The Recession Begins Flooding Into the Courts

Posted by Kendall Harmon

New York State’s courts are closing the year with 4.7 million cases — the highest tally ever — and new statistics suggest that courtrooms are now seeing the delayed result of the country’s economic collapse. The Great Recession may be showing signs of easing, but the legal fallout from the financial troubles, the numbers suggest, may have only just begun.

And the increase in New York offers a preview of the recession-related cases showing up in courts across the nation.

New York’s judges are wading into these types of cases by the tens of thousands, according to the new statistics, cases involving not only bad debts and soured deals, but also filings that are indirect but still jarring measures of economic stresses, like charges of violence in families torn apart by lost jobs and homes in jeopardy.

Contract disputes statewide in 2009 are projected to be up 9 percent from the year before. Statewide home foreclosure filings increased 17 percent, to 48,127 filings. Cases involving charges like assault by family members were up 18 percent statewide. While serious crime remains low, misdemeanor charges in New York City were up 7 percent and lesser violations were up 18 percent in 2009.

Judges and lawyers say the tales behind any number of cases, including low-level offenses like turnstile jumping and petty theft, are often a barometer of bad times. And they said that the data showed that courts nationally would be working through the recession’s consequences for years, much as they did with the flood of cases stemming from the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, even after the epidemic had slowed.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

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Posted December 31, 2009 at 7:25 am

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