March 23, 2018: State Bar Association Calls on Governor, Legislature to Act on Criminal Discovery Law Reforms

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) today called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to enact measures to reform New York State law regarding discovery in criminal justice matters, as part of a final budget agreement for fiscal year 2018-19.

The Governor and legislative leaders have indicated that they expect to have the budget process completed by the April 1 deadline.

“Criminal defendants routinely receive limited information which often is turned over so late that it is virtually impossible to properly investigate, to secure and use any potentially exculpatory evidence, to fairly weigh a guilty plea offer, or to develop a trial strategy,” said NYSBA President Sharon Stern Gerstman in a letter to the Governor and legislative leaders. “As a result, lack of discovery under current New York law prevents innocent defendants from mounting a proper defense, and delays the acceptance of a plea by defendants who are guilty.”

NYSBA’s proposal on disclosure of details regarding witnesses and evidence is contained in legislation currently under consideration by the Assembly and Senate (A.7292 [Lentol]/S.6848 [Avella]). Gerstman said that this legislation “strikes the right balance, allowing effective provisions to protect witnesses while affording defendants the information to which they are rightly entitled.”

Gerstman noted that NYSBA “is mindful of and shares concern over the safety of witnesses” but stated that “safety concerns cannot impede defendants' constitutional right to cross-examine these witnesses in open court, during trial.”

In all of the other states in which the 10 largest cities in the US are located witness information is subject to discovery unless court orders otherwise, and there are no reported problems regarding witness security. 

NYSBA’s policy “was developed by a task force composed of members who are judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys from all over the state,” Gerstman added. “Our proposal was vetted among our members with extensive expertise regarding the criminal justice system, as well as other aspects of the legal system.”

For the complete text of Gerstman’s letter to the Governor and legislative leaders, click here.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Dan Weiller 
Managing Director, Marketing and Communications
dweiller@nysba.org
518-487-5500