Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said it is “lunacy” that the Schenectady City Court cannot offer evening hours, and he is supporting legislation that would change that.
A bill sponsored by Sens. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, and Kathleen Marchione, R-Halfmoon, that would allow cities with fewer than 250,000 residents to host night court passed in the state Senate on Wednesday, a day after it was approved in the Assembly where it was sponsored by Phil Steck, D-Colonie.
“I’m very pleased that this bill was able to move to this level, and hopefully it will get some more serious discussion,” McCarthy said. “We have a courtroom that I would rather use into the evening than having to build an entirely new courtroom.”
The Office of Court Administration does not allow city courts to have evening hours. The legislation would give cities the opportunity to request night operations.
“The problem is that the Constitution gives a lot of power to the court system to regulate operations,” Steck said. “It was unclear whether we can order OCA to do this, so the bill was amended so that it basically states that these cities can apply to OCA and request evening hours and then have the OCA still retain control over regulating court hours of cities.”
Schenectady City Court is under “some serious stress,” McCarthy said, so the city is being pushed to build a new courtroom to accommodate the overflow that would come from a new judge starting next year.
To avoid developing another building or leasing additional space, which McCarthy said the county couldn’t afford, the measure would provide Schenectady with an alternative.
“They want the county to spend all of this money, but the local government doesn’t have it,” he said. “It could cost the city $1 million. We just can’t do that.”
The evening hours would be for matters that are not charged as misdemeanors or felonies, such as traffic offenses and small claims matters. McCarthy said that would allow people who work a 9-to-5 job to not miss a day of work.
The bill will now be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign into law. The legislative session ends this week.