NYSDA Wants to Hear from Family Court Defenders
In October 2019, NYSDA hosted a Convening of Family Court public defense providers, made possible in part by a grant from the New York Bar Foundation. The convening was the first of a three-step process designed to identify the needs of family court defenders throughout the state. We are now asking for the assistance of all providers of family court mandated representation. We put together a survey based on information and concerns discussed at the Convening and other information we have gathered over the past few years. Below you will find a link to a survey, which will ask you to identify what resources you believe are necessary to improve family court representation in New York State. After we gather all your responses, we will take the final step of preparing a report of our findings (without identifying information of respondents) and disseminating it to educate state and local governments regarding family defense needs.

We appreciate your participation and valued opinion in this information-gathering process, as we seek to understand your priorities in providing the best possible representation to your clients and to help inform and develop our training curriculum and schedule to increase our support of family court defenders throughout New York State. Access the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WCWWF82 . The deadline for completing the survey is Friday, March 20, 2020. If you have any questions, please contact our family court staff attorney Kim Bode at Kbode@nysda.org.

Discovery Law Updates
Brooklyn Judge Rules DA App Fails to Satisfy Disclosure of Adequate Contact Information for Witnesses
In a Brooklyn Supreme Court case, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office did not directly turn over witness contact information. Instead, they offered contact with witnesses through the web application, WitCom. Judge Sciarrino stated the use of WitCom “short circuits the adversarial process by inserting the prosecutor (or their app) as an intermediary between defense counsel and witness.” The decision of whether to use apps like WitCom should be up to defense attorneys, he ruled. “Moreover, use of the WitCom app is contrary to the plain meaning of the statute which calls for the People to provide contact information ,” he wrote. “WitCom – although a novel approach to witness communication – stands for a lack of information, putting defense counsel at an unfair disadvantage.” The decision is available here and a New York Law Journal article about the decision was published on Feb. 21, 2020 ( https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2020/02/21/brooklyn-judge-rules-da-cannot-rely-on-app-to-satisfy-nys-new-discovery-law/ ).

Release of Criminal History Record Information of Witnesses
The Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) sent a memo to district attorneys last month regarding whether the new discovery laws require the disclosure of criminal history record information (CHRI) of witnesses and police officers to defense counsel or the defendant. “Of particular note is that the CHRI may also contain other private information, such as a witness’s social security number.” DCJS defers to individual district attorneys regarding interpretation and implementation of the discovery obligations. “As detailed in the U&D [use and dissemination agreement], the secondary dissemination of CHRI is prohibited unless authorized by law. Further, the disclosure of private information, including a social security number, is, except as required by overriding statutory, constitutional or ethical considerations, or other unusual circumstances, prohibited.”

As provided in CPL 245.20(1)(p), prosecutors must disclose “[a] complete record of judgments of conviction for all defendants and all persons designated as potential prosecution witnesses pursuant to paragraph (c) of this subdivision, other than those witnesses who are experts.” If you are encountering issues getting access to these conviction records, we encourage you to contact the Backup Center.

Bail Law Updates
Certified Pretrial Services Agencies List Now Available
The Office of Court Administration, which is responsible for certification of pretrial services agencies under CPL 510.45, has posted a list of the currently certified pretrial services agencies at https://ww2.nycourts.gov/court-research/ListOfAgencies.shtml . The list does not contain a certified pretrial services agency in Livingston or Saratoga county.

Bail is Set, What’s Next?
Are your clients having trouble navigating the process of posting one of the alternative forms of bail? Let us know and share your stories with the Backup Center. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund has created a resource page with helpful information regarding posting bail and partially secured/unsecured bonds for a number of counties at https://brooklynbailfund.org/ny-bail-info . If you have any suggested changes or additional information for your county, please share it with the Backup Center so this resource can be updated. A link to this valuable resource is posted on our Bail Reform Implementation page, along with the OCA Forms on alternative bail and other helpful information.

Unified Court System’s New York Courts Emergency Alert Portal
The New York State Unified Court System has announced that it is discontinuing the use of Twitter to send out alerts about Unified Court System emergencies and court closures, effective “on or about” Mar. 15, 2020. The Twitter system will be replaced by the New York Courts Emergency Alert Portal (Portal), which is a state public notification platform hosted by NY Alert. The new Portal, which has been operational since Jan. 30, 2020, allows users to choose the specific counties they wish to receive alerts about, as well as picking whether they would like to be notified via text, phone, or email. Although alerts continue to be sent via the Portal and Twitter during this period of transition, once Twitter notification is terminated in March, those wishing to receive court alerts will need to register for the Portal. According to the information on the NY COURTS website, “other court informational Twitter accounts will continue.” Those looking for more information on the portal or looking to register can do so at www.nycourts.gov/notice/emergency-alerts.shtml .

Follow up on Parole Regulation Amendments
In the Jan. 17, 2020 issue of News Picks, we reported on recently adopted amendments to several parole regulations. For the full text of the amendments governing release conditions (9 NYCRR 8003.2 [effective 7/8/2020]), time assessment calculations (8002.6 [effective 12/8/2020]), and guidelines for assessing penalties (8005.20 [effective 12/8/2020]), visit https://doccs.ny.gov/revised-standard-conditions-and-revocation-guidelines .

Association News

Registration for CLE Program, Can an Expert Say That?, Now Open
The New York State Defenders Association is presenting a joint family/criminal trainer on how to strategically use an expert to advance your client’s case. The half-day program will be held on Friday, Mar. 27, 2020 at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. The agenda includes two separate presentations, one on collaborating with experts to advance your client’s family court case and the other on advancing your client’s criminal court case. The final topic is a one-credit ethics presentation focusing on navigating the interaction between civil and criminal cases. More information about this program is available here . Pre-registration by Friday, March 20 is required. Questions? Contact Megan O’Toole at the Backup Center at 518-465-3524 x25 or motoole@nysda.org.

NYSDA Testifies in State Budget Hearings
NYSDA provided testimony seeking state funding for the Public Defense Backup Center and for the Veterans Defense Program (VDP) in the upcoming fiscal year. Support for other public defense funding was also voiced. See Executive Director Susan C. Bryant’s written testimony here and her oral testimony here (at 13:16:59 to 13:29:53), and VDP Deputy Director Roy M. Diehl’s written testimony here and oral testimony here (6:02 to 6:06:40).

Veterans Defense Program (VDP) 2018-2019 Report Online
NYSDA’s VDP provided legal assistance and mentoring to 924 justice-involved veterans, and trained hundreds of defenders in 2018 and 2019. The VDP’s new report also includes important information and graphics on the VDP’s services and veteran case procedures, veteran mental health issues, case studies, testimonials, and VDP staff and contact information. A chart describes how the VDP’s treatment-oriented mitigation approach placed hundreds of veterans on the road to recovery while saving the State up to $77 million in avoided incarceration costs over the last four years. The Report is available here . NYSDA thanks the State Legislature for their instrumental funding support of VDP.