On a larger scale, monitors‘ reports were instrumental in encouraging the State
Legislature to pass the Court Facilities Act of 1987, which led to construction of
desperately-needed new courthouses around the state. Monitors‘ reports also influenced
recent reforms that have made jury service less burdensome.
Overall, citizen court monitoring has improved communication between citizens
and the judiciary, heightened the court system‘s sensitivity to public needs, and helped to
ensure that those needs are met.
The Capital District Court Monitors
The Capital District Court Monitors are non-lawyer volunteers who observe and
report on courts in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties. In 1999, the
Capital District Court Monitors decided to evaluate the operations of the Schenectady
City Court. Modern Courts volunteers last monitored the City Court in 1987. In the
spring of 1999, the Capital District Court Monitors decided that it was time to take
another look at the court because of its increasing caseload and space needs. During this
project, Judge Michael Eidens was the sole full-time County Court Judge.
On September 22nd, 1999, former Capital District Coordinator Helga A.
Schroeter held an orientation session at the Schenectady City Courthouse for the
monitoring project. Judge Karen Drago, from Criminal Part of the City Court, and Judge
Guido Loyola, from the Civil Part of the City Court, gave presentations about their
respective roles. Helga Schroeter instructed the volunteers on monitoring procedures
including courtroom etiquette, and distributed criminal court monitoring handbooks and
forms. The orientation concluded with a tour of the entire courthouse.
From October 1999 to December 1999, 16 volunteer monitors observed
proceedings in the City Court. During the course of the monitoring project, Ms. Schroeter
held two additional meetings with the monitors at the middle of the project and its
conclusion. At these meetings, monitors had the opportunity to ask questions regarding
the City Court and its proceedings, to share their impressions and observations, and to
submit their completed monitoring forms. These meetings served as a very useful
additional analysis of the observations and as a basis for formulating the
recommendations at the end of this report.
The release of this report, which is based on a monitoring project that predates the
monitoring period of other earlier released Capital District reports, was delayed in order
to ensure that it was not perceived as an endorsement of any judicial candidates for the
City Court in the November 2002 election. Modern Courts, however, felt that it was
important to release this report particularly in light of recent facilities developments.