February 2014           News | Upcoming Programs & CLE | Reports | Get Involved


In our Backyard: Domestic Sex Trafficking
February 4
7:00 - 8:00 PM

A distinguished panel will discuss the latest policy and legislative efforts at the macro level and what's being done to prevent domestic trafficking at the local level including tips on how to help educate others in our communities. The panel will also advise on what the legal community and the Bar at-large could be doing to help support the efforts to combat domestic sex trafficking.

Legal Challenges in Current Criminal Justice Policy
Public Affairs Luncheon

February 18
12:00 - 2:00 PM

This month's speaker, Stephen Chinlund, is a noted author who has been deeply involved in the prison system of New York, serving as Chairman of the NY State Commission of Correction and as Superintendent of the Taconic Correctional Facility. In connection with his work to assist discharged prisoners he founded Exodus House and served as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Forum on International Criminal Investigations
February 27
6:30 - 8:30 PM

In an ever-shrinking universe of white-collar criminal investigations, recent years have seen grand jury probes that play out across a global backdrop. Beyond the traditional FCPA focus, headlines about LIBOR, News Corp., BP/Deepwater Horizon and Swiss banks, among others, highlight the increasingly international scope of business-crimes enforcement. The panel examines the forces driving the trend and the implications for the practitioner, in areas like jurisdiction, attorney-client privilege and local data privacy laws.

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Enacted Legislation
Legislation has been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo to amend New York's Penal Law to change mandatory terms of probation to discretionary terms and eliminate the requirement of pre-sentence investigations in limited circumstances. For most felonies, instead of the current mandatory term of five years probation, this law will give the courts discretion to impose a three-, four- or five-year term. For Class A misdemeanors and unclassified misdemeanors with authorized sentences greater than three months, instead of the current mandatory three years, the court would be able to choose between a term of two or three years. This bill would also amend the Criminal Procedure Law to authorize the court to increase the term of probation to the maximum in the event of a violation. This bill was supported by our Criminal Courts and Corrections and Community Reentry Committees and was one of the main bills advocated for during the Corrections and Community Reentry lobby day last spring. In signing the legislation the Governor indicated that some clarifying amendments will need to be made to the law and that the effective date will be extended to allow for proper implementation.

New Mayoral Administration
As the new de Blasio Mayoral Administration continues to take shape and establish priorities, the City Bar will be conveying its various criminal justice and public safety policy positions to the appropriate agencies and individuals. The Civil Rights Committee wrote to Mayor de Blasio about reforms to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, including calling on him to drop the City’s appeal in the Floyd v. City of New York case and its challenge to Local Law 71, which strengthened the prohibition of bias-based profiling.

State of the State Address
On January 8th, the Governor delivered his annual State of the State Address, outlining his policy objectives for the coming year. His speech included a number of criminal justice initiatives, including creating the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice to Help New York State “Raise the Age” of criminal responsibility. To read more about this and other initiatives, click here.

Disorderly Conduct Statute
In an amicus brief filed in the New York State Court of Appeals in New York State v. Johnson, the Criminal Law Committee argued that the Appellate Division’s decision created a precedent that permits police to order individuals standing in a public place to disperse, and to arrest them for failure to disperse, if police intelligence suggests that one or more of the individuals is in a gang, although no criminality or disruption was observed. This decision, the brief notes, renders the statute governing disorderly conduct unconstitutionally vague and fails to give clear guidelines for law enforcement and fair notice to the public that particular conduct is forbidden. The brief urges that if the New York legislature were to determine that gang problems require additional laws, legislatures should then adopt appropriate statutes. Such legislation would need to define critical terms to provide notice to the public and standards to guide law enforcement’s exercise of discretion. In its decision, the Appellate Division bypasses the legislative process, creating an offense in the absence of any statute.

Parole Board Regulations
In 2011, the New York legislature amended the Executive Law intending to refocus the Board of Parole’s decision-making on whether an individual was ready to reenter society. The Board has now proposed regulations implementing the 2011 amendments as well as adding two factors that should be considered in making parole decisions. The Corrections & Community Reentry Committee reviewed the proposed regulations and offered a number of suggestions to the Board, including that the proposed regulations: should be compatible with the role of the judiciary; should facilitate adequate judicial oversight; and should create evidence-based presumptions to ensure that the Board’s decisions are objective and consistent rather than arbitrary and inconsistent. The Committee expressed concern that the regulations effectively implement the 2011 amendments and alter the Board’s current practice of focusing, often exclusively, on the nature of the instant offense and the individual’s prior criminal history.

False Confessions
The Committees on Criminal Law and Criminal Advocacy submitted an amicus brief to the New York State Court of Appeals in New York State v. Thomas. The brief argued that the coercive tactics used during the interrogation of the defendant violate due process and increase the risk of a false confession and urge the court to exclude the statements as involuntary. By ruling as such, the brief noted, the court will serve to increase the accuracy and integrity of evidence received by New York Courts and reduce the risk of wrongful convictions based on false confessions. The brief goes on to note that while electronic recording of interrogations will greatly enhance the reliability and fairness of interrogations, to ensure reliability courts must review recorded interrogations for tactics that run afoul of the constitutional due process requirements, and where recordings demonstrate promises, threats or tactics that offend notions of fundamental fairness, such confessions must be excluded.

Female Inmates
In a letter to Congress, the Committee on Corrections and Community Reentry praised the recent advocacy on behalf of women prisoners from the Northeast and their families to halt the move of women out of the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution (FCI Danbury). The letter also urged that Congress remain persistent in holding the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) accountable for its promise to continue housing women prisoners from the Northeast at Danbury and that BOP be encouraged to accommodate all women inmates from the Northeast at Danbury, including those women currently housed elsewhere and those who are not United States citizens.

2014 Federal Judiciary Budget
The Committees on the Federal Courts and Criminal Law urged Congress to ensure that the Federal Judiciary receive sufficient funding in the 2014 fiscal year, as the continuing funding for the federal courts at the reduced levels required by the March 1, 2013 sequestration is unacceptable. While the greatest impact of the cuts to the Federal Judiciary has been on the funding for criminal defense services, the reductions have taken a painful toll on the federal courts generally and on their ability to administer justice, in New York and nationwide. Sequestration reduced appropriations to the federal courts by nearly $350 million in Fiscal Year 2013, and though the additional $51 million in funding provided by the “anomalies” for the Judiciary and Defender Services in the October 17 Continuing Resolution provided some welcome relief, that amount is not nearly sufficient to restore the federal courts’ ability to continue to operate at adequate levels, to protect the constitutional rights of defendants before the courts, and to protect public safety in criminal cases. [Note: the federal appropriations bill enacted in January included an increase of 5% above current funding for the federal Judiciary. A spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said the judiciary is "pleased" with the level of funding.]

Expert Testimony
The Committee on Criminal Law submitted an amicus brief to the New York State Court of Appeals in People v. Oddone. The brief addresses the question of whether the trial court applied the wrong standard in disallowing expert testimony on the reliability of eyewitnesses’ estimations of the duration of a brief, stressful event and the impact on eyewitness testimony of post-event information. The brief argues that trial courts must exercise their power of discretion meaningfully and in accordance with prior rulings of the Court of Appeals and that the failure to exercise discretion is reversible error. Since the Court of Appeals has ruled that scientific evidence on the impact on memory of post-event information is generally accepted within the relevant scientific community, trial courts do not have the discretion to ignore that ruling and come to their own view. And in considering an area of scientific evidence on which the Court has not yet ruled, such as scientific evidence on the over-estimation of brief stressful events, trial courts must analyze the evidence and recognize the generally accepted science regarding that evidence.

Committee Involvement--It's Never too Late
Committees are how the City Bar’s work gets done. Working on a committee can give you great experience while opening up a number of leadership opportunities and career doors, some you may not even anticipate.

A full list of the City Bar committees along with a brief description of each and an application form can be found on the City Bar’s website. As a number of City Bar committees have more applicants than available slots, please consider applying to more than one committee.

Legislative Affairs
Have an interest in or questions about the City Bar’s legislative work? Send an email to legislation@nycbar.org, visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Updates include recent City Bar reports, news and upcoming programs in a particular practice area and are issued periodically to City Bar members.