NEW YORK -- Following New York Attorney General Candidate Tish James’ release of a platform of major criminal justice reforms, several leading advocates, activists and elected officials announced their support for the plan.
“The package of criminal justice reforms released today by Tish James focusing on police and prosecutorial accountability is exactly what all candidates for Attorney General should be doing to ensure equal justice in our State,” said former Chief Judge of New York, Jonathan Lippman.
“Too many New Yorkers understandably feel that the justice system is all-too-often unjust, and that must be fixed. Building stronger bonds between law enforcement personnel and the communities they serve is vital, and that is something that all of us in state government must strive to achieve. Tish James has proposals that will help ensure all New Yorkers can feel confident in our justice system through greater transparency, real criminal discovery reform, increasing oversight of law enforcement agencies, and ensuring greater use of body-worn cameras. My conference has helped lead the way on criminal justice reforms, and I thank Tish for advancing these proposals and I am proud to support them,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester).
“The civil rights that took decades to build are under assault from Washington every day. Now more than ever we need the Criminal Justice reforms that Attorney General Candidate Tish James has put forth. She has been unwavering in her fight for reform, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with us at protests, rallies, and in courtrooms. Tish will ensure New York has one standard of justice for people of all colors, and her proposals today reflect that,” said Michael A. Hardy, Executive Vice President & General Counsel of the National Action Network.
“I am very pleased to see Tish James make criminal justice reform a top priority. I am particularly heartened that criminal discovery reform is at the top of her list – it is crucial to improving fairness in the system. I know Tish will focus on improving justice at each stage of the criminal justice process - from the bottom to the top - to help stop wrongful convictions and abuse. And, because of her advocacy background she will work at easing the victims experience with the system as well,” said Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn).
“Tish James is superbly qualified to be the next Attorney General of our great state. Tish is keenly aware that fairness in our justice system, must be more than just a promise, but a foundation of our democracy. To achieve this, we must continue to pass meaningful criminal justice reform. Tish is prepared to do this by removing the shroud of secrecy which cloaks police personnel files under section 50a, pushing to enhance public confidence in the integrity of proceedings in certain instances involving the use of deadly force by police by codifying the Attorney General’s role as special prosecutor in these cases, and stands supportive of a statewide commission to hold prosecutors accountable. Tish James is ready to serve all the people of New York State,” said Assemblymember Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn).
“If we want all New Yorkers to have faith in our criminal justice system, then they must be certain that all parties in criminal matters are treated fairly and that everyone is treated equally. Reforms, including discovery and bail reform, are an important part of the changes that are needed. Expanding and codifying the role of the Attorney General as special prosecutor in certain cases and increasing the use of body cameras make a lot of sense. I applaud Tish James for her advocacy and leadership in the area of criminal justice reform, and I am certain that as Attorney General she will lead the way in increasing confidence in the criminal justice system,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-The Bronx).
The full platform, “Reforming the Criminal Justice System: Police and Prosecutorial Accountability,” can be viewed here.
Highlights from “Reforming the Criminal Justice System: Police and Prosecutorial Accountability”
As Attorney General, Tish James will expand and codify the Attorney General’s role as special prosecutor; champion legislation to create a commission to hold prosecutors accountable; push to end unnecessary and harmful police secrecy; lead the way on real criminal discovery reform; and push to bring body-worn cameras statewide.
As Attorney General, Tish James will:
Push to Expand and Codify the Attorney General’s Role as Special Prosecutor. As Attorney General, Tish James will call on the legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation making permanent the Attorney General’s role as special prosecutor. She will call for this legislation to broaden the special prosecutorial authority to cases including those in which civilians are injured in interactions with police officers, and in which police officers allegedly commit hate crimes or sexual assault. She will also seek authority to prosecute any individual who obstructs an investigation into misconduct that is subject to the law, or takes another illegal action to thwart justice. And, until such time as that law is passed, she will call on the Governor to do everything in his power to ensure that the current Attorney General and the next Attorney General can carry out their duties to the fullest.
Hold Unscrupulous Prosecutors Accountable. S. 2412-D/A. 5285-C would create a Commission with the power to provide real accountability when prosecutors engage in misconduct. Tish James calls for the Governor to immediately sign this bill into law. As Attorney General, Tish James is prepared to defend the law’s constitutionality and will work to find additional mechanisms to ensure that those prosecutors who engage in genuine malfeasance are held accountable.
Work to repeal 50-a. Few other states in the nation guard basic facts and essential information about law enforcement conduct as closely and zealously as New York. As Attorney General, Tish James will call on the New York State Assembly and Senate to repeal Civil Rights Law 50-a, which makes it nearly impossible for litigants and the public to access information about police disciplinary records. She will also work to create a legislative requirement for the public release of identifying information following an officer-involved shooting.
Lead the Way on Real Criminal Discovery Reform. New York State has the dubious distinction of being one a handful of states with a “blindfold law,” which allows prosecutors to withhold key evidence until the very eve of trial under the guise of preventing witness intimidation. As Attorney General, Tish James will not only use her bully pulpit to fight to create the strongest and most fair discovery laws in the nation, she will lead the way by requiring that the Office of the Attorney General act under those parameters with or without the passage of a new law.
Push to Bring Body Cameras Statewide. As Attorney General, Tish James will push for state funding to expand body cameras statewide. She will work with cities, counties and towns all across the state to institute best practices tailored to the specific needs of each jurisdiction.