Resources to Help You Be Ready for the Jan. 1 Effective Date of Major Criminal Law Reforms
In the final weeks and days before the effective date of bail, discovery, and speedy trial reforms, NYSDA has been compiling and providing materials about the changes. A set of materials, including memoranda, flow charts, sample motions and forms, and more is available
. NYSDA thanks the attorneys and organizations that have allowed us to share their materials with the defense community.
NYSDA staff are working with Chief Defenders and lawyers from across the state who contact the Backup Center with general questions and issues specific to their locale. Materials are currently available on our website, and updated information will be added there as well as provided in future News Picks and in the
Backup Center REPORT.
Public defense providers are encouraged to contact NYSDA with questions and with information about how implementation issues are being addressed in their counties and courts.
Governor Vetoes Reforms
Defender Access to Criminal History Reports
: S. 2198 (Bailey) &
(Lentol). The bill would have added “public defenders, legal aid societies, and assigned counsel administrators” to the list of qualified agencies to give defenders direct access to their client’s state criminal history report information. The veto
, said the current CPL grants public defense attorneys access to criminal histories of clients and witnesses, and the sweeping discovery law enacted this year requires prosecutors to provide the defense with witnesses’ judgments of convictions and pending criminal actions making this bill, which places an unfunded mandate on DCJS, redundant.
Charitable Bail Fund Reform Act
: S. 494 (Rivera) & A. 6980 (Blake). This bill would have removed the geographical restriction that a Charitable Bail Organization (CBO) may only offer bail in one county outside of New York City and allowed CBOs to provide up to $10,000 in bail for both felonies and misdemeanors. The veto message,
, says that bail reform legislation has greatly reduced the need for the need for charitable bail organizations, leaving bail only in cases for those who “commit violent felony offense, or crimes such as witness intimidation," and that any needed amendments should be considered after implementation of the bail laws. A December 13
New York Law Journal
noted criticisms of this veto and the veto of the qualified agencies bill.
Child Abuse State Central Register Reform Act
: S. 6427-A (M
ontgomery) & A. 8060-A (Jaffee).
This bill would have brought the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse & Maltreatment (SCR) in line with other states that tailor the impact of indicated findings to the individual’s record, changing the standard of proof from “some credible evidence” to a “preponderance of the evidence” for placement on the SCR. The veto message,
, said the immediate effective date did not allow needed implementation time, fiscal implications were not budgeted for, and sealing could place children at risk. The Office of Children and Family Services is directed to identify reforms that could be implemented safely and within existing resources. Reactions to the veto included a
Preserving Family Bonds Act
: S. 4203-A (Savino) &
(Joyner), which would have granted family court judges the discretion to order continued visitation and/or contact between children and their birth parents and/or their siblings after a parent’s rights have been terminated. The bill was vetoed on December 20, a week after the other bills. The veto message,
, says some provisions of the bill are unconstitutional and possibly contrary to children’s well-being. Specifically noted are provisions that would call into question the “well-established parental rights of adoptive parents" and the lack of any "exception to the contact order in cases of severe and repeated abuse to a child or where a child does not consent ….”
As noted in the
(at p. 2), the Governor signed the Wrongful Conviction Prevention Act (L 2019, ch 446), which authorizes payment to assigned appellate counsel for post-conviction work.
Many groups, including NYSDA, disagree with the reasons given for the vetoes, and we anticipate that many of the vetoed bills will be re-introduced during the 2020 legislative session.
Proposed Child Welfare Reforms
Currently pending before the New York City Council are a number of bills designed to broaden the protections available to parents involved in child welfare proceedings, both before and while a child welfare case is pending in the courts. Among the proposals being considered by the Council are the
right to assignment of counsel
at the point ACS first makes contact with a parent, as well as a
multilingual written (
to be given to parents by ACS advising them of their rights. Similar protections were recommended on a statewide level in the February 2019 Interim Report to Chief Judge DiFiore by the Commission on Parental Representation and are supported by NYSDA. The Commission’s Interim Report is available at