Judges, lawyers and taxpayers who visit certain Manhattan courthouses say court officers are trying to make a statement during a contract negotiation by slowing down public access to courts.
The head of the court officers union, which has been without a contract for two years, said there is no organized job action, but said increased security, short staffing and low morale are causing longer lines and longer waits.
Families and attorneys say they are the ones paying the price, enduring long lines in the rain and cold, and even missing vital court appearances in Family Court. The waiting wasn't an issue months ago and there has been no official policy or staffing change.
Numerous attorneys, court employees and judges tell the I-Team that they suspect court officers are engaging in what's known as a "textbook slowdown," where officers perform all procedures by the book to slow the process and make a statement.
The head of the New York State Court Officers Association Dennis Quirk said "it's not a textbook slowdown."
Attorneys who do business at the courthouses say the slowdown is kind of an open secret. New Yorkers say lines are getting longer as security checks stretch on and on.
"I had a 9:30 [court hearing] and didn't get inside until 10:15," said Sarah Hill, adding that a adoption procedure had to be delayed for weeks.
Other court patrons noticed procedure changes.
“They’re searching everything,” said Shakia Johnson of the more thorough and time consuming searches. "You gotta take off your belt, your earrings, your watch.”
Many complain of long lines where none had existed before.
“It feels like it’s a slowdown or something like they’re purposely taking their time getting us in the door," said Candace Johnston outside of Manhattan Family Court.
Quirk said the the officers are just doing their job in a dangerous world, attributing the problem to security, staffing issues and morale problems.
"Because of the shortages of staff, people have difficult times getting the day off if they wanna see their child in a Christmas show," said Dennis Quirk, the union boss. Quirk denied that lawyers or members of the public were missing court hearings.
The spokesman for the state courts said the delays were cause for concern.
"It would be really unfortunate intentionally keeping people out in court or causing them to be late for court appearances especially in Family Court," said courts spokesman David Bookstaver.