Contact: Andrew Rush
Director, Media Services & Public Affairs

June 4, 2008


New Association President, Bernice Leber: "There should be no higher priority than to ensure the fair administration of justice"

Noting that the number of criminal convictions overturned in New York Stateis undermining public confidence in our justice system, the new President of the New York State Bar Association Bernice Leber (Arent Fox, LLP) today announced the creation of a Task Force on Wrongful Convictions.

The blue ribbon task force, chaired by Barry M. Kamins, Immediate Past President of the New York City Bar Association and adjunct professor at Brooklyn and Fordham Law Schools, will study the systemic, procedural and statutory causes that contribute to wrongful convictions and propose solutions to this growing problem. The Task Force, comprising distinguished jurists, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, members of law enforcement, good government groups and leading members of academia, will begin work immediately.

"For each wrongful conviction that surfaces, how many others are still unfairly resolved? Ensuring the fair administration of justice must be the number one priority in our criminal justice system. As leaders of the profession, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect the innocent and make sure men and women are not punished - not even for even one day - for crimes they did not commit," said Ms. Leber. "That so many distinguished New Yorkers have agreed to serve on the Task Force speaks to the importance of our mission. I am extremely pleased that these leaders have taken up this great challenge."

The members appointed to serve on the Task Force on Wrongful Convictions are:

Richard Aborn, Esq.- President, Constantine & Aborn Advisory Services LLC and President of the Citizen's Crime Commission of New York City

Jack Auspitz, Esq.- Morrison & Foerster LLP, New York City

Hon. Phylis Skloot Bamberger -Retired Court of Claims Judge, New York City

Thomas Belfiore- Commissioner-Sheriff, Westchester County Department of Public Safety, Hawthorne

David Louis Cohen, Esq.- Law Office of David L. Cohen, Esq., Kew Gardens

Tracee Davis, Esq.- Zeichner, Ellman & Krause LLP, New York City

Hon. Janet DeFiore- Westchester County District Attorney, White Plains

Vincent E. Doyle, III, Esq.- Connors & Vilardo LLP, Buffalo

Mark Dwyer, Esq. -New York County District Attorney's Office, Manhattan

Anthony Girese, Esq.-Bronx County District's Attorney Office, Bronx

Robert C. Gottlieb, Esq. - Law Offices of Robert C. Gottlieb, New York

Prof. William Hellerstein- Brooklyn Law School, Garrison

Hon. Charles J. Hynes- Kings County District Attorney, Brooklyn

Hon. Howard Levine -Retired Court of Appeals Judge, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP, Albany

Hon. John Martin -Former U.S. District Judge for the Southern District, Martin & Obermaier, New York City

JoAnne Page- President and Chief Executive Officer, the Fortune Society, New York City

Matthew Scott Peeler, Esq.- Arent Fox LLP, New York City

Norman Reimer, Esq.- Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Washington , DC

Prof. Laurie Shanks -Clinical Professor of Law, Albany Law School , Albany

Hon. George Bundy Smith -Retired Court of Appeals Judge, Chadbourne & Parke LLP, New York City

Lauren Wachtler, Esq. -Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP, New York City

The Task Force will conduct an analysis of cases in New York Statethat have led to wrongful convictions, hold a series of hearings to provide for input from communities around the state and study the system-wide rules, procedures and statutes that may contribute to wrongful convictions. Among the many issues under review will be current legal remedies available to the wrongfully convicted, including the adequacy of compensation.

Following the hearings and fact-finding period that embody the public education aspects of the study, the Task Force will develop a platform of regulatory, legislative, statutory and procedural reforms to prevent further miscarriages of justice, and to assure that the guilty are convicted as well. The Task Force is expected to issue a final report in April 2009.

In conclusion Leber said, "As a top priority of my administration at the New York State Bar Association, this Task Force will help lay a solid groundwork to combat the far-reaching implications of wrongful convictions and ensure that these injustices become a thing of the past."

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, the Association's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.