New York’s bail reform law is so needlessly complicated that judges are having to receive in-depth training and a cheat sheet to apply it correctly.
Indeed, according to the New York Post, all New York state judges had to take part in a mandatory three-day seminar over the summer.
“The sessions – which lasted a total of nearly four hours — were part of mandatory, three-day seminars for all 1,300 judges that took place in June and July at the state Judicial Institute on the campus of Pace University in White Plains, sources said,” the Post reported Friday.
“They were sparked by recent tweaks to the controversial, 2019 law that Gov. Kathy Hochul claims gave judges ‘broad discretion’ to set bail for potentially dangerous defendants, but which Mayor Eric Adams and others have criticized as falling far short of what’s actually needed.”
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) August 4, 2022
One speaker was acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel Conviser, the author of the “Bail Bench Book,” a reference manual given to all judges.
“The reference manual’s section on bail reform is a whopping 49 pages due to the mumbo-jumbo that comprises the thrice-amended law, a source familiar with the book said Friday,” according to the Post.
“It tells you that, at best, [bail reform was] not very well thought through, and at worst, it’s purposefully meant to be a pretzel instead of being very clear and straightforward,” the source said.
All judges have also received a cheat sheet “that boils down the law into seven pages of charts listing the various offenses still eligible for cash bail, which was eliminated for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.”
New York’s bail law reportedly only permits judges to apply bail to ensure defendants return to court. Judges aren’t allowed to factor in whether the defendants pose a risk to, you know, society.
“Our bail statute is now about punctuality and attendance,” Washington County DA J. Anthony Jordan, the president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, said to the Post.
And so no, there is no “broad discretion” for judges to decide whether to apply bail or not.
Much like her poll numbers, Kathy Hochul’s new “public safety plan” is coming up short. Judges should have discretion when setting bail on ALL cases, NOT just “the most serious felonies” as Hochul now vaguely proposes. Repeal cashless bail and return our streets to NYers.
— Alison Esposito (@EspositoforNY) March 18, 2022
NY’s cashless bail law has been a disaster. Criminals have taken over our streets & Kathy Hochul & Brian Benjamin aren’t getting the job done to fix this. Judges need discretion for bail on ALL cases, not just a few of the “most serious offenses”. We must repeal cashless bail! pic.twitter.com/YTGEFPwad7
— Alison Esposito (@EspositoforNY) March 25, 2022
Or put more bluntly, “This idea that judges have discretion and are exercising discretion is a categorical lie,” as said to the Post by Albany District Attorney David Soares.
“We have dangerous, more dangerous people out in the community. We have the most, the most massive proliferation of weapons in the street, and prosecutors, police and judges do not have the resources, the tools and the laws to overcome the situation that we’re in right now,” he added.
Speaking to the Post anonymously, one state judge said that the bail law is “by and large insane.”
The judge also slammed Gov. Hochul and state lawmakers over their “inaction.”
“The state Legislature needs to get their act together and call a special session” to truly fix the law, the judge said.
The governor refuses to do anything because she believes the law just needs more time to work.
“I’m willing to revisit everything, but let’s see whether or not the system can start functioning the way we intended. The legislature meets again next January and by that time we’ll be able to assess the real impact of our changes,” she said at a press conference last month.
I’m at the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center in Albany to provide an update on our fight to stop the flow of illegal guns into our state. Watch live:
Posted by Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday, August 4, 2022
What remains unclear is whether Hochul will still be in office come January. She’s facing off against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, and if he manages to win, he intends to implement massive changes.
“We think about individual cases where people have lost their lives at the hands of someone who was released on cashless bail and any one of these stories is enough to justify action,” he said at a press conference this Thursday, as reported by Spectrum News.
Keep in mind, this happens all the time in New York. Last month a three-time ex-con, Israel Elves, killed his estranged girlfriend, Hope Staton Pearson, only weeks after he was released without bail for threatening her.
“Just weeks before her death, on July 25, Pearson accused Elves of pulling a knife on her in his apartment, which they were sharing at the time. She told police they got into an argument because she wouldn’t share her drugs. When he came at her with a knife, another roommate intervened, telling her she should call the cops, according to a criminal complaint,” the New York Daily News reported.
“When she returned a few hours, later all her clothes were ‘spread out’ in the lobby, Assistant District Attorney David Ingle said at Elves’ arraignment Wednesday in Brooklyn Criminal Court. Police picked him up on July 30, charging him with menacing, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon, all misdemeanors. He was released without bail in that case.”
And now Pearson is dead …
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