New York State Bar
Association (NYSBA) President Sharon Stern Gerstman today called on the
Governor and state Legislative Leaders to act before the end of the legislative
session on reform of New York’s discovery law in criminal justice matters.
“We urge that you
recognize the critical need for significantly enhancing discovery in criminal
justice matters by passing the State Bar Association’s bill, which would
provide defendants with information that is essential to their understanding
and evaluating the charges against them while protecting witnesses in those
cases where it is necessary,” Gerstman wrote in a letter to the leaders.
Litigants in civil
lawsuits in New York State have the opportunity via ‘discovery and inspection’
or ’disclosure’ to learn about facts and evidence that are the basis for the
other side’s case. However, New York’s criminal discovery statute often denies
similar access to comparable information. As a result, lack of discovery can
prevent innocent defendants from mounting a proper defense, and can delay the
acceptance of a plea by defendants who are guilty.
New York’s criminal
discovery laws are more restrictive than most states, including all of the
other states in which the nine other largest cities in the U.S. are
“The State Bar Association
is mindful of and shares concern over the safety of witnesses. But it is not reasonable for opponents of
much-needed reform to argue that safety concerns should prevent the disclosure
of any witness information,” Gerstman said.
“In that regard, we should underscore that safety concerns cannot impede
defendants’ constitutional right to cross-examine these witnesses in open
court, during trial.”
NYSBA has submitted a
legislative proposal, A.7292 (Lentol)/S.6848 (Avella), which allows effective
provisions to protect witnesses while affording defendants the information to
which they are rightly entitled.
“Now is the time for
reform of New York’s laws on this critically important issue,” Gerstman said.
View the letter to the
Governor and Legislative Leaders 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.
Contact: Dan Weiller
Managing Director, Marketing and Communications