Tuesday, February 4, 2020

New York's statute creating a commission on prosecutorial misconduct declared unconstitutional

Long time readers of this blog know that I have posted many articles and comments on prosecutorial misconduct over the years, and some may remember a case in which a Circuit Court judge referred to prosecutorial misconduct as an "epidemic" in this country.

To deal with the issue, in 2019, New York adopted a statute to create an independent commission to investigate prosecutorial misconduct in the state. To prevent an attack based on the concept of separation of powers, rather than being appointed by the legislature alone, the commission would include members chosen by the executive and the judiciary who would be able to review prosecutors’ activities, publicly censure them, and make recommendations to the governor should actions warrant a prosecutor’s removal.

Not all prosecutors were on board with the proposal and an association of district attorneys sued to prevent the implementation of the commission. They argued that the commission would interfere with the rights and core functions of their offices and give unconstitutional authority to the judiciary.

I am writing about this today because last week, the trial court granted the prosecutors' motion for summary judgment, declared the statute (Article 15-a of the Judiciary Law) unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the State from implementing the provisions of the statute including the formation of the State Commission of Prosecutorial Conduct.

You can read the opinion here.

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