The State Assembly voted to send the bill to create a commission tasked with investigating prosecutorial misconduct to the Governor’s desk with an 86-35 vote. The State Senate passed the bill last week.
If signed into law, this commission will have authority to review and investigate complaints against specific prosecutors. It would have the ability to request information and documents in any misconduct case, and would have subpoena power. Decisions made by this commission would be included in an annual report sent to the New York State Court of Appeals, Governor, and legislature, and would be made available to the general public.
Opponents of this bill are concerned that this commission is unnecessary given the existence of grievance committees that review ethical complaints for each Appellate Division that have the ability to disbar, suspend, or censure attorneys when deemed necessary.
Supporters of the bill state that the goal of this commission is to save the state money on retrial costs and help avoid wrongful convictions. They believe that giving defendants more power to report complaints against prosecutors will help them avoid conviction altogether or be exonerated.
“We thank Senator John DeFrancisco and Assemblyman Nick Perry, our champions in their respective houses, for sponsoring the bill creating the Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct,” said Robert Wells, president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “This commission will bring accountability to and disciplinary consequences for unethical behavior of prosecutors in New York state—a necessary part of ensuring a fair criminal justice system for all New Yorkers. We urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to take the important next step of signing this bill.”