of Court
Administration (OCA) training course; and they are not “courts of record,” meaning verbatim
recording of proceedings are not required, which makes it difficult to have cases reviewed by
appellate courts or ensure that litigants’ rights are protected.
3 Judith S. Kaye and Jonathan Lippman, New York State Unified Court System, Action Plan for the Justice Courts,
Preface (2006).
4 Approximately 72 % of the town and village judges in New York State are non-lawyers.

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II.
PROJECT: COURT MONITORING IN DUTCHESS COUNTY TOWN AND VILLAGE JUSTICE
COURTS
Modern Courts determined that the monitoring of all the Justice Courts in all the counties
of the State would provide useful information for the general public, policy makers, judicial
administrators, the town and village governments that support these courts and, most
importantly, the residents who use these courts. But because of limited resources Modern Courts
decided to initiate its Town and Village court monitoring program in Dutchess County5. Our goal
was to monitor as many of the Justice Courts within Dutchess County during a three month
period as practical, so that an initial report could be issued in early 2008. Subsequently, the
monitoring program would be expanded so that additional reports on the justice courts of other
counties could be issued during 2008.
Prior to the start of monitoring in Dutchess County, Modern Courts recruited volunteer
monitors and held a general informational and training program for them about the Town and
Village Court system at the Hyde Park Library on September 19, 2007. At this meeting, Hyde
Park Town Court Judge David Steinberg spoke to the monitors about the handling of criminal
proceedings in the Justice Courts, which included a discussion of setting bail and the assignment
of counsel for indigent defendants. Kathleen Healey, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s
Managing Attorney for Dutchess, Putnam and Ulster County, spoke to the monitors about the
issuance of orders of protection and other matters related to both domestic violence and landlord-
tenant proceedings in the Town and Village Courts.
The training provided the local volunteers with an overview of their local Town and
Village Justice Courts, and instructed them on monitoring procedures, including the use of
5 A court monitoring program also was initiated in Saratoga County, and a report on that county is being prepared.

5
Modern Courts’ evaluation form6 by the volunteer monitors during the project. A Town and
Village Justice Courts monitoring handbook was developed that provided maps, driving
directions, addresses and hours of operations of all 27 Justice Courts as well as background
material on the distinct nature of the Town and Village Justice Court and the types of cases to be
heard in these courts.
On December 11, 2007, a wrap-up meeting was held, during which the volunteers
provided additional comments regarding their observations of the Town and Village Justice
Courts and feedback on the monitoring forms and other aspects of the monitoring process. This
meeting included a presentation by Dutchess County Public Defender David Goodman on his
organization’s provision of legal services to indigent defendants across Dutchess County.
A.
Dutchess County and Its Town and Village Justice Courts
Dutchess County has a population of approximately 295,146 according to the 2006
United States Census Bureau estimates, which represent a 5.4 % increase from its population of
280,150 in the year 2000. The largest towns in the county are Poughkeepsie (39,254) followed
by Wappinger (22,292), East Fishkill (22,101), and Hyde Park (21,230). The other towns have
significantly smaller populations. The largest villages are Wappingers Falls (4,605) and
Rhinebeck (2,275).
Dutchess County has a total of 27 Town and Village Justice Courts. There are 20 Town
Justice Courts: Amenia, Beekman, Clinton, Dover, East Fishkill, Fishkill, Hyde Park, LaGrange,
Milan, North East, Pawling, Pine Plains, Pleasant Valley, Poughkeepsie, Red Hook, Rhinebeck,
Stanford, Union Vale, Wappinger, and Washington. And there are 7 Village Justice Courts:
Fishkill, Millbrook, Pawling, Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Tivoli, and Wappingers Falls.
6 This form (“monitoring form”) was developed specifically for the monitoring of Town and Village Justice Courts
and includes suggestions from local volunteers, attorneys and other advocates who work in these courts. A copy of
the monitoring form is attached as Appendix I.

6
In Dutchess County, there are 51 Town and Village judgeships occupied by 48 judges.
Three judges sit in multiple courts.

7
III.
MONITORS’ OBSERVATIONS OF DUTCHESS COUNTY TOWN AND VILLAGE JUSTICE
COURTS
After analysis of all 64 reports submitted by the monitors, Modern Courts’ staff
organized those observations into the following subject matter areas:
A.
Proceedings Observed, including number and types of cases observed;
B.
Court Facilities, including access for disabled persons, security, signage and parking
concerns;
C.
Court Operations, including maintenance of order, and caseload and scheduling;
E.
Criminal Cases, including arraignment proceedings, appointment of attorneys for
indigent defendants, proceedings involving young defendants, and domestic violence
cases;
F.
Traffic Cases; and
G.
Civil Cases, including landlord-tenant cases.

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A.
Proceedings Observed
During the monitoring period, monitors observed proceedings in 25 of the 27 Town and
Village Justice Courts located in Dutchess County; monitors did not observe proceedings in the
Pawling or Red Hook Village courts. Monitors observed 64 courts sessions in the Town and
Village Justice Courts in Dutchess County. Individual courts were monitored within a range of
from one to five times during the project.7
The total number of proceedings observed for the monitoring period (September 19, 2007
to December 12, 2007) was 2801. Of that number;
60.3% (1689) involved criminal matters, including 51 (3.1%) domestic
violence cases,
37.3% (1044) were traffic cases,
1.4% (40) involved general civil matters,
0.55% (16) were housing cases (Landlord/Tenant), and
0.43% (12) other cases (i.e. ordinance violations/ zoning, etc).
It is notable that in 23.56 % (398 of the 1689) of the criminal cases observed by the
monitors, the defendant did not have legal representation during the proceedings. This is of
considerable concern given that representation by an attorney is a constitutional right and critical
to the fair administration of the criminal justice system. The monitors also noted in that in 898 of
the non-criminal proceedings observed, litigants did not have legal representation during the
proceedings.
7 The number of times each court was visited and monitored can be found in Appendix II.
8 This number refers to civil and other types of cases observed. In traffic offense cases, the monitors found that
litigants were often unrepresented but did not note the exact number of self-represented defendants.

9
B.
Court Facilities
In order for any court to provide for the fair administration of justice, the facility that
houses that court must ensure that the dignity of the proceedings is maintained. If the public is to
have confidence in the operations of the court, the facility must meet certain standards.
Modern Courts’ monitors observed the facilities of 25 of the 27 Town and Village Justice
Courts in Dutchess County. As previously noted, these court facilities are funded, operated and
maintained by the local towns and villages.
The monitors reported the following:
• The vast majority (23 of the 25) of court facilities observed were described as
“well-maintained.” However, monitors reported that the Amenia Town and the
Millbrook Village court facilities were not well-maintained. For example, the
monitors who visited the Amenia Town reported that, “The building is very old
and needs many repairs and new fixtures. It is very crowded. It was as clean as it
probably could be but the stains are bad on the fixtures and walls. They
desperately need a new and larger facility,” and that, “[t]he courtroom was
crowded, messy, and noisy. … Amenia needs new facilities.” The monitors who
visited the Millbrook Village court facilities found, “The space was totally
inadequate. No security, poor access to the second floor, no apparent elevator, and
no signs or direction. This court desperately needs other accommodations.”
80% (20 of the 25) of court facilities observed did not have “space allocated in
the courthouse for private attorney-client conferencing.” The only five that did
were Clinton, Fishkill, Milan, Poughkeepsie, Union Vale, and Washington Town
courts.

10
80% (20 of 25) of courts facilities observed appeared accessible for disabled
persons. However, monitors reported that Fishkill Village, Millbrook Village,
Pine Plains Town, Tivoli Village, and Wappingers Falls Village court facilities
appeared inaccessible to those with disabilities. For example, monitors who
visited the Tivoli Village court noted that, “The court room is on the second floor,
steep stairs, and no elevator.” Monitors who visited the Millbrook Village court
reported, “You have to go upstairs for court … This place is not handicapped
accessible.”
None of the court facilities observed had a waiting room outside the courtroom
for litigants and the public.
Security
88% (22 of the 25) of court facilities observed did not have a magnetometer at the
entrance of the court. Only Poughkeepsie Town, Wappinger Town, and
Wappingers Falls Village had a magnetometer.
56% (14 of 25) of court facilities observed had “sufficient/secure distance in the
courtroom between the parties.” However, monitors reported that Amenia Town,
Beekman Town, Millbrook Village, North East Town, Pleasant Valley,
Rhinebeck Village, Stanford Town, Tivoli Village, Wappingers Falls Village,
Pine Plains Town and Washington Town courts appeared too small or crowded to
ensure a secure distance between parties.
Courtrooms
20% (5 of the 25) of the courts observed had courtrooms that were both
inadequate in size for the proceedings and did not have a sufficient number of

11
seats. These courts were Amenia Town, Beekman Town, East Fishkill Town,
Millbrook Village, and Pleasant Valley Town.
Signage
None of the courts observed had multi-lingual and/or Braille signage.
Parking
24% (6 of 25) of the courts observed had insufficient lighting in their parking
lots. This is significant because many of the Town and Village Justice Court
sessions are held during the evening or at night. These courts were Clinton Town,
Dover Town, Millbrook Village, Rhinebeck Town, Wappinger Town, and
Washington Town. For example, monitors who visited the Washington Town
Court noted that, “Lighting in the parking area was almost non-existent.” One
monitor who visited the Dover Town Court reported, “Outside lighting needs to
be addressed for the parking lot. None was available.”
Additional facilities comments regarding each of the courts observed can be found in
Appendix III.
Recommendations
Maintenance of Court Facilities
Monitors reported that court facilities in Amenia Town and Millbrook Village were not
well-maintained. The Town and Village should assess the conditions of their court facilities and
make the necessary repairs if possible. If not , they should consider relocating, or building a new
facility that provides a well-maintained and accessible facility that allows theses courts to
perform their essential functions efficiently with a safe environment for the litigants and those
who work in these courts.

12
Attorney/Client Conferencing Space9
Monitors observed that 80% of the court facilities observed did not have space allocated
in the courthouse for attorney-client conferencing in private. In some cases, this deficiency led to
noisy courtrooms because attorneys were forced to meet with their clients in the courtroom
during the proceedings. In addition, such circumstances present the potential for a breech of
attorney-client confidentiality, because information has to be exchanged between attorneys and
their clients in a public courtroom. Each court should allocate space within its facilities for
attorney-client conferencing both to maintain order in the courtroom and to provide for attorney-
client confidentiality.
Accessibility10
Monitors reported that 20% (5 of 25) of courts facilities observed appeared inaccessible
for those with disabilities. Modern Courts urges that Fishkill Village, Millbrook Village, Pine
Plains Town, Tivoli Village, and Wappingers Falls Village take steps to provide reasonable
accommodations and assistance to those who need them and are entitled to them under the
Americans with Disabilities Act.
Security
Monitors reported that the vast majority (88%, or 22 of the 25) of court facilities
observed did not have a magnetometer at the entrance of the court. Given the large volume of
criminal cases heard by Dutchess County Town and Village Justice Courts, including felony
arraignments, those 22 towns and villages without magnetometers or other entrance screening
devices should act quickly to acquire such security devices. It should be noted that Chief Judge
9 In some courts, space was allocated in another town or village building, or the judge’s chambers were used.
10 It should be noted that Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s Action Plan for the Justice Courts recommends the
development of a survey and assessment form for Justice Courts in order to identify barriers that limit full
participation in those facilities.

13
Judith S. Kaye’s Action Plan for the Justice Courts has provided aid to localities for the
acquisition of these security devices.
Courtrooms
Monitors observed that 5 courtrooms were inadequate in size or seating for the
proceedings being held in them. Larger courtrooms and/or nearby easily accessible waiting areas
are needed for the Amenia Town, Beekman Town, East Fishkill Town, Millbrook Village, and
Pleasant Valley Town Justice Courts in order to reduce noise in these courtrooms related to
overcrowded conditions and to ensure that litigants and those in the courtroom can hear the
calendar call and other announcements from court personnel.
Signage
None of the 25 Town and Village Courts observed had multi-lingual signs although they
reported that in many of the courts observed that either an interpreter was used or needed by
litigants, who did not speak or had difficulty understanding English. Multi-lingual signage,
particularly in the foreign language or languages that frequently require interpreters should be
placed in those courts.
Parking
Monitors reported that the lighting in the parking lot was inadequate in 6 of the 25 court
facilities observed. These courts commonly hold court sessions in the evening and in the some
cases the night, which means litigants and other visitors to the courts often must leave the court
in darkly lit or unlit conditions. The lighting of these court facilities’ parking lots should be
improved to better safeguard the litigants, staff, and visitors to these courts.

14
C.
Courts Operations
Maintenance of Order
Monitors reported that many of the 25 Justice Courts observed were orderly and quiet
during the proceedings observed, enabling the participants in the proceedings to be heard by the
monitors, those litigants awaiting their cases to be called by the judge or other court personnel,
and those family members accompanying litigants. Among those courts, Beekman, Clinton,
Milan, and Pawling Town were specifically cited as being quiet and orderly. For example:
• Quietest court that I have ever been in. Court officer called cases by sequence number
and name and his voice could be heard throughout the court room. (Beekman Town)
• It was a well-run and quiet courtroom. (Clinton Town)
• The court officers had excellent control of courtroom. Judge (Michael Martin) was
easy to hear. (Fishkill Village)
• Noise was not an issue at all even without any court officers. (Milan Town)
• The court room was quiet and orderly during proceedings. (Pawling Town)
• There was no chatter among the lawyers or general courtroom [while Judge Page
presided]. (Red Hook Town)
• The judge (Frank Weber) certainly had control of his court. (Stanford Town)
• There was definite control of the court room. You could hear a pin drop. (Tivoli
Village)
However, the monitors, who made multiple visits to some courts, reported that LaGrange,
Pleasant Valley, and Wappinger Town Justice Courts were noisy and disorderly. For example:
• The courtroom was a three ring circus. There was so much commotion and so much
going on at the same time. (LaGrange Town)
• I don’t think anyone had control of the courtroom. It was a zoo. (Pleasant Valley
Town)

15
• No attempt by court officer to stop all the chatter in the room. The lawyers were all
having a gab fest. She [the judge] chattered and laughed with private attorneys and
her clerk. (Red Hook Town)
• It was very noisy in the court. Doors to the court were not closed and numerous
people remained outside the courtroom in the adjacent hall. This included one five
year old girl who I could hear from inside the court in the first row. When her
family’s case was called the child ran around the courtroom. A teenager sat 2 seats
away from me in the front row [and] continued to talk to his friend for 1 ½ hours
without ever shutting up. He was never asked to stop talking by anyone. Late in the
session the judge [Heather Kitchen] yelled for quiet in the courtroom but all the court
officers just seemed to process folders [and hand them] to the judge and never
controlled the noise in the courtroom. (Wappinger Town)
In some cases, the noise in the courtroom was attributed to the inadequate facilities in
which some of the courts were housed. For example:
• The door is constantly being banged. The people waiting in the hallway are crowded
together as it is very small. Therefore, it is very noisy.(Amenia Town)
• The courtroom was too noisy. The judge requested silence only twice. Between the
banging of the gate, the noisy door, and sometimes noisy courtroom, it was difficult
to hear. Troopers and deputies who appeared called defendants from front and rear of
the courtroom at the same time as the judge was calling names. (LaGrange Town)
• The judge asked for the door to be closed because of the noise of the police
department next door. (Pine Plains Town)
Monitors also observed that court personnel in some noisy courts did not attempt to
maintain order and quiet.
• This court seemed very casual – noisy [with] no one in control as one would expect.
(Amenia Town)
• The court officer made no attempt to quiet the lawyers or make them turn off their
cell phones. (Hyde Park Town)
• The judge [Paul Caltagirone] exercised no control over the noise which prevailed in
the hallway and the courtroom doors were wide open. (Pleasant Valley Town)
• The courtroom was very noisy as no one tried to quiet all the chatter. (Wappinger
Town)

16
Recommendation
Monitors reported that several courts observed (LaGrange, Pleasant Valley, and
Wappinger Town Justice Courts) were noisy and disorderly during multiple observations. In
some instances, the noise was attributed to the inadequacy of the size or location of the court
facilities. But in others, monitors observed that the judges and court personnel did not ask for
quiet or otherwise attempt to reduce the noise level in the courtroom. Local officials should
address facilities issues such as courtrooms that are too small or without waiting areas which
contribute to the noise and disorderliness in these courts. In addition, judges and court personnel
should inform those in the courtroom prior to the beginning of court proceedings, and
periodically during the court session that attendees should remain silent during the proceedings.
Caseload and Scheduling
In Dutchess County, as is the case with all Justice Courts in New York State, each town
and village sets its own Justice Court’s hours of operation including the frequency of court
sessions. One court had sessions scheduled as frequently as four times a week (Poughkeepsie
Town), while another court had sessions scheduled as infrequently as once a twice a month
(Tivoli Village). Most of the courts had sessions scheduled at least once a week. Some Town
Courts such as Amenia, Clinton, Dover, Milan, Fishkill, Hyde Park, Pleasant Valley, Stanford,
and Wappingers Fall Village courts had court sessions scheduled several times a week.
Regardless of the frequency that these courts were required to meet, each of the Town and
Village Courts in Dutchess County are allowed only two judges. In fact the Pawling Village, Red
Hook Town and Red Hook Village Justice Courts each had one sitting judge during this project.
Monitors noted that the caseloads of some justice courts were large while other courts
had significantly smaller caseloads on the occasions they were observed. For example, one

17
monitor observed the Town of Poughkeepsie Court handled 248 cases during one observation –
the largest number of proceedings observed during one court session during this monitoring
project. In a subsequent observation of the Poughkeepsie Town Court, another monitor observed
185 cases.
The monitors made the following comments regarding the caseloads in the Town Court
of Poughkeepsie:
• 185 cases in 3 ¼ hours obviously the judge had to be efficient. Judge Banner was
very professional and in control. This court has a large number of litigants every time
so with the exception of taking so long to get in the courtroom they know how to
move the cases.
• Today, Judge Sullivan had a [relatively] short caseload (58 cases) but dispensed of it
very quickly while not rushing anyone.
In addition, monitors observed busy caseloads in the East Fishkill (172 cases), Pleasant
Valley (108 cases), LaGrange (96 cases), Fishkill (92 cases), Dover (86 cases) and Milan (86
cases) Town courts.
Monitors made the following comments regarding some of the larger caseloads in the
courts observed:
• I was shocked that a court such as Dover would have 86 cases. (Dover Town)
• The 96 cases were handled efficiently in 4 hours time. (LaGrange Town)
Conversely, monitors also observed court sessions in multiple courts during which fewer
than 10 cases were heard. These observations occurred in Millbrook Village (5 cases), Union
Vale Town (5 cases), Pine Plains Town (7 cases), Rhinebeck Village (7 cases), and Washington
Town (8 cases) courts.

18
Recommendation
Consolidation
Given the extremely small caseloads of the Millbrook Village Justice Court (5 cases) and
the Rhinebeck Village Justice Court (7 cases) observed by the monitors, both villages should
assess the number of cases heard by these courts and should either consider joining with the
Town Justice Courts that cover the same geographic jurisdiction, or dissolving their Justice
Courts if these Village Courts consistently hear small caseloads. The small caseload, observed by
the monitors, of the Union Vale Town Justice Court (5 cases) and Pine Plains Town Justice
Court (7 cases) suggests that these towns should consider conducting a similar assessment and
possible consolidation of their courts with an adjacent town court.

19
D.
Criminal Cases
As noted previously, the majority of cases observed by court monitors involved criminal
matters. Given the large number of such cases and the concerns expressed about the protection of
the constitutional rights of defendants and the protection of victims in these cases, Modern
Courts’ monitors recorded observations about a number of aspects of criminal cases, including
arraignment proceedings, the appointment of attorneys for indigent defendants, proceedings
involving young offenders, and domestic violence cases.
Arraignments
An arraignment is the court proceeding during which a person, who has been arrested, is
informed of the charges against him or her.11 Arraignments are a critical part of a criminal
proceeding because it is the first time that a defendant appears before a judge. It is absolutely
essential that the judge protect the constitutional rights of the defendant when arraigning a
defendant. In addition, the defendant is informed of the right to counsel and advised that if he or
she cannot afford an attorney one will be assigned for the entire case at the state’s expense. If the
defendant plans to hire an attorney, but has not done so at the time of arraignment, an attorney
can be assigned for the arraignment only. If charged with a felony, the defendant is informed that
within 144 hours of arrest he or she has the right to a preliminary hearing or a grand jury
indictment. In addition, the defendant is given notice of whether any incriminating statements
were made to the police and whether witnesses identified him or her. Finally, the defendant is
asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
11 N.Y.CPL §1.20 (9) (McKinney 2008) defines arraignment as "the occasion upon which a defendant against whom
an accusatory instrument has been filed appears before the court in which the criminal action is pending for the
purpose of having such court acquire and exercise control over his person with respect to such accusatory instrument
and of setting the course of further proceedings in the action."

20
Judges in Town and Village Justice Courts regularly arraign defendants who are accused
of crimes within their jurisdictions. And while a criminal defendant usually must be brought to
the local court for arraignment within 24 hours of arrest, many of the Town and Village Justice
Courts in Dutchess County have only one or two “DA” calendars12 during a typical month. As a
result many arraignments are conducted where neither a representative of the District Attorney’s
office nor a defense attorney is present. Modern Courts’ monitors were able to observe DA
calendars, but were not able to observe arraignments which took place when only the defendant,
arresting police officer and judge were present, because such proceedings do not take occur at
regularly scheduled times.
Observations Regarding Arraignments13
During the monitoring project, monitors observed a total of 36 court sessions that
included arraignments in the 25 Town and Village Justice Courts observed in Dutchess County.
• While the judge read the charges to each defendant arraigned in the vast majority (23
of 25) of the Justice Courts observed, monitors reported that the charges sometimes
were not read to each individual defendant during arraignment by one of the judges in
the Amenia Town Justice Court, and both14 of the judges in Red Hook Town Justice
Court.
• In 21 of the 25 Justice Courts observed, the judge “informed each defendant of his
plea options (not guilty or guilty).” But the monitors did not observe each defendant
being told his or her plea options during arraignment by one of the judges in both the
12 A “DA” calendar is a court session during which a Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney (ADA) and
Public Defender are scheduled to appear in that court to prosecute or provide a defense in criminal cases.
13 Modern Courts conducted this court monitoring program to provide a general sense of the operations of the Town
and Village Justice Courts in Dutchess County and to provide recommendations on how to improve the system. It
was not our intent to evaluate or publicly criticize judges. However, Modern Courts will communicate its
observations to the judge observed and to the Supervising Judge for the Justice Courts in the judicial district where
the court is located.
14 One of the judges observed in the Red Hook Town Court is no longer on the bench.

21
Amenia and Dover Town Justice Courts, both judges in Red Hook Town Justice
Court, and the judge in the Tivoli Village Justice Court.
Monitors reported that many of the judges took their arraignment responsibilities
seriously and afforded the defendants their constitutional rights. For example:
• Judge John C. Garito, Beekman Town Court, “explained rights to and took time with
each defendant” and “did not rush anyone, listened to everyone, explained charges,
and took an interest in the all the cases.”
• Judge Raymond Chase, Wappingers Falls Village, “never failed to take time to
explain charges and rights.” Judge John Kane, Jr., Rhinebeck Town Court, “makes
sure all defendants understand their rights.”
• Judge Frank Weber, Stanford Town Court, “was very patient with lawyers and
defendants. He was meticulous in his explanations.”
• “Prior to calling [individual] defendants to the bench, the judge (Judge Francis G.
Christensen, Milan Town Court) explained all the proceedings that were going to
happen.”
• Judge Paul Banner, Poughkeepsie Town Court, “was very good at explaining how the
court works to all new defendants.”
• “This is a small court with a great judge (Judge John Kane, Jr., Rhinebeck Village
Court). He took his time, never rushed anyone and explained rights to the defendants
very well.”
• “He (Judge Frank Weber, Stanford Town Court) was very patient with lawyers and
defendants. He was meticulous in his explanations.”
Unfortunately, there were some courts15 where the constitutional rights of the defendants
were not adequately protected by the presiding judge. For example:
• In one court, the monitor reported that “the judge only spoke a few times. The ADA
and public defender ran the whole court. … the public defender, explains charges,
arraignments, etc. The judge just sat saying nothing. He looked like a man that didn’t
know what was going on,” and the judge “… didn’t really do anything but sit there.
15 As noted earlier in this report, it was not our intent to evaluate or publicly criticize judges. However, Modern
Courts will communicate its observations to the judge observed and to the Supervising Judge for the Justice Courts
in the judicial district where the court is located.

22
The public defender and ADA really handled everything, and then the judge okayed
it. The judge is not a lawyer.”
• In another court, the monitor reported that “I never once heard anyone read their
rights.” This monitor was provided a handout given to litigants prior to the
proceedings that informed the litigants of their rights. The litigants were not asked if
they understood this document.
• And in another court, the monitor reported that “The reading of rights was not a
priority.”
While it is to be expected that Town and Village judges would read the charges to each
defendant and inform each defendant of his or her plea options during the DA calendars, when
Assistant District Attorneys and both public defenders and private defense attorneys are present,
it is unclear whether this practice occurs during the many unscheduled arraignments that take
place, when only the defendant, arresting officer and judge are present.
Recommendations
Informing Defendants of their Rights
In those courts where monitors did not observe charges being read to each criminal
defendants, and where judges were not observed informing defendants of the available plea
options (not guilty or guilty), judges must take care to read the charges to all defendants and
inform all defendants of the available plea options.
Recording16 Unscheduled Arraignments
Given that many arraignments of defendants take place at unscheduled times and days
when neither Assistant District Attorneys nor public defenders or private defense attorneys are
present, Modern Courts recommends that judges of Town and Village Justice Courts be provided
with inexpensive tape recorders so that these arraignments can be recorded and reviewed. Such a
16 Although Town and Village Justice Courts are not “courts of record” and are not required to record their
proceedings, recording arraignments when no attorneys are present is wise public policy. It should be noted that the
Unified Court System has begun to provide electronic recording devices to the largest Town and Village Justice
Courts.

23
practice would ensure that the constitutional rights of every defendant are protected and shield
judges from unsubstantiated accusations of impropriety.
Interpreters
In order for a defendant to understand the charges which are being brought against him or
her it is necessary for the defendant to possess sufficient knowledge of the English language to
understand the meaning of those charges. In 1317 of the 25 justice courts observed, the judge
offered the services of an interpreter if the defendant appeared not to understand English, or was
hearing impaired. The Town and Village Justice Court judges observed seemed aware of this and
acted accordingly. For example:
• One defendant seemed to need an interpreter and a public defender, so Judge Ferris
adjourned the case and gave defendant a copy in Spanish [of] how to get a public
defender and scheduled an interpreter for [the next] session. (Beekman Town)
• The interpreter was ready and waiting for those cases she knew about and stayed for
cases that were new. (East Fishkill Town)
• Two defendants needed an interpreter. It was discovered that one defendant spoke
Portuguese not Spanish and he (Judge John Kane Jr.) was so apologetic to the
defendant. This is a very efficient court. (Rhinebeck Town)
17 Amenia Town, Beekman Town, Dover Town , East Fishkill Town , Fishkill Town, LaGrange Town, Millbrook
Village, Pleasant Valley Town, Poughkeepsie Town, Rhinebeck Town, Union Vale Town, Wappinger Town,
Wappingers Falls Village, and Washington Town.

24
Appointment of Attorneys for Indigent Defendants
It has long been held that a defendant has the constitutional right to be represented by
counsel under the US Constitution.18 In New York State, the right is recognized under its own
Constitution19, and by statute.20
Locally, Section 200.26 of the Uniform Rules for Trial Courts
requires Town and Village Justice Courts to make an initial determination of eligibility for
assigned counsel at arraignment when a defendant is being held without bail or is unable to post
bail. If the court determines that the defendant is eligible for counsel, it must immediately assign
counsel and notify counsel and the local pretrial services agency of the assignment.”21
Defendants are not obligated to make any request for their own representation; the judges are
expected to recognize and determine when the rule applies22.
In Dutchess County, the Office of the Public Defender represents most indigent
defendants.
Monitors observed the following regarding the appointment of assigned counsel:
• In all 25 justice courts observed, the judges “informed each defendant of their right
to an attorney if charged with a criminal offense.” In Rhinebeck Town Justice Court,
one monitor reported, “One defendant didn’t want a lawyer and all three (the judge,
ADA, public defender) talked to him [about his right to an attorney] and he finally
agreed.”
• In all 25 justice courts observed, the judges “adjourned cases so defendants could get
a lawyer.” For example, in the Millbrook Village Justice Court, one monitor reported
that “A defendant was brought in from county jail where he had been held for 2 days
18 Gideon v Wainwright, 372 US 335; Coleman v Alabama, 399 US 1; Powell v Alabama, 287 US 45.
19 NY Const, Art I, § 6.
20 CPL § 170.10, 180.10, 210.15 (McKinney 2007).
21 Spangenberg Report, p.113.
22 22 NYCRR § 200.26.

25
on $100 bail which was set at arraignment by another town justice. The case was
adjourned to get a public defender [for the defendant].”
• In 7
23
of the 24 justice courts observed, the judge “appointed an attorney to [a]
defendant at the arraignment.” For example, monitors observed that in Fishkill Town
Justice Court, Judge Francois Cross “made referrals to public defender, to mental
hygiene, and to DMV.” In Hyde Park Town Justice Court, Judge John Kennedy “was
very adamant about some defendants getting lawyers or a Public Defender.”
However, in one Town Justice Court, the judge “refused to appoint a lawyer to
represent a defendant when the defendant asked.”
• In 3 of the 25 Justice Courts observed, the judge “used a questionnaire to determine
eligibility for defendants for an assigned attorney. This practice used by the judges in
the Pleasant Valley, Poughkeepsie, and Washington Town Justice Courts.
• In 13
24
of the 25 Justice Courts observed, the judge “provided information about
legal services to indigent defendants.” For example, a monitor observed that in
Rhinebeck Town Justice Court, “Judge Kane spent a lot of time making sure each
defendant knew how to get counsel.”
Recommendation
Legal Services Information
Monitors reported that judges in 48% of the courts observed did not provide defendants
with information about obtaining legal services. Every judge should provide each indigent
criminal defendant with information about legal services. Written information about the
23 East Fishkill Town, Fishkill Village, Hyde Park Town, LaGrange Town, Poughkeepsie Town, Wappingers Falls
Village, and Washington Town Justice Courts.
24 Amenia Town, East Fishkill Town, Fishkill Town, Fishkill Village, Hyde Park Town, Millbrook Village, Pawling
Town , Pleasant Valley Town, Poughkeepsie, Town, Rhinebeck Town, Rhinebeck Village, Wappinger Town, and
Washington Town Justice Courts.

26
availability of legal services for indigent defendants should also be available particularly in cases
in which a public defender might not be available in court during that session.
Juvenile Defendants in the Town and Village Courts
In New York State, young people aged 16 and older accused of criminal acts are charged
as adults and appear as defendants in the Town and Village Justice Courts. Younger teens who
have committed serious crimes also may have their cases heard in the Justice Court rather than in
the Family Court. Certain youths between the ages of 14 and 19, may be treated as a youthful
offender in the local Justice Courts, which generally results in their juvenile record being sealed
and a reduction in the maximum sentence that maybe imposed. Other juvenile defendants may
not be afforded this status, and if convicted will not have their records sealed, which would have
significant repercussions for their futures, including barring them from future employment,
student loans, and even public housing.
The monitors observed many defendants under the age of 18 in the Town and Village
Justice Courts.25
It was not possible to ascertain if all of these defendants were treated as
youthful offenders, as defined by state law, by the court. However, monitors did observe whether
these young defendants were accompanied by a legal guardian and whether they had legal
representation in the often busy local Town and Village Justice Courts with their diverse
caseloads. The monitors’ observations are as follows:
• In more than half (37 of the 64) of the court sessions which were observed, there were
cases involving defendants under the age of 18.
25 Generally, during their observations, the monitors had access to each court’s calendar which listed a date of birth
which is typically how the monitors identified that a defendant was under the age of 18. In some cases, the judge or
the lawyers made reference to the fact that the defendant was under the age of 18 as well.

27
• In the majority (29 of the 37) of the court sessions involving defendants under the age
of 18, all of the defendants were accompanied by a legal guardian. In the remaining 8
court sessions, some of the defendants were accompanied by a legal guardian (in 3
court sessions) and some were not (in 5 court sessions).
• In a significant number (11 of the 37) of the court sessions, none of the defendants
under the age of 18 had legal representation present during their cases; in 3 of the 37
court sessions, some of the defendants under the age of 18 had legal representation
present. The monitors did not report about the presence of legal representation in 2 of
the court sessions in which defendants under the age of 18 were observed.
Monitors observed that many of the judges appeared to safeguard the privacy of the
juveniles by hearing the case in chambers. For example:
• The judge, ADA, public defender, parent and defendant retired to a private
conference. The case was [eventually] rescheduled. (Millbrook Village)
• The justice was very good about youthful offenders having private hearings. (Hyde
Park Town)
• The judge and lawyers left the courtroom for this case. (Pleasant Valley Town)
• The judge requested that the defendants and his parents go to his chambers.
(Poughkeepsie Town)
Monitors also observed judges explaining the proceedings to juveniles and, in some
cases, to their parents. For example:
• When the judge increased the hours of community service that was recommended by
the ADA for a teenager charged with criminal trespass, [he] explained days and hours
of the community service at the town recycling center. (Beekman Town)
• The judge advised defendant that he must be accompanied by a parent, or a lawyer
[who had] written parental consent [to represent the youth].(Fishkill Town)

28
• The defendant was advised that he must have a parent or legal guardian, or have the
parent or legal guardian sign that he may represent himself, or have counsel. (Pleasant
Valley Town)
• The justice was very good at explaining options especially to the student applying for
college aid. (Poughkeepsie Town)
• He [the judge] was very good at telling the mother about getting advice from a lawyer
and explaining everything to her. (Union Vale Town)
• The justice was very careful to make sure that the defendants understood what was
happening. He gave the mother all the time that she needed to talk and ask questions.
(Wappingers Fall Village)
• The judge complimented the young man… [who had] finished his community service
and his father and explained to them about getting his fingerprints cleared.
(Washington Town)
Recommendation
Monitors overwhelming reported that local Town and Village judges appeared to try to
safeguard the privacy of young defendants, and explained court procedures to them, and in some
cases, to their parents. However, Modern Courts recommends that a fact sheet or other resource
which provides information for youths about services and programs available to them, the
sealing of juvenile records, and the future consequences resulting from a criminal conviction be
made available to young defendants. This is especially important considering that these young
defendants’ cases are being heard in busy courts which handle an array of cases, unlike the
Family Court where the proceedings are focused on the children.

29
Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic Violence (DV) cases present themselves through a variety of different criminal
charges in the Town and Village Justice Courts including harassment, assault, and stalking.
Often charges such as burglary, obstruction of justice, and endangering the welfare of a child
may involve domestic violence. Many charges result in the issuance of an “order of protection”
(OP), which is a legal document issued by a judge ordering someone to follow specific
conditions of behavior. Initially these orders may be temporary, until all the facts have been
gathered and the case is heard in Town or Village Justice Court on a later date. There may be
modifications throughout the duration of a case. After a case has been heard and it has been
decided that a crime has been committed a final order may be issued.
The monitors observed 51 cases involving domestic violence during this monitoring
project.
An order for protection (OP) was issued in 39 of the 51 DV Cases observed. In the
majority (31) of those cases (39) where an OP was issued, the monitor observed that the judge
“adequately explained the charges to each defendant,” and in 24 of those cases the judge
“explain[ed] the consequences for violation of an order for protection.”
In addition, in 20 of the 39 cases in which an OP was issued, the monitor observed that
the judge “ask[ed] each party if they understood the terms of the order for protection.” For
example, monitors observed that in the East Fishkill Town Court, “All (domestic violence cases)
were handled well by the justice. He took time and explained orders of protection very clearly to
everyone involved. He made it very clear what would happen if they were violated.” And in the
Red Hook Town Court, “The justice (Judge Roland Page) was very clear in explaining the order

30
of protection,” and in the Rhinebeck Town Court, “He (Judge John Kane Jr.) was so very clear
about the terms of the order of protection.”
It is of concern that in 8 of the cases where an OP was issued monitors did not observe
the judge “adequately explained the charges to each defendant,” and in 15 of those cases, the
judge did not “explain[ed] the consequences for violation of an order for protection.” Further, in
19 cases in which an OP was issued, the monitor did not observe if the judge “ask[ed] each party
if they understood the terms of the order for protection.” Such explanations are critical to ensure
that orders of protection are followed.
It should be noted that in 3 of the 39 cases in which an OP was issued, the judge asked
the defendant whether he or she owned any firearms. This seems like an appropriate inquiry and
one that would better facilitate providing protection to the victim who secures an order of
protection.
In addition to the above findings, the monitors observed the following:
• An existing order of protection was modified in 3 of the 51 DV cases observed
• In 1 of 51 DV cases observed a defendant was sanctioned for violation of an order of
protection
• An adjournment occurred in 2 of the 51 DV cases observed (one case was adjourned
because the defendant did not appear; the other was adjourned awaiting a visitation
schedule being established in the Family Court)
• 1 defendant in 51 DV cases observed was held in custody without bail
• 2 defendants had bail set in 51 DV cases observed (In both cases, bail was set at
$50,000.)

31
The monitors made the following additional comments regarding the handling of
domestic violence case in the Town and Village Justice Courts:
• All (domestic violence proceedings) were rescheduled to another date. (Poughkeepsie
Town)
• This court has no patience for domestic violence. They take it very seriously.
(Wappingers Falls Village)
• Judge Shequine was very sensitive to these [domestic violence] cases. One Order of
Protection was amended so a family could have Thanksgiving dinner together to the
objections of the ADA. The change was asked for by all parties in the family.
(Washington Town)
Recommendations
Orders of Protection
In almost 40% (15 of the 39) of the domestic violence cases in which an order of
protection was issued, the judge did not explain the consequences for violation of the order for
protection. Each judge must ensure that when an order of protection is issued the defendant is
fully aware of the consequences for violating the order.
Determining Possession of Firearms in Domestic Violence cases
Monitors observed that the judge asked the defendant whether he or she owned a firearm
in only 3 of the 39 domestic violence cases observed. Pursuant to New York State and federal
law, a person subject to an order of protection, under certain circumstances, forfeits the right to
legally possess a firearm. In order to assess whether a firearm should be removed from the
possession of a defendant who is subject to an order of protection, the judge should determine
whether the defendant is in possession of a firearm at the initial appearance or subsequent court
dates.

32
E.
Traffic Cases
Monitors observed 1044 cases in the Town and Village Justice Courts that involved
alleged violations of the Vehicle and Traffic law. County Law § 700 requires district attorneys
to prosecute all offenses including traffic infractions. Under this law, the negotiation of traffic
ticket plea bargains is the responsibility of the county’s district attorney. However, in many
counties, including Dutchess County, the district attorney historically has relied upon state
troopers to negotiate traffic ticket plea bargains on behalf of the district attorney. Effective
September 1, 2006, the New York State Troopers introduced a policy which prohibited
individual troopers from negotiating plea bargains in Justice Courts. Town and Village judges
cannot negotiate pleas themselves resulting in many traffic infraction cases being dismissed.
Fines resulting from violation of Vehicle and Traffic laws are a significant source of
revenue for the towns and villages and fund the operations of the Town and Village Justice
Courts. The monitors observed the imposition of many fines and other fees in the large number
of traffic cases observed during this project that demonstrating the importance that some courts
placed on fines being paid. For example:
• The judge [Norman Moore] seemed more concerned about fines being paid...He said
at least five times – “I want my money.” (Amenia Town )
• When sentences were imposed and the defendant was not able to pay the fine and
surcharge, the judge [R.Wren Abrams] adjourned the case for 30 to 60 days. The
judge stated that this procedure allowed the Dover court to collect a [higher] number
of fines. (Dover Town)
• He [Judge Howard Clark] was very strict about payments of fines. He told defendants
that if they missed a payment all charges against them would be brought up again and
any reductions would be cancelled. (Tivoli Village)

33
Monitors also observed the dismissal of many traffic cases in many local courts as a
result of the state troopers no longer appearing to negotiate pleas. For example:
• Numerous traffic violations were dismissed because the State Police no longer can
plea bargain traffic tickets so they just don’t show up then [the traffic tickets] get
dismissed by the judge. (LaGrange Town)
• The judge dismissed one speeding ticket as the police officer failed to appear.
(Pawling Town)
One monitor reported that the traffic cases were adjourned for a later date if the state
trooper did not appear.
• All that got a ticket from the State Police were put off until Stanford decides if they
are going to hire a prosecutor [for traffic tickets]. (Stanford Town)
Recommendation
Due to limited resources and staffing, the county DA has historically relied on New York
State Troopers to negotiate pleas bargain in traffic cases on behalf of the DA. The recent policy
change by the state troopers which prohibits individual troopers from negotiating pleas in the
local Justice Courts has led to dismissals of many cases or repeated adjournments of traffic cases.
This results in a potential loss of revenue for the town and villages that rely on the fines to
operate the Justice Courts and fund other essential operations. In order to reduce the need for
repeated trips to the courts by those charged with traffic infractions and the strain that is placed
on the local Justice Courts and their resources, each town and village should institute a policy,
such as having a town or village attorney, or another local law enforcement officer act on behalf
of the district attorney to resolve this issue.

34
F.
Civil Cases
Landlord-Tenant Cases
Relatively few civil cases were observed by Modern Courts’ monitors during this project,
but monitors did make some observations about landlord-tenant cases.
Landlord-tenant cases are heard in the Town or Village Justice Court where the property
is located. The cases most commonly heard in the Town and Village Justice Courts are non-
payment cases, in which the landlord claims that the tenant owes rent and seeks to collect
overdue rent from a tenant, or holdover cases, where the landlord seeks to evict a tenant for
reasons other than non-payment of rent.
Monitors observed only 1626 landlord-tenant cases during this monitoring project. Almost
all of the monitor’s observations involved adjournments.
• 10 of the landlord-tenant cases observed were adjourned to a later date
• Half (8) of the landlord-tenants cases observed were adjourned to a later date due to
the failure to appear by either the landlord or the tenant
• 1 of the landlord-tenant cases was adjourned because the landlord was awaiting
needed paperwork. The monitor observed in the Union Vale Town Court that, “There
was only 1 housing case and the judge did not receive [in the mail] the papers he
needed. He adjourned the case. No tenant showed up as [he or she] have left the
state.”
• 1 of the landlord-tenant cases was adjourned because the tenant requested time to
prepare for a trial. The monitor observed in the Poughkeepsie Town Court that, “In
one housing case, the owner was a no show and sent his daughter. She clearly needed
26 These cases were observed in Fishkill Town (6), LaGrange Town (4), Poughkeepsie Town (5) and Union Vale
Town (1) courts.

35
an interpreter. It took a while for Judge Sullivan to sort out the case and it was
adjourned.”

36
IV. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
Court Facilities
Better Maintenance or Upgrading of Court Facilities
Monitors reported that court facilities in Amenia Town and Millbrook Village were not
well-maintained. The Town and Village should assess the conditions of their court facilities and
make the necessary repairs if possible. If not , they should consider relocating, or building a new
facility that provides a well-maintained and accessible facility that allows theses courts to
perform their essential functions efficiently with a safe environment for the litigants and those
who work in these courts.
Allocating Attorney/Client Conferencing Space27
Monitors observed that 80% of the court facilities observed did not have space allocated
in the courthouse for attorney-client conferencing in private. In some cases, this deficiency led to
noisy courtrooms because attorneys were forced to meet with their clients in the courtroom
during the proceedings. In addition, such circumstances present the potential for a breech of
attorney-client confidentiality, because information has to be exchanged between attorneys and
their clients in a public courtroom. Each court should allocate space within its facilities for
attorney-client conferencing both to maintain order in the courtroom and to provide for attorney-
client confidentiality.
Ensuring Accessibility of Court Facilities28
Monitors reported that 20% (5 of 25) of courts facilities observed appeared inaccessible
for those with disabilities. Modern Courts urges that Fishkill Village, Millbrook Village, Pine
Plains Town, Tivoli Village, and Wappingers Falls Village take steps to provide reasonable
27 In some courts, space was allocated in another town or village building, or the judge’s chambers were used.
28 It should be noted that Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye’s Action Plan for the Justice Courts recommends the
development of a survey and assessment form for Justice Courts in order to identify barriers that limit full
participation in those facilities.

37
accommodations and assistance to those who need them and are entitled to them under the
Americans with Disabilities Act.
Providing Adequate Security
Monitors reported that the vast majority (88%, or 22 of the 25) of court facilities
observed did not have a magnetometer at the entrance of the court. Given the large volume of
criminal cases heard by Dutchess County Town and Village Justice Courts, including felony
arraignments, those 22 towns and villages without magnetometers or other entrance screening
devices should act quickly to acquire such security devices. It should be noted that Chief Judge
Judith S. Kaye’s Action Plan for the Justice Courts has provided aid to localities for the
acquisition of these security devices.
Larger Courtrooms
Monitors observed that 5 courtrooms were inadequate in size or seating for the
proceedings being held in them. Larger courtrooms and/or nearby easily accessible waiting areas
are needed for the Amenia Town, Beekman Town, East Fishkill Town, Millbrook Village, and
Pleasant Valley Town Justice Courts in order to reduce noise in these courtrooms related to
overcrowded conditions and to ensure that litigants and those in the courtroom can hear the
calendar call and other announcements from court personnel.
Providing Multi-Lingual Signage
None of the 25 Town and Village Courts observed had multi-lingual signs although they
reported that in many of the courts observed that either an interpreter was used or needed by
litigants, who did not speak or had difficulty understanding English. Multi-lingual signage,
particularly in the foreign language or languages that frequently require interpreters should be
placed in those courts.
Better Lighting of Parking Areas
Monitors reported that the lighting in the parking lot was inadequate that in 6 of the 25
court facilities observed. These courts commonly hold court sessions in the evening and in the

38
some cases the night, which means litigants and other visitors to the courts often must leave the
court in darkly lit or unlit conditions. The lighting of these court facilities’ parking lots should be
improved to better safeguard the litigants, staff, and visitors to these courts.
Court Operations
Maintenance of Order in the Courtroom
Monitors reported that several courts observed (LaGrange, Pleasant Valley, and
Wappinger Town Justice Courts) were noisy and disorderly during multiple observations. In
some instances, the noise was attributed to the inadequacy of the size or location of the court
facilities. But in others, monitors observed that the judges and court personnel did not ask for
quiet or otherwise attempt to reduce the noise level in the courtroom. Local officials should
address facilities issues such as courtrooms that are too small or without waiting areas which
contribute to the noise and disorderliness in these courts. In addition, judges and court personnel
should inform those in the courtroom prior to the beginning of court proceedings, and
periodically during the court session that attendees should remain silent during the proceedings.
Assessment of Caseloads of Smaller Village and Town Courts
Given the extremely small caseloads of the Millbrook Village Justice Court (5 cases) and
the Rhinebeck Village Justice Court (7 cases) observed by the monitors, both villages should
assess the number of cases heard by these courts and should either consider joining with the
Town Justice Courts that cover the same geographic jurisdiction, or dissolving their Justice
Courts if these Village Courts consistently hear small caseloads. The small caseload, observed by
the monitors, of the Union Vale Town Justice Court (5 cases) and Pine Plains Town Justice
Court (7 cases) suggests that these towns should consider conducting a similar assessment and
possible consolidation of their courts with an adjacent town court.
Criminal Cases
Informing Defendants of their Rights

39
In those courts where monitors did not observe charges being read to each criminal
defendants, and where judges were not observed informing defendants of the available plea
options (not guilty or guilty), judges must take care to read the charges to all defendants and
inform all defendants of the available plea options.
Recording Unscheduled Arraignments
Given that many arraignments of defendants take place at unscheduled times and days
when neither Assistant District Attorneys nor public defenders or private defense attorneys are
present, Modern Courts recommends that judges of Town and Village Justice Courts be provided
with inexpensive tape recorders so that these arraignments can be recorded and reviewed. Such a
practice would ensure that the constitutional rights of every defendant are protected and shield
judges from unsubstantiated accusations of impropriety.
Legal Services Information
Monitors reported that judges in 48% of the courts observed did not provide defendants
with information about obtaining legal services. Every judge should provide each indigent
criminal defendant with information about legal services. Written information about the
availability of legal services for indigent defendants should also be available particularly in cases
in which a public defender might not be available in court during that session.
Providing Information to Juvenile Defendants
Monitors overwhelming reported that local Town and Village judges appeared to try to
safeguard the privacy of young defendants, and explained court procedures to them, and in some
cases, to their parents. However, Modern Courts recommends that a fact sheet or other resource
which provides information for youths about services and programs available to them, the
sealing of juvenile records, and the future consequences resulting from a criminal conviction be
made available to young defendants. This is especially important considering that these young
defendants’ cases are being heard in busy courts which handle an array of cases, unlike the
Family Court where the proceedings are focused on the children.

40
Orders of Protection in Domestic Violence cases
In almost 40% (15 of the 39) of the domestic violence cases in which an order of
protection was issued, the judge did not explain the consequences for violation of the order for
protection. Each judge must ensure that when an order of protection is issued the defendant is
fully aware of the consequences for violating the order.
Determining Possession of Firearms in Domestic Violence cases
Monitors observed that the judge asked the defendant whether he or she owned a firearm
in only 3 of the 39 domestic violence cases observed. Pursuant to New York State and federal
law, a person subject to an order of protection, under certain circumstances, forfeits the right to
legally possess a firearm. In order to assess whether a firearm should be removed from the
possession of a defendant who is subject to an order of protection, the judge should determine
whether the defendant is in possession of a firearm at the initial appearance or subsequent court
dates.
Traffic Cases
Establishing a Policy to Address the State Trooper Policy Change
Due to limited resources and staffing, the county DA has historically relied on New York
State Troopers to negotiate pleas bargain in traffic cases on behalf of the DA. The recent policy
change by the state troopers which prohibits individual troopers from negotiating pleas in the
local Justice Courts has led to dismissals of many cases or repeated adjournments of traffic cases.
This results in a potential loss of revenue for the town and villages that rely on the fines to
operate the Justice Courts and fund other essential operations. In order to reduce the need for
repeated trips to the courts by those charged with traffic infractions and the strain that is placed
on the local Justice Courts and their resources, each town and village should institute a policy,
such as having a town or village attorney, or another local law enforcement officer act on behalf
of the district attorney to resolve this issue.

41
Appendix I
Monitoring Form

42
Town and Village Justice Court
Monitoring Form
Fall 2007
Monitors Name: _____________________________
Court Visited: _______________________________
Judge Observed: _____________________________
Date: _______________________________________

43
Criminal Cases
(Please check all boxes that apply and fill in information as asked)
Present in the Courtroom
□ Assistant public defender/s
□ Court Officer
□ Other defense attorney/s
□ Court Clerk
□ Assistant district attorney/s
□ Other
□ Private attorneys (retained by the defendants)
Please note the number of cases in which the defendant did not
have an attorney present: ________
Start of the Proceedings
□ Sign-In Sheet for Parties
□ No Sign-In Sheet
The judge:
□ appeared to call the parties according to the order in which they signed in
□ gave preference to any parties or attorneys
Eligibility and Appointment of Court Appointed Attorneys
The judge:
□ informed each defendant of their right to an attorney if charged with a criminal offense
□ informed each defendant that an attorney will be appointed if the defendant could not afford one
□ used a questionnaire to determine eligibility for defendants for an assigned attorney
□ appointed attorney to each defendant at the arraignment
□ refused to appoint a lawyer to represent a defendant when the defendant asked
□ provided an explanation to defendants who are ineligible for a court appointed attorney
□ provided information about legal services to indigent defendants
□ adjourned cases so defendants could get a lawyer
Arraignment - Explanation of Charges/Pleas
The judge:
□ offered the services of an interpreter if the defendant appeared not to understand English or was
hearing impaired
□ read the charges to each defendant
□ asked each defendant if he or she understood the charges
□ answered each defendant’s questions regarding the charges
□ informed each defendant of his plea options (not guilty or guilty)
□ gave each defendant or his or her attorney a chance to be heard before setting bail
□ encouraged any defendant to plead guilty by informing him or her of the possibility of a high bail
amount or by other means
If the judge encouraged a guilty plea, please explain:
______________________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________________

44
Criminal Cases (continued)
(Please check all boxes that apply and fill in information as asked)
Bail or Other Release from Custody (applies in cases where defendant pleads not guilty)
The Judge:
Case 1 Case 2 Case 3 Case 4 Case 5
released the defendant without
setting bail
refused to set bail and held the
defendant in custody
Set bail for defendants
In cases where bail was set, please list the charge and the amount of bail set:
Case/Defendant #1 Charge: __________________ Bail Amount: $___________
Case/Defendant #2 Charge: __________________ Bail Amount: $___________
Case/Defendant #3 Charge: __________________ Bail Amount: $___________
Case/Defendant #4 Charge: __________________ Bail Amount: $___________
Case/Defendant #5 Charge: __________________ Bail Amount: $___________
Sentencing
Prior to the sentencing:
□ the defense attorney made a recommendation on the length of the sentence
□ the ADA made a recommendation on the length of sentencing
□ the judge gave the defendant or his or her attorney a chance to be heard
In cases where a sentenced was imposed, please list the charge and the length of the sentence:
Case #1 Charge: _____________
_
Sentence: _____________________
Case #2 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________
Case #3 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________
Case #4 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________
Case #5 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________

45
Criminal Cases (continued)
Bail or Other Release from Custody (applies in cases where defendant pleads not guilty)
The Judge:
Case 6 Case 7 Case 8 Case 9 Case 10
released the defendant without
setting bail
refused to set bail and held the
defendant in custody
Set bail for defendants
In cases where bail was set, please list the charge and the amount of bail set:
Case/Defendant #6 Charge: ____________ Bail Amount: $____________
Case/Defendant #7 Charge: ____________ Bail Amount: $ ____________
Case/Defendant #8 Charge: ____________ Bail Amount: $____________
Case/Defendant #9 Charge: ____________ Bail Amount: $____________
Case/Defendant #10 Charge: ___________ Bail Amount: $____________
Sentencing
Prior to the sentencing:
□ the defense attorney made a recommendation on the length of the sentence
□ the ADA made a recommendation on the length of sentencing
□ the judge gave the defendant or his or her attorney a chance to be heard
In cases where a sentenced was imposed, please list the charge and the length of the sentence:
Case #6 Charge: _____________
_
Sentence: _____________________
Case #7 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________
Case #8 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________
Case #9 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________
Case #10 Charge: _____________
Sentence: _____________________

46
Youthful Offenders
Did you observe any defendants who were under the age of 18?
Yes □ No □
Were these youthful defendants accompanied by a legal guardian?
Yes □ No □
Did these defendants have legal representation?
Yes □ No □
Additional observations on youthful offenders:
__________________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________

47
Domestic Violence Cases (DV)
Arraignments
□ Assistant public defender
□ Court Officer
□ Other defense attorneys
□ Court Clerk
□ Assistant district attorney (ADA)
□ Victim’s Advocate
□ Private attorneys (retained by the defendants)
□ Other____________
The judge:
□ adequately explained the charges to each defendant
□ answered defendant’s questions regarding the charges
□ appeared evenhanded in his or her handling of the parties in the case
□ offered the services of an interpreter if the defendant or alleged victim appeared not to understand English
Bail/ Pleas
In how many cases, did the judge:
□ Release defendants without setting bail? ____________
□ conditions for releases
□ unconditional releases
□ Refuse to set bail and held defendants in custody? ______________
□ Set bail for defendants? __________________
Prior to setting bail:
□ the judge gave the defendant a chance to be heard
□ the defense attorney made a recommendation on the amount of bail
What amount did the defense attorney recommend?_______________
□ the ADA made a recommendation on the amount of bail
What amount did the ADA recommend?_______________
What was the amount of bail set? _______________
Order for Protection
Issuance of Order and Sanctions
Did the judge:
□ issue an order for protection in each DV case
□ issue an order requiring the removal of firearms from the defendant following the issuing of an order for
protection
□ impose a sanction if an order for protection was violated
Explanation of Orders
Did the judge:
□ provide a reason for not issuing an order for protection (if an order of protection was not issued)
□ clearly explain to each defendant the contents of the order for protection
□ ask each party if they understood the terms of the order for protection
□ explain the consequences for violation of the order for protection
□ allow the defendant and victim to ask him or her questions regarding the order
Support Services:
Did the judge refer the victim(s) to any local support services? ____________________________

48
Housing Cases
(Please check all boxes that apply and fill in information as asked)
Was the landlord or the tenant represented by an attorney?
Tenant
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Case #1
Landlord
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Tenant
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Case #2
Landlord
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Tenant
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Case #3
Landlord
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Tenant
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Case #4
Landlord
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Tenant
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Case #5
Landlord
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Tenant
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Case #6
Landlord
□Attorney
□No Attorney
Did the judge:
□ clearly explain court procedures to litigants
□ give each tenant or his/her attorney the opportunity to present his or her case
□ give each landlord or his/her attorney the opportunity to present his or her case
□ listen to arguments made by litigants not represented by attorneys
□ allow litigants not represented by attorneys to ask questions about court procedure
□ offered the services of an interpreter if a litigant appeared not to understand English or be hearing impaired
Stipulations/Orders
The judge:
□ explained the contents of each stipulation or order
□ asked litigants if they understood the terms of each stipulation or order
□ informed the parties that they did not have to agree to a stipulation but could go to trial
□ explained the consequences of not adhering to a stipulation to litigants
□ allowed litigants to ask him or her questions about orders
□ answered litigant questions regarding stipulations or orders
□ explained the 72-hour notice procedures when issuing order for warrant of eviction
Adjournments
How many of the cases were adjourned? __________________
Reasons for the adjournments:
□ Request by landlord or landlord’s attorney □ Request by tenant or tenant’s attorney
□ Tenant did not appear
□ Landlord did not appear
□ Inspection requested
□ To obtain assistance for emergency rent

49
COURT FACILITIES
Was the court located in a building or location dedicated solely for use as a court?
Yes or No
Was there a waiting room for the public?
Yes or No
If so, was the waiting room adequate in size?
Yes or No
Did the courthouse appear accessible for disabled persons?
Yes or No
Was space allocated in the courthouse for private attorney-client conferencing?
Yes or No
Was there a restroom available for use by the public?
Yes or No
Were the court facilities such as waiting areas and hallways clean?
Yes or No
Were the court facilities well-maintained?
Yes or No
Was the restroom clean?
Yes or No
Security
Was there a magnetometer at the entrance to the court?
Yes or No
Was there sufficient/secure distance in the courtroom between the parties?
Yes or No
Signage
Was there a sign outside of the court?
Yes or No
Was there a sign or directory directing the public to the courtroom?
Yes or No
Were the signs legible and easy to understand?
Yes or No
Was the information provided by the signs accurate?
Yes or No
Were the signs in multi-lingual and/or in Braille?
Yes or No
Courtroom
Was adequate in size for the proceedings?
Yes or No
Did the courtroom have sufficient number of seats?
Yes or No
Was the courtroom well-maintained?
Yes or No
Was the courtroom clean?
Yes or No
Was there adequate lighting in the courtroom?
Yes or No
Parking
Was there public parking available at the court?
Yes or No
Were there a sufficient number of parking spaces?
Yes or No
Was there a fee for parking?
Yes or No
Technology
Were the proceedings being recorded?
Yes or No
Was there a computer in the courtroom that could be accessed by court personnel?
Yes or No
Did the court have the capacity to accept credit card payments for fines and fees?
Yes or No
Please make any additional comments regarding any aspect of the court facilities including any improvements to the
facility that could be made (e.g. addition of a waiting areas, repairs, better maintenance or cleanliness, more lighting,
better signage additional private space for attorney/client conferencing.)
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

50
General Observations Regarding the Court’s Operations
Total Cases Observed (By Type of Case):
Criminal (including DUI) ________________
Domestic Violence
________________
Housing (Landlord/Tenant) ________________
Civil Cases
________________
Traffic
________________
Please comment on any issues or concerns related to criminal proceedings such that you observed today.
Please comment on any issues or concerns related to domestic violence proceedings that you observed today.
Please comment on any issues or concerns related to housing proceedings that you observed today.
Please comment on any issues or concerns related to other proceedings (traffic, civil, ordinance violations) that you
observed today.
Based on your observations today, what was your general impression of the court’s operations including the justice
(for example, demeanor, professionalism, efficiency, control of the courtroom) and other court personnel?

51
Appendix II
Listing of Court Observations

52
Court Observed
Total Observations
Amenia Town
4
Beekman Town
2
Clinton Town
3
Dover Town
1
East Fishkill Town
1
Fishkill Town
5
Fishkill Village
2
Hyde Park Town
2
Lagrange Town
3
Milan Town
2
Millbrook Village
4
North East Town
1
Pawling Town
2
Pawling Village
0
Pine Plains Town
2
Pleasant Valley Town
3
Poughkeepsie Town
5
Red Hook Town
2
Red Hook Village
0
Rhinebeck Town
2
Rhinebeck Village
2
Stanford Town
1
Tivoli Village
2
Union Vale Town
2
Wappinger Town
3
Wappingers Falls
Village
5
Washington Town
3
TOTAL
64

53
Appendix III
Additional
Court Facilities Observations

54
Court Facilities Observations
Amenia Town
• The building is very old and needs many repairs and new fixtures. It is very crowded. It
was as clean as it probably could be but the stains are bad on the fixtures and walls. They
desperately need a new and larger facility.
• The courtroom was crowded, messy, and noisy. Attorney/client conferencing had to be
done outside. People were constantly coming in and out from the courtroom. Amenia
needs new facilities.
• There is no holding area for prisoners.
Beekman Town
• The courtroom was small. If case[loads] increase, it would be difficult to fit everyone
into the courtroom.
• [There is] a large town building parking lot but the no space markings.
• The private [conferencing] space is the hallway.
• The courtroom chairs are metal folding chairs. These seats should be replaced with
plastic/vinyl interlocking chairs that cannot be used as weapons.
• There is no court officer present during civil cases.
Clinton Town
• This court has a separate entrance [from] the town hall.
• Wonderful courtroom. More exterior lighting is required.
• There was a room in the facility for conferencing if a meeting wasn’t being held there.
• The [disabled] ramp wasn’t well lit and neither was the parking lot.
Dover Town
• Dover Court was in the lower level of the town hall and there was plenty of space for
conferences but it was not just space for the court. It looked like to me to maybe be an
area where the town board would meet.
• Outside lighting needs to be addressed for the parking lot. None was available.
East Fishkill
• It was very noisy in the courtroom. The doors to the hallway were open with overflowing
litigants in the hallway. No effort was made to lessen the noise level among lawyers or
those waiting for their turn.
Fishkill Town
• These court facilities were especially clean, bright, with plenty of space in and out of the
courtroom.
• The building was built in 1989 so the carpeting could be replaced and some paint in the
courtroom would be good.
• I was seated up front but still found it very difficult to hear. There was a microphone but
I don’t think it was on.
• [Fishkill Town] is a newer facility. Sound system was not operational but was needed.

55
Fishkill Village
• This is a very old building [with] multiple uses. The courtroom looks to be a room for
the village board meetings. The place tends to look a little dingy due to its age and
multiple uses.
• The parking is [this court facilities] best kept secret – it took me 15 minutes to go the
correct way into it.
• There are limited parking spots behind the village hall but no signs to this lot.
Hyde Park Town
• This court really needs to be relocated. The bond vote to build a new one was defeated
by 282 votes.
• The building is clean to start with but with large numbers people moving through all
morning it gets dirty. Hyde Park does what it can but the building is old and needs many
renovations.
LaGrange Town
• The swinging doors separating the bench from the courtroom were very noisy and very
distracting. Sometimes, the court officer stopped the [doors from] swinging to eliminate
the noise.
• This court needs attorney/client conferencing space.
• The gate to the area in front of the judge’s bench should be removed. It bangs nosily. The
main door to the courtroom is also noisy and distracting.
Milan Town
• This is an excellent building. The Town of Milan should be very proud of the complete
facility. There [are] signs informing people of many aspects [of the court’s operations],
such as NY State surcharges, noise, [and] pamphlet from DMV on classes for point
reduction, was very nice.
• There was a conference room right outside courtroom.
• Excellent facility. Court clerks just returned from a seminar where they were given
laptops to be used in the courtroom.
Millbrook Village
• The space was totally inadequate. No security, poor access to the second floor, no
apparent elevator, and no signs or direction. This court desperately needs other
accommodations.
• The room for the court is also the offices for both the judges and a storage area. The sign
says 30 [is] the occupancy limit and I counted 41 people at one time.
• You have to go upstairs for court and a basketball game was going on downstairs which
added to the noise. This place is not handicapped accessible and is not clean although one
could trip over the mops and buckets by the courtroom door.
• There weren’t enough seats in the courtroom. Many were out in the hallway along with a
mop and bucket and cleaning supplies.
• DA and attorneys have to use a folding table.
• The judge stood a lot of the time as his bench was too high to see over.
• Proceedings are not recorded, no audio equipment. It is [difficult] to hear even when
sitting across from the judge.
• This was not an easy place to find in the dark.
• The court s needs a whole new building especially for securing prisoners.

56
• There was no lighting in the parking area.
North East Town
• North East did not have a magnetometer and also did not have any court officers.
• They [attorneys and their clients] used the front door area as a meeting place but it sure
wasn't a separate room.
• They had a room in the back of the courtroom that Judge Crodelle used as a work area
after court was completed to dispense paper work to the defendants. Thus, anyone being
sentenced to …had to wait until court was finished to receive the forms.
Pawling Town
• This facility needs signs.
Pine Plains Town
• The court would have to be moved upstairs for the handicapped. Attorney/client
conferencing is now held in the judge’s chambers or upstairs.
• There was plenty of room in the courtroom when we were there, but it could become
crowded when 40 cases or so are being heard.
• The building is handicap accessible to the first floor only. The court has to move upstairs
to accommodate [disabled persons].
• There is no place for overflow to go.
Pleasant Valley Town
• The courtroom was inadequate in size. The defendants could not all be seated and many
waited out in the hallways.
• I couldn’t find one sign indicating where to find the court room. I just followed the
noise.
• There is no holding area for prisoners. Signs and whispers between prisoners and their
friends or families were also creating distractions.
• No microphone was used and it was nearly impossible to hear.
• This facility is totally too small to accommodate the traffic [leading to] crowded
hallways, poor seating, and security [risks].
• This multi-use room has no sound system and no lawyer or prisoner seating.
Poughkeepsie Town
• There were lights outside the courtroom, but they aren’t bright enough.
• Court was [scheduled] to begin at 3:00. However, they didn’t start the security screening
until 3:05. The cases started at 3:15, but most people in the lobby hadn’t been screened
yet (including us). They could have been more efficient if there had been 2 officers
instead of 1.
• The check-in procedure through security left lines was outside the entry. The weather
was good but could be a problem in bad weather. Otherwise, the facility was good.
• There are 4 conferences rooms available. Small tables would be useful in these rooms.
• Making over 100 people wait until the time court [to begin security screening] is
ridiculous. One officer to check bags one by one as you go through the magnetometer
takes forever.
• They could use signs in Spanish.

57
Red Hook Town
• The courtroom was adequate for the day I was there but it might not be on a very busy
day.
• No secure area for prisoners.
• For private space, the lawyers could use the judge’s chambers.
• The bathroom was clean but also a storage area.
• The building is old and could be updated everywhere.
Rhinebeck Town
• Waiting/Conference rooms would be good so the lawyers can talk in private with their
clients.
• This was a very large courtroom.
• The lights outside were not bright enough at night.
Rhinebeck Village
• This courtroom is small. It is a very small room but was adequate for that evening’s
proceeding.
• Lawyer needs a room to talk to clients – they have to go outside now.
Stanford Town
• The courtroom is small but adequate for the day. If there was a big DA caseload, it
would be packed.
• No place for the lawyers or police to talk to defendants except the hallway.
Tivoli Village
• The building is extremely old and dark.
• The building needs a complete rehab. A whole new building is my solution!
• The court room is on the second floor, steep stairs, and no elevator. The courtroom was
big enough for last night but if there was one more person it would have been too small.
If they have a big caseload, it would be spilling into the hall.
• [The court] needs space for attorney/client conferences.
• A microphone would be great.
Union Vale Town
• The court room is one of the nicest I have seen. It is clean and bright. They are going to
install a railing and bolt the chairs together as advised by a court system administrator.
They are waiting to get the recording started. Great facilities.
• The court is [located] in the rear of the town hall. It had a beautiful and clean courtroom.
• There was no exterior lighting and the parking lot was dark.
• Other town offices were [allocated] as private attorney/client conferencing space.
Wappinger Town
• The parking lot is very dark.
• [There are] flickering lights in the courtroom.
• The building is old and needs a good over all cleaning. It has a dingy look.
• It is very hard to hear over all the noise in the hallway and in the court room.

58
Wappingers Falls Village
• This is a very old building that needs a lot of work.
• There was a magnetometer but it was not working.
• Courtroom was very small with metal chairs for clients (a few more comfortable ones for
lawyers and jurors). Very little ventilation.
• There was no private space for attorney/client.
• The court seemed to be well maintained, but small. It’s a very old building.
• Excellent signs posted on the front windows for the court and then other signs inside the
courtroom.
Washington Town
• The parking lot could have used more light.
• The building was very hard to finding the dark. Lighting in the parking area was almost
non-existent.
• The judge has [no means to] exit except through the courtroom.
• Locking chairs have been ordered [for the courtroom].
• Most of the courtrooms [I have observed] seem to be rooms used for town meeting. This
one was clean and clearly a courtroom but it could be bigger.
• Private space [for attorney/client meetings] is located in the other town offices in the
same building.

59
Appendix IV
Additional Observations
on Justice Courts Observed

60
Additional Observations on Courts Observed
Amenia Town
• The judge [Norman Moore] …said at least five times – “I want my money.”
• The judge was quite concerned that he collected money [from fines].
• This court seemed very casual – noisy [with] no one in control as one would expect.
The door is constantly being banged. The people waiting in the hallway are crowded
together as it is very small. Therefore, it is very noisy.
Beekman Town
• The quietest court that I have ever been in. Court officer called cases by sequence
number and name and his voice could be heard throughout the court room.
• Judge [Robert] Ferris was concerned about each case and explained all his reasons to
each defendant. They were treated as individuals.
• Judge [John] Garito accommodated individuals when setting return dates (students
who had final exams, a business owner who pleaded to return after the holidays).
• Judge Garito recommended defensive driving classes to traffic violators.
Clinton Town
• Judge [Barbara] Seelbach handled the first hour of cases and Judge [Russell]
Tompkins handled the second hour. The same assistant district attorney and public
defender were present for both sessions. The courtroom was run efficiently and
professionally under each judge. No time was wasted [while] changing judges.
• The judges and the lawyers all were well-versed on each case and it was a well-run
and quiet courtroom.
• Both judges are to be commended for their demeanor and respectfulness in dealing
with represented and unrepresented defendants.
Dover Town
• I was shocked that a court such as Dover would have 86 cases.
• When sentences were imposed and the defendant was not able to pay the fine and
surcharge, the judge adjourned the case for 30 to 60 days. Judge [R. Wren] Abrams
stated that this procedure allowed the Dover court to collect a [higher] number of
fines.
• Chairs were set-up on the side of the courtroom and that area was used for the private
attorneys to sit. This seemed to work well. Maybe other courts in Dutchess should do
the same.
• It was difficult to contact the court during the day. I [the monitor] tried numerous
numbers but was never able to talk with anyone.
East Fishkill Town
• His [Judge Michael Tomkovitch] explanations were always very clear on sentences.
• He [Judge Tomkovitch] seemed like a no-nonsense judge and issued bench warrants
without hesitation for no-shows.

61
Fishkill Town
• This court is run very efficiently. All personnel are very professional and helpful.
Every litigant was treated respectfully. A very smooth operation.
• Efficient, well–equipped, and organized.
• The judge [Harold Epstein] and court personnel were all professional, efficient and
worked well together.
• Judge [Francois R. Cross] conducted cases professionally and expeditiously.
• Clients with an attorney are called first according to the order that the attorney signs
in. Others must wait until the attorneys are done. In two cases, the attorneys left
before representing their client.
• Many of the traffic charges were dismissed because the officers were not present.
Fishkill Village
• The judge [Michael Martin] seemed like a no nonsense man – no shows had warrants
for their arrests.
• The court officer kept the room very quiet.
• Court officers had excellent control of courtroom. Judge [Martin] was easy to hear.
Hyde Park Town
• All cases (72) were heard in a timely fashion.
• Excellent preparation by ADA Alison Labate. Public defender Susan Mugavin
handled 5 out of 25 cases in front of Judge [John] Kennedy. 12 of the 47 case in front
of Judge [David] Steinberg were handled by the public defender’s office.
• Both Judges Kennedy and Steinberg were very professional and at the same time
efficient. Both judges allowed paperwork to be handed by the court clerk thus
[allowing] the flow of defendants to continue. Very excellently run court.
• Judge Kennedy made sure a college student had a hearing set for when he is home on
vacation.
• He [Judge Kennedy] told the ADA and PD, “Do your work before you get here,”
when they were not prepared.
• The ADA was not as well prepared as she should have been and the Public Defender
was almost as bad. At the beginning of each case, it was like they were brand new
cases to them. They would start talking about them in front of the judge. He [Judge J
Kennedy] was clearly annoyed after awhile. They never got the message. He was
trying to move the cases along and just kept slowing things down.
• The court officer made no attempt to quiet the lawyers or make them turn off their
cell phones.
LaGrange Town
• The 96 cases were handled efficiently in 4 hours time.
• The 77 cases on the calendar were disposed of in less than 2 hours. That is efficient.
• The Spanish interpreter left the courtroom before another defendant needed her
services. The public defender and Portuguese interpreter were here but not the
defendant.
• The courtroom was too noisy. Judge [Edmund] Caplicki requested silence only twice.
Between the banging of the gate, the noisy door, and sometimes noisy courtroom, it
was difficult to hear. Troopers and deputies who appeared called defendants from
front and rear of the courtroom at the same time as the judge was calling names.

62
• The courtroom was a three ring circus. There was so much commotion and so much
going on at the same time.
• Numerous traffic violations were dismissed because the State Police no longer can
plea bargain traffic tickets so they just don’t show up then get dismissed by the judge.
• Since it was traffic court and about 25% of the cases were dismissed.
Milan Town
• Along side the sign-in sheet was another sign that said “No shorts.” Two defendants
were told by the court clerk that they were not allowed in the courtroom. One
defendant who , did not have a lawyer, was told to go purchase long pants and return
later in the morning which he did because he had come a long distance to appear in
the Town of Milan. The other defendant sat in the lobby and was only there to pay a
fine and his private attorney asked permission from the judge to allow the defendant
into the courtroom to pay the fine. The request was granted by Judge [Francis]
Christensen.
• Excellent preparation by ADA and by Public Defender.
• Noise was not an issue at all even without any court officers.
Millbrook Village
• Most cases were adjourned if there was not a plea of guilty.
• This justice operated under extreme [conditions] – no security and limited space.
There was no recording of the proceedings and limited support persons ie. clerks and
secretarial help.
• Judge [Louis] Prisco kept asking the lawyers and court officers about the charges and
the numbers related to them.
• A prisoner was brought in for the third time for no reason. His case is in the County
Court and the justice just keeps bring him back. The Public Defender doesn’t know
why. The prisoner became rowdy and had to be subdued in the very narrow hallway
where people were waiting.
• The judges’ bench is very high and he [Judge Prisco] has to stand up and lean over to
see the lawyers and litigants. The judge was constantly going down to the court clerk
to hand her papers. He was like a yo-yo the whole time.
North East Town
• No sign in sheet but private attorneys went first.
• Excellently run court. Both judges (John Crodele and Richard Joannides) were easy
to hear and related well with the ADA and public defender.
Pawling Town
• He [Judge Kevin Denton] questioned each person carefully and awarded fines and
charges for court proceedings equally.
• The court room was quiet and orderly during proceedings.
• It is a long, dark ride over old RT #55 to new #55 [in order to reach the court].
• Nearly all cases [were] adjourned for another month.
Pine Plains
• The judge [Louis Imperato] and court personnel were all professional and efficient.
• The judge [Imperato] asked for the door to be closed because of the noise of the
police department next door.

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• The judge [Imperato] and the clerk were struggling with the new digital recorder.
• This ex-cop justice [Imperato] seemed very concerned about the ability of defendants
to pay fines and adjusted them as needed.
Pleasant Valley Town
• The judge exercised no control over the noise which prevailed in the hallway and the
courtroom doors were wide open.
• I don’t think anyone had control of the courtroom. It was a zoo. The justice acted like
he wanted to be some place else. This is one of the worse run courts I have ever seen.
• Very difficult to keep orderly flow of cases since defendants were in hallways and
else where when called due to a lack of space in the courtroom. Court officers had to
seek out defendants who were out of the room. There has to be a better way to bring
in prisoners. There is no confidentiality when you are chained together and you are
talking to your lawyers.
Poughkeepsie Town
• Most criminal proceedings resulted in rescheduling [to a later date].
• Thought went into the order of the cases, saving the arraignments and more difficult
cases to the last.
• Judge [Paul] Banner was efficient and court was orderly.
• 185 cases in 3 ¼ hours obviously the judge had to be efficient. Judge Banner was
very professional and in control. This court has a large number of litigants every time
so with the exception of taking so long to get in the courtroom they know how to
move the cases.
• Today, Judge [Paul] Sullivan had a short caseload (58 cases) but dispensed of it very
quickly while not rushing anyone.
• Judge Paul Sullivan gave no preference to a lawyer who had a traffic ticket. She (the
attorney) had to wait her turn – All the justices should be like him.
• Plea bargaining by officers during the court proceedings was a little disconcerting and
caused some noise.
Red Hook Town
• One prisoner was hoping to talk to the public defender said maybe next time in court
the public defender could talk to her a littler longer. She wanted to understand the
charges and possible jail time. The PD just said okay.
• One no show came as soon as he got the call (first he called the court) he was going
to be arrested. He came from work and she [Judge Kelly Flood-Myers] went on and
on about his clothes. He had a folder with all his court papers and said he didn’t have
anything saying he was supposed to be there. She refused to listen to him and said
you are going to jail. Then off to her chambers – Finally she came back and released
him – ROR.
• No attempt by court officer to stop all the chatter in the room. The lawyers were all
having a gab fest. The justice [Kelly Flood-Myers] ran a very loose court. She
chattered and laughed with private attorneys and her clerk.
• Justice [Roland] Page brought the prisoners up as soon as they arrived and get them
out of the building. I found he treated everyone fairly and had a lot of patience. One
defendant was having trouble understanding her fine so after the first call she talked
to her lawyer and finally in the 4th call it was settled and the justice gave her lots of
time to talk. He really understood her frustration and just let her talk.

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• There was no chatter among the lawyers or general courtroom [while Judge Page
presided].
Rhinebeck Town
• This was an extremely professional and efficient court. The judge [John Kane],
ADA, and PD worked well together. The ADA and PD also helped some defendants
even though they weren’t clients.
• Fines didn’t seem as excessive as they were some courts.
• With the judge, they (the P.D., Mr. Thomas Angel, and the ADA, Ms. Andrea Long)
all work together and sometimes go the extra mile to do what is right for the litigants.
• Rhinebeck Town and Village courts are across the street from each other. So the
village goes first and then everyone walks across the street to the next court including
the justice.
Rhinebeck Village
• He moves the cases along but listens to everything the defendant and lawyer have to
say.
• The judge [John Kane], DA, and Public Defender D all worked well together. They
were in this small courtroom for 40 minutes, and then they all went across the street
to Rhinebeck’s Town Court. One of the cases was brought up again in that court
room.
Stanford Town
• The judge [Frank Weber] certainly had control of his court.
• All that got a ticket from the State Police were put off until Stanford decides if they
are going to hire a prosecutor.
Tivoli Village
• Most of the litigants were Bard College students.
• He [Judge Howard Clark] was very strict about payments for fines. He told
defendants that if they missed a payment all charges against them would be brought
up again and any reductions would be cancelled.
• ADA – Margaret Walker – did great job and showed more patience [when] every
recommendation [she made was] questioned by the judge.
• Traffic violations were fined without the arresting officer being present.
• This is the first court I have seen where the officer issuing the ticket didn’t show and
the justice imposed fines instead of dismissing them.
• There was definite control of the court room. You could hear a pin drop. I didn’t
understand why he had to look up every charge when many times it was the same
charge as the previous case.
Union Vale
• A civil case was heard first and the defendant didn’t show so the case was decided
against him. Within ten minutes the defendant showed up – the papers ‘served’ to him
were sent to the wrong address. He also had called the court to say he was on his way
…and got the answering machine.
• Traffic and civil cases were handled efficiently by Justice [Raymond] Jurina.
• Judge [Paul] Pancio was a very patient man. [One attorney] was antagonistic and
argumentative. Judge Pancio controlled the courtroom despite [his] frustration [with

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the attorney] who had only had the case for a week [but] objected to every question to
and answer by a witness for the prosecuting attorney.
Wappingers Falls Village
• Justice Raymond Case could be stern but with such concern for the defendant. I
heard him encourage younger defendants to do better things with their lives.
• This court was run very efficiently. One of the employees also acts as an interpreter.
They have court volunteers. All one very polite and helpful to whoever walks in.
• The court staff seemed to work well together, and the case folders seemed to be in the
order the defendants arrived.
• The court had three court clerks – one who was bilingual which helped during the
proceedings.
• There were 36 defendants [who appeared] and 36 no shows. Several of the no shows
were in jail.
Wappinger Town
• 20 of the 65 cases were assigned to 1 public defender. Difficult work load. Some
cases, it seemed liked she was meeting the defendants for the first time. This caused
her to conduct conferences with clients and family members in the courtroom prior to
going to the bench.
• It was very noisy in the court. Doors to the court were not closed and numerous
people remained outside the courtroom in the adjacent hall. This included one five
year old girl who I could hear from inside the court in the first row. When her
family’s case was called the child ran around the courtroom. A teenager sat 2 seats
away from me in the front row [and] continued to talk to his friend for 1 ½ hours
without ever shutting up. He was never asked to stop talking by anyone. Late in the
session the judge yelled for quiet in the courtroom but all the court officers just
seemed to process folders [and hand the] to the judge and never controlled the noise
in the courtroom.
• The courtroom was very noisy as no one tried to quiet all the chatter. Private
attorneys should not conduct meetings with clients inside the courtroom such as [one]
who discussed an aggravated DWI with the teenager’s parents directly behind me.
• This is a very busy court that she [Judge Heather Kitchen] moved things along.
• [During jury selection], the judge [Carl Wolfson] explained thoroughly the
responsibility to the potential jurors. He then questioned each juror, followed by the
ADA and the defendant’s lawyer. Then they met outside of the courtroom to
[determine] which jurors to accept. Some were chosen, more were then questioned
and in just under 2 hours, 6 jurors and 1 alternate juror were chosen. There was a
recess while jurors made phone calls. Everyone returned 15 minutes later (except the
jurors) and the defendants plead guilty. The juries returned and were informed of the
guilty plea so they were excused.
Washington Town
• This was a very quiet night, only 8 cases on the calendar, and 2 defendants did not
appear.
• I had the feeling that this was as informal as courts could get. The judge [Bruce
Aubin] did not call cases. He asked people in the courtroom what they were there for
and then invited them up to the bench.

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• Judge [Elizabeth] Shequine knew her law and made a huge attempt to be fair in each
case. There were some unusual cases which she handled well. One was [issuing] an
order of protection for a dog.
• This was a very professional and efficient courtroom, except for the ADA. She did
not have all of her papers for each case, and at times was not knowledgeable [about
the cases].
• A dog stealing case involved a defendant taking a dog from its owner due to the
alleged abuse of the dog. The judge gave the defendant a lot of time to talk and
explain [the circumstances that led to the theft]. The ADA recommended 150 hours
of community service and a fine and she wouldn’t budge. The judge was not happy
and [imposed] her own sentence which was 25 hours [of community service] and no
fine.

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Dutchess County Court Monitors
Cheri Gifford, Coordinator
Michael Abrahamson
Gloria Ascuitto
David S. Bagley
Patricia Bloom
Ann Christopher
Esther Cornell
Virginia Davis
Stewart Laidlaw
Leola Mason
Katri McEwen
Barbara Purcell
Linda Ann Sanberg
Richard Tallman

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The Dutchess County Court Monitors and the Fund for Modern Courts wish to thank the
Town and Village Justice Court judges observed, and their staffs, for their cooperation and
assistance during this project. Special thanks to Hyde Park Town Justice Court Judge David
Steinberg who spoke to the monitors about the handling of criminal proceedings in the justice
courts, and Kathleen Healey, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s Managing Attorney for
Dutchess, Putnam and Ulster County, who spoke to the monitors about the issuance of orders of
protection and other matters related to the hearing of both domestic violence proceedings and
landlord-tenant proceedings in the Town and Village Justice Courts. We also wish to thank
Dutchess County Public Defender David Goodman for addressing the monitors regarding his
organization’s provision of legal services to indigent defendants across Dutchess County
The monitoring form used during this project was developed specifically for the
monitoring of Town and Village Justice Courts and includes suggestions from local volunteers,
attorneys and other advocates who work in these courts. Our thanks to all those who provided
their invaluable assistance to the development of this form.
Modern Courts is deeply grateful to the volunteer monitors who committed considerable
time and effort to this project. Without their dedication, this report would not have been
possible. Their interest and insights help improve New York’s courts for the public as a whole.
This report was written by Modern Courts’ Director of Court Monitoring Kimyetta R.
Robinson, and reviewed and edited by Executive Director Dennis R. Hawkins. Additional
research and data analysis was done by intern Renée Rivas. Additional editing was provided pro
bono by Barry S. Agdern, Esq. of The Hearst Corporation.
For additional information or copies of this report, please contact:
The Fund for Modern Courts, Inc.
351 West 54th Street
New York, New York 10019
Telephone: (212) 541-6741
Fax: (212) 541-7301
E-Mail: courtmonitoring@moderncourts.org
Disclaimer: The comments and findings contained in this report are not to be construed
as an endorsement, either implied or express, of any candidate for any office. Any such use is
unauthorized by the Fund for Modern Courts.