The notion that the civil and criminal courts in the Bronx are overwhelmed has been around for a long time. In January 2013, 73 percent of all felony cases in the Bronx had gone past the deadlines that the state has set for speed trials. So how do these backups in the felony legal system affect the lower courts that hear small claims
issues, misdemeanors, and civil lawsuits?
When the felony courts get overwhelmed, the state moves judges from the lower courts into the felony courts. As the lawsuit volume in the Bronx continues to grow, the availability of personnel and facilities to hear those lawsuits is diminished. With the legal system at a critical point, the state of New York needs to step in and do something to allow people their right to speedy justice.
The Lawsuit Dilemma In The Bronx
According to the New York Post, the Bronx is the leading New York City borough in the total number of lawsuits and the number of personal injury lawsuits processed. In the 2015 fiscal year, the Bronx processed 7,442 total lawsuits, which eclipses the second place number from Brooklyn of 6,939. For personal injury lawsuits, the Bronx racked up 6,065 in
For personal injury lawsuits, the Bronx racked up 6,065 in the fiscal year 2015, while Brooklyn came in at 4,952. The total amount of money awarded in all lawsuits in the Bronx in the fiscal year 2015 was $176 million. While Brooklyn topped the Bronx in that category with $219 million, the Bronx total was still more than Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan combined.
Why Are There So Many Personal Injury Claims In The Bronx?
The Bronx averages 417 personal injury claims for every 100,000 people, which is almost double that of the next closest borough. But why are so many people filing personal injury lawsuits in the Bronx? One reason has to do with how sympathetic the courts in the Bronx are towards plaintiffs. The Bronx courts have a juror system that makes many of its decisions based on emotion instead of facts, and that results in a lot of wins in personal injury cases.
When some attorneys learn that the Bronx favors personal injury lawsuit wins, they will find any way they can to associate their case with the Bronx. That means that, in one way, the people of the Bronx who sit on juries are one of the reasons why the court systems they complain about are so crammed.
Another reason the Bronx is experiencing such a backlog of lawsuits is because the borough simply does not have the resources to hear cases. When the state opened up temporary courts to try and relieve some of the backlogs, it helped to an extent. But people are still forced to lose time at work, struggle with child care issues, and basically, upend their lives to try and appear for cases that can sometimes run for years.
Cases Of All Kinds
The Bronx, like all of the New York City boroughs, has seen a significant increase in construction activity over the last few years. But with increased construction comes a rise in the lawsuit volume. For example, the Bronx courts have recently heard a lawsuit from developer KNIC over the proposed development at the Kingsbridge Armory. KNIC maintains that the city is purposely delaying construction and has filed a lawsuit in Bronx courts to get the project going.
In a slight twist if irony, the slow Bronx courts and their inability to offer speedy due process has become the topic of a class action lawsuit. A lawsuit brought by a group called the Bronx Defenders argues that the Bronx courts are so broken that they are denying people their due process of law as outlined in the Constitution. The lawsuit is not asking for any monetary rewards; it just wants the system corrected. Basically, this means that the Bronx Defenders feel that a lawsuit filed against the Bronx courts will correct the problem of too many lawsuits in the Bronx courts.
No End In Sight To The Backlogs
In reality, the lawsuit brought by the Bronx Defenders could be just the thing to spur the state to take action. But it will take a lot to fix a system that is this broken. According to the New York Times, the Bronx had a felony case back-up of over 800 cases in 2012. Not only is that a high mountain to climb, it is more than the other four boroughs put together. As more focus is put on the felony courts, the lawsuits in the lower courts continue to pile up.
It took years for the Bronx courts to get this backed-up, and it will take years to fix this problem. But until New York City and the state can help the Bronx solve their lawsuit logjam, the Bronx will retain its title as one of the lawsuit capitals of the United States.