As January 1 Approaches, Questions About Implementation of Bail and Discovery Reforms Abound; Some Answers Are Available

Bench Book for Judges on Discovery Law Reform
With the impending January 1, 2020 discovery reform law, judges have a new resource to help them navigate the new procedures: New York's Discovery Reform Law: A Bench Book for Judges , prepared in July 2019 by Dineen Ann Riviezzo, Court of Claims Judge Kings County, Supreme Court Criminal Term. This will serve as a guide to the many facets of the reform such as the prosecutor’s discovery obligations, the defendant’s reciprocal discovery to prosecution, timing requirements, protective orders, and trial readiness. This guidebook provides defense attorneys with information on the new law, statutory citations, and an inside look at the information on which judges will rely. A bench book on bail reform was noted in the Oct. 18, 2019, edition of News Picks.

NYSDA, Others, have been Offering CLE on the Reforms
NYSDA has offered CLE training on the 2019 legislation dealing with bail, discovery, and other reforms, and also noted training by other entities on its NY Statewide Public Defense Training Calendar. These include the New York County Defender Services event on Dec. 17, 2019.

Such training sessions, and materials developed for them, can help answer some of the questions arising as implementation nears. For more information, contact the Backup Center.

Supporters Resist Efforts by Prosecutors and Others to Erode Reforms
Defenders and many others who care about pretrial justice are working to counter calls by district attorneys and members of law enforcement for delay, repeal, or modification of the bail and discovery reforms passed by the Legislature this year. Letters, op-eds, and editorials stressing the fairness and practicality of the reforms are appearing across the state. Examples include guest columns in the Staten Island Advance, the Finger Lakes Times, and the Wellsville Daily Reporter; a view in the December 1 Middletown Times Herald-Record; commentaries in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and Binghamton Sun-Bulletin; a letter in the November 30 Livingston County News; an article in The Leader; and a New York Times editorial on November 17. Perhaps most notably, Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a strong response to criticism of the reforms, telling on December 3, "'[c]hange is often opposed by the system'" and pointing out successful reform elsewhere. Meanwhile, some legislators are introducing bills to curtail the reforms, as noted in the New York Law Journal on November 7. Defenders who contribute or see local comments favoring the reforms are encouraged to send them to the Backup Center.

News on Addressing Domestic Violence
The San Antonio, TX, Public Defender's Office is working to get treatment for clients who are charged with domestic violence and are also experiencing mental illness, according to a Nov. 16, 2019 news report. The Chief Public Defender, noting that few of the "individuals arrested for domestic violence who have a co-occurring mental health issue were diverted into treatment," added: "'There is such a stigma about domestic violence and there’s such a concern for victim safety, which is a legitimate concern, but if someone is going to get out on bond, would you want them to get out on bond with mental health treatment or without?'"

Meanwhile, in New York City, questions are being raised about the effectiveness of programs meant to reduce domestic violence. The issue was addressed at City Council hearing, as reported in the Gotham Gazette on November 21.

Defenders may find themselves confronting domestic violence issues from different perspectives, sometimes defending those accused of committing such acts and sometimes defending domestic violence survivors who are accused of striking back at someone committing abuse or where the abuse was a significant contributing factor to the criminal behavior. As noted on pages 2 and 4 of the recently-posted issue of the Backup Center REPORT mentioned below, domestic violence was addressed in a number of ways by legislation this year.

December CAL "Issues to Develop at Trial" Focuses on Rebuttal Summations
The December 2019 issue of the Center for Appellate Litigation (CAL) publication called  Issues to Develop at Trial urges trial attorneys to argue for a chance to respond to the prosecution's summation, particularly when a prosecutor has raised new matters.

The newsletter also notes a Nov. 25, 2019 Court of Appeals decision, People v Rouse. CAL notes that the decision reaffirmed the defense right to cross-examine police officers with specific misconduct allegations and held that the defense may cross-examine on prior judicial determinations of an officer's dishonesty (such as a finding that the officer's testimony was incredible), subject to the limitations on cross.

Association News

August-October Issue of NYSDA's Backup Center REPORT is Online
The  Aug.-Oct. issue of NYSDA’s Public Defense Backup Center REPORT is available on the NYSDA website. NYSDA members should receive a hard copy of this latest issue this month. If you have any questions, please contact the Backup Center at 518-465-3524.

New Staff Attorney Joins NYSDA's Backup Center
Natalie Brocklebank brings broad experience to her new position as a Staff Attorney at the Backup Center. She joins NYSDA after serving as Assistant Counsel on the Statewide Team of the NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services working on the expansion of the Hurrell-Harring reforms to all counties. Before that, she was an Attorney and Investigations Supervisor at the Bronx Defenders. Natalie began her legal career at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and subsequently was selected as a partnership lawyer on rotation to New Orleans, post Katrina. She has also run a private practice in New Orleans, LA and Saratoga County, NY, and has served as an Adjunct for SUNY Empire State College teaching Media Ethics and the Law. Prior to practicing law, Natalie was a defense investigator in Washington, DC. 

Long Island VDP Office Welcomes New Case Manager
Juan Sosa has joined the Veterans Defense Program (VDP) staff in the Long Island office. Having been deployed to Iraq in 2002 and 2006, and having witnessed the struggles of veterans, he is committed to making a difference in clients' lives. Read more about Juan in the latest edition of the Backup Center REPORT, noted above.

Executive Director Bryant Featured in St. John's Law
Executive Director Susan C. Bryant is featured in the Fall 2019 issue of her alma mater's magazine, St. John's Law, at page 16. Headlined "Championing Equal Justice," the feature highlights the legislative criminal justice reforms of 2019 but also stresses NYSDA's efforts to improve public defense services in changing times and Bryant's enthusiasm about new lawyers moving into the field: "'It's an incredible time to be a public defender in New York,' she says…. 'At the end of the day, you know you're making a difference.'"