Raise The Age Initiative Far From Good Policy By Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Once again, the secretive way New York State makes policy is likely to come back to bite New Yorkers squarely in the hindquarters.

This time we’re talking about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Raise the Age initiative. By hiding the matter in state budget discussions, the public was deprived of the opportunity to hear many of the legislation’s nitty gritty details. As often happens in New York, having relatively few voices in the room has led to a policy that could end up hurting the very people the state is trying to help.

Family Court judges will now be tasked with adjudicating criminal proceedings for 16- and 17-year-olds rather than having those cases heard in Chautauqua County Court. Family Court judges now have to be experts in two distinctively different types of law, running Family Courts one day and lengthy criminal trials under a different set of rules and procedures on another day. This change could be a particularly bad idea for Chautauqua County’s Family Court, which spent years pleading with the state to add a second judge to help with an ever-expanding number of Family Court cases. Now, either Judge Jeffrey Piazza or Judge Michael Sullivan could find cases languishing while they hear criminal cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds.

And, 16- and 17-year-olds now apparently won’t be able to have bail set by any of the more than 50 town justices available at any time to set bail. Now, youths will have to wait until one of the two Family Court judges is able to set bail for them until back-up judges are appointed by the court to set bail. It makes little sense, however, to change a process that worked well throughout the county and replace it with a more cumbersome process.

We still aren’t convinced that raising the age of criminal responsibility is good policy. But the law that resulted from the state’s flawed legislative process is about as far from good policy as one can possibly get.