Newsday: Dire need to reform criminal justice rules

By Tina Luongo and Lori Cohen
March 5, 2019

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas’ comments about criminal justice reforms proposed in Albany are tone deaf and out of touch with reality. She urges everyone to “slow down” the advancement of much-needed and overdue reforms central to fairness and justice — for bail, discovery and speedy trials. But Singas ignores the fact that problematic existing laws have been around for decades and harmed thousands of New Yorkers. Further, her claim that the new proposals were written by lawyers who have never practiced criminal law is mystifying.

As the presidents of two statewide criminal defense bar associations composed of private counsel and public defenders, we will happily clarify for Singas. All of the proposals under consideration have been vetted by legal scholars, current and former practitioners, and members of the judiciary. Many proposals followed years of thoughtful work by task forces and committees. To suggest they were created in haste or by novices is misguided and insulting.

These reforms were introduced last year in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget. His office has discussed them at length with prosecutors and the defense bar. Both sides have been given time to comment on specifics.

What we support will not advantage or disadvantage prosecutors or defenders. The reforms balance the law enforcement perspective with greater protections of due process, fairness, and efforts to avoid wrongful prosecutions and convictions. 

Editor’s note: Luongo is president of the Chief Defenders Association of New York. Cohen is president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.