New York County Criminal Court Clerks: Overpaid, Incompetent, and Unprofessional

Over the past several months, I have received reports from prosecutors and defense attorneys (as well as some judges), and have seen it in action with my own eyes, of the complete incompetence and unprofessional behavior of New York County Criminal Court Clerks, whose office is situated next to arraignments (AR-3) on 100 Centre Street. In my years as a reporter, I have always tried to avoid sweeping generalizations about a class of people, because often sweeping generalizations neglect the achievements of certain individuals that seemingly fall into the targeted class by mere presence only. But, in the case of New York County (Manhattan) criminal court clerks inside the office next to arraignments, the “sweeping generalization” that they are overpaid, incompetent, and completely unprofessional holds true to every single one of them.

The phenomenon is quite interesting. I have spoken and seen in action other criminal court clerks in other parts. This post certainly does not apply to them at all. Before I get any hate mail or calls for a retraction, please note that this post applies specifically to the criminal court clerks working inside AR-3 and who are located in the office next to AR-3.

From what has been reported to me and what I have seen, AR-3 clerks are allergic to any semblance of work. Even when judges ask them a question — much less a prosecutor or a defense attorney — they respond with disgust with such amazing and reliable consistency. These criminal court clerks, while they read the newspaper on their desks in AR-3, enjoy making jokes about defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges with such volume that you can hear it in the audience, even without having to strain. Apparently, and what seems hard to understand, is that the majority of defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges just give these clerks an annoyed look, in much the same way you would look at a roach or an ant in your kitchen. It’s likely because of the attorneys’ acquiescence that these AR-3 clerks are continuing with their completely unprofessional behavior.

To top that off, it appears from my observations and from reports from members of the bar, that their work day seems to end at around 1:30 p.m. Any questions, inquiries, or requests for work after this time are met with animosity and shakes of the head. For a City that is encountering some budget issues, I would suggest that they are paid from 9:30-1:30 only, because that is the only time they will even consider doing substantive work that doesn’t interfere with their reading of the NY Post or Daily News.

As a reporter trying to get information about cases, you can then only imagine the animosity I receive. Last week, at about 4:00, in AR-3, when I asked a clerk (he wore glasses, had slightly receding brownish hair, and a round face) about when a particular defendant would be arraigned, I was met with these words, “Why don’t you go outside, go on google, and find out for yourself. Don’t waste my time. You are inconsiderate. You have no sense of time.” He then looked at the clock, sauntered to his empty desk, and continued reading his paper. Fortunately, a court officer provided me with the information I was looking for, before stating, “Don’t worry about that guy. They’re ALL like that.”

Are AR-3 clerks’ job that horrible? Indeed, the justice system often functions at the lowest common denominator. Clerks, who work for the court and for the judge to ensure that paperwork is docketed and processed correctly, are unfortunately AR-3’s lowest common denominator.

They all should be removed and replaced with professional clerks who have some semblance of respect for other people.