June 6, 2018: Statement from State Bar President Michael Miller on Reform of New York Law on Criminal Discovery

“On behalf of the leadership and members of the New York State Bar Association, I commend the State Assembly for passing legislation today to reform New York’s law on criminal discovery. By taking this step now, the Assembly has reaffirmed its commitment to seeking important changes to our criminal justice system. We urge our state leaders to follow the Assembly’s lead and continue negotiations to ensure fair criminal discovery procedures in New York.

“The New York State Bar Association has a proposal (A.7292 [Lentol]/S.6848 [Avella]) that we believe strikes the right balance for reform in New York State. While our proposal differs from the legislation passed by the Assembly today, the approved legislation has established a position that should be the basis for negotiations during the final days of the 2018 legislative session.

“While litigants in civil lawsuits in New York State have the opportunity via ‘discovery and inspection’ or ‘disclosure’ to learn about facts and evidence that is the basis for the other side’s case, defendants are often denied similar access to comparable information under New York’s criminal discovery statute. Criminal defendants routinely receive limited information 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. As a result, the law prevents innocent defendants from mounting a proper defense and delays the acceptance of a plea by defendants who are guilty.

“State leaders included discovery reform as part of this year’s budget negotiations, and we were disappointed that agreement on this important issue could not be reached at that time. We urge the Governor and the Senate to work with the Assembly to address this important matter before the end of session.”

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