Public Affairs Luncheon:
Seeking a Fairer Criminal Justice System
The feature speaker is Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York. Ms. Elijah will lecture on the situations encounted in her reform work including some of the highlights since joining the Association in 2011.
Criminal Discovery Under Brady v. Maryland: Current Developments
Wednesday, September 18 6:00-9:00 pm
Recently, several criminal prosecutions have come undone following discoveries that material exculpatory evidence had been withheld from the defense in violation of Brady v. Maryland. Is there a “Brady problem?” Or are breakdowns in disclosure infrequent and inadvertent?
Jury Voir Dire & Other Jury Issues
An in-depth panel on strategy for jury selection it will include a brief synopsis of the legal framework and methodologies for jury selection as well as advise on profiling potential problem jurors to the phrasing of voir dire questions.
Missed a Program? You Can Still Benefit! CLE Programs' CDs, DVDs and other course
materials can be found on the website.
CONNECT WITH US
Going to Albany
Members of the Corrections & Community Reentry Committee traveled to Albany for a lobby day during the recent legislaive session. Accompanied by Elizabeth Kocienda, the City Bar’s Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs, members met with the chair of the Assembly Corrections Committee, Daniel O’Donnell, as well as representatives from the Senate and Assembly Codes Committees. The group also met with legislative staff to discuss two bills they support – one aimed at reducing barriers to employment for applicants with a criminal record and one, co-written with the Criminal Courts Committee, which would give judges more discretion when setting probation sentences. The latter bill has since passed both houses and is expected to be signed by Governor Cuomo. City Bar committees interested in setting up a lobby day should get in touch with the Legislative Affairs Department.
Pictured (left-right), members of the Committee on Corrections & Community Reentry: Allegra Glashausser (chair), Paul Montuori, Sara Manaugh (former chair), and Bernadette Jentsch.
- Flexibility in Judicial Sentencing
The Corrections and Community Reentry Committee and Criminal Courts Committee supported a bill to give judges greater discretion in ordering probationary sentences and eliminate the requirement of pre-sentence investigations in limited circumstances. This bill passed by wide margins in both houses of the legislature and awaits delivery to the Governor’s office for his action.
- New York City Council
The Civil Rights Committee supported two bills included in the Community Safety Act, which is aimed at addressing the stop-and-frisk practices of the NYPD. The first bill will increase accountability and oversight of the NYPD by creating an independent Inspector General for the Department. The second bill will prohibit bias-based profiling by the NYPD and expand the categories of individuals protected from discrimination in such instances. Both of these bills passed the City Council but were subsequently vetoed by Mayor Bloomberg. The City Council overturned the Mayor’s veto in August. The racial profiling bill will go into effect in late November and the Inspector General bill will take effect on January 1, 2014. In addition, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York declared that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional in Floyd et al v. The City of New York. The decision called for the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the progress of several reforms, including a pilot program of body cameras on police officers, a policy recommended by the City Bar in its report on stop-and-frisk. The City is appealing the decisions. The City Bar will continue to monitor these measures and their implementation over the coming months.
Video Recording of Interrogations
Governor Cuomo recently announced a new initiative to allocate one million dollars to the state's Criminal Justice Services for the expanded use of video recording in the interrogation of criminal defendants by state and local law enforcement agencies. The successful use of interrogation recordings helps to strengthen evidence in an investigators' case while protecting defendants against potential officer coercion or misconduct. The City Bar has long touted the merits of recording interrogations, most recently by reissuing a report supporting legislation which would require the police to record custodial interrogations in felony cases. While the City Bar believes the practice of recording interrogations needs to be codified into law to ensure all law enforcement agencies are adhering to this practice and in a uniform manner, this infusion of funds is a vital step forward in combating wrongful convictions and enhancing the reliability of evidence.
Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Act
The Committees on Criminal Courts and Corrections and Community Reentry issued a joint proposal to amend § 8-b of the New York Court of Claims Act. Section 8-b, known as the “Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Act” (“UCIA”), provides a cause of action that permits people who have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned to seek compensation but, as drafted, excludes many deserving persons before they even get in the courthouse door. The proposed amendments would correct this problem by amending the UCIA to insure that: 1) so long as all statutory requirements are met, including a showing of innocence, an individual whose conviction is reversed on any ground will be eligible to recover and; 2) anyone who pled guilty or made a false exculpatory statement despite his or her innocence also would be eligible to recover, so long as all other statutory requirements are met.
Impact of Immigration Detainers on Criminal Justice Resources
In a joint letter, the Committees on Immigration and Nationality Law and Criminal Courts expressed opposition to provisions in the SAFE Act, legislation introduced in the House of Representatives that would restrict local efforts to limit the impact of immigration detainers on criminal justice resources. Immigration detainers harm New York City residents by separating them from their families and legal resources in the city and impose significant practical and fiscal costs on the city's criminal justice system. In addition, the SAFE Act would severely and unnecessarily restrict localities' authority to make appropriate decisions regarding the use of such detainers and about their law enforcement resources.
Rules Governing the Use of Isolated Confinement
In a joint letter to the New York City Board of Corrections (the “Board”), the Committees on Corrections and Community Reentry and International Human Rights urged the Board initiate rulemaking in connection with a petition submitted to the Board, which calls for the adoption of rules governing the use of isolated confinement. Specifically the petition requests that the Board add a Chapter 5 to its Minimum Standards entitled “Isolated Confinement Minimum Standards.” As the use of isolated confinement increases in New York City’s correctional facilities, the letter argues, the acute need for some standards that govern this growing proportion of the prison population is more and more evident.
The Committees on Civil Rights, Criminal Courts, Criminal Justice Operations, and Drugs and the Law issued a joint report on the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. The report reviews the historical background of the City’s stop-and-frisk procedures, the legal principles that apply, the justifications for the policy, the concerns that have been articulated about the effect of the stops on individuals and communities, and recent steps the NYPD has taken in an effort to increase public confidence in the policy. The report also sets forth a number of specific recommendations that would help ensure a better balance between the NYPD’s law enforcement objectives and the need to protect civil liberties and avoid alienating communities of color.
The Committees on Sex and Law and Criminal Courts issued a joint report suggesting recommendations to enhance Criminal Procedure Law § 440.10(1)(i), regarding the vacatur of prostitution and trafficking-related convictions for victims of sex trafficking. The report provides an overview of the current law as well as data regarding its implementation and court-related outcomes. The report also outlines a number of recommendations for the effectuation of further relief under the law including that: 1) courts continue to streamline the procedures for these motions, and maintain stricter deadlines for responses and decisions; 2) broad outreach be continued, including the publicizing of the remedy through New York State licensing agencies; and 3) the Legislature amend C.P.L. § 440.10(1)(i) to include a provision allowing for the assignment of counsel for the purpose of preparing such motions for indigent petitioners.
Public Safety as a Factor for Setting Bail
In a joint report, the Committees on Criminal Courts and Corrections and Community Reentry expressed opposition to A.6799/S.4483, which would require judges to consider public safety as a factor for setting bail. Though the Committees recognize the goals of the Bill and applaud the Legislature's attempts to revise New York's current bail scheme, the report argues that the Bill does not achieve the stated goals. There is no evidence that the Bill would be effective in protecting public safety; indeed, the report notes, available data from states with statutes similar to the proposed Bill shows no difference in re-arrest rates. In addition, the report expresses disfavor with the Bill because: 1) the provision that requires judges to set bail in the least restrictive means runs counter to the public safety provisions; and 2) the Bill does not provide adequate definitions or tools to assist courts in assessing public safety effectively.
Measuring the Risk Level of Sex Offenders
In a joint report, the Committees on Criminal Courts, Criminal Justice Operations, and Corrections and Community Reentry expressed support for A.4591/S.3138, which would require the State Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders to consult a “validated risk instrument” when making its recommendation to courts regarding the appropriate risk level of a sex offender. The bill further requires the Board to validate the instrument through a periodic retroactive study at least every five years to determine the predictive value of the risk assessment instrument. The report states that the current Risk Assessment Instrument method employed by the Board is not a valid method to predict sex offenders’ likelihood to reoffend, as it has not been updated in 17 years and does not reflect the advances in the field of predicting sex offenders’ recidivism rates.
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.
Have an interest in or questions about the City Bar’s legislative work? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.