New York State Bar Association President Sharon Stern Gerstman today submitted testimony to the Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the Proposed 2018-19 Public Protection Budget in Albany.
The testimony touches on a range of issues relating to New York’s courts and criminal justice system, including the Judiciary budget, bail reform, and reform of rules relating to criminal discovery.
“The Association supports the proposed budget increase for the Judiciary, and wishes it were even higher in that funding has still not been restored to 2010 levels,” Gerstman noted in her testimony. “As policymakers address many challenging budget issues, we strongly urge that you consider that the operations of the court system have not fully recovered from those devastating cuts years ago.”
In her testimony, Gerstman commended Governor Andrew Cuomo for his proposed bail-reform package, which would eliminate cash bail for most individuals facing misdemeanor or non-violent felony charges in New York State and allow but not require monetary bail in other cases.
Gerstman’s testimony also noted that “discovery standards for criminal cases in New York are among the most restrictive in the country,” and called for reforms that will “help innocent or over-charged defendants fairly prepare for trial” and “encourage guilty defendants to plead guilty, based upon a fair review and evaluation of the evidence in the possession of police and prosecutors, without needless and costly delays.”
Gerstman stated that “justice…. is the centerpiece of the Association’s legislative priorities” and added that “budgetary concerns should not reduce access to justice for the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable.”
“The ability of an impoverished or unpopular individual to invoke the power of the world’s most prestigious legal system to protect his or her rights is — and should continue to be — a source of great pride and great strength for all New Yorkers,” Gerstman said.
The complete text of Gerstman’s testimony can be found here.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
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