Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wants to reform the bail process to increase safety and fairness and allow cameras in courtrooms, he said today in his State of the Judiciary Address.
He explained in his speech that unlike most states, New York judges are not required or even permitted to consider public safety when determining whether bail should be posted for an offender. Judges in the state decide based on whether they believe the defendant will return to court rather than whether they believe the defendant will commit a new crime.
“Few, if any, would seriously argue that judges should not consider the safety and well-being of people on our streets or in our homes when making bail decisions,” he said. “The time has come to join 46 other states and the District of Columbia by changing New York’s bail laws to require judges to take into account public safety considerations.”
Lippman also said the bail process must be reformed so it doesn’t disproportionately penalize poor offenders.
“Our overriding goal must be to ensure that pre-trial detention is reserved only for those defendants who cannot safely be released or who cannot be relied upon to return to court—and to do all we can to eliminate the risk that New Yorkers are incarcerated simply because they lack the financial means to make bail,” he said.
Lippman said in the speech that the state should not have let a previous law that allowed cameras in courtrooms on an experimental basis expire. For the last 10 years, no cameras have been allowed, and “we have witnessed dramatic technological advances that have transformed the ways in which we communicate and share information.”
He proposed legislation that would allow cameras for all court proceedings, at the discretion of the judge. He said the change would balance transparency with concerns for privacy in certain situations.
He also suggested reforming juvenile justice procedures to use age-apprporiate penalties and doing more to prevent wrongful convictions.
During the speech, he highlighted accomplishments made in the past year, such as becoming the first state in the country to require pro bono service as a pre-requisite for admission to the bar.
He spoke of upcoming changes to the court’s makeup, including the retirement of Judge Carmen Ciparick, who’s set to be replaced by nominee Jenny Rivera. Judge Theodore Jones died Nov. 5, but the selection committee has not yet recommended candidates for his seat.
“We faced many challenges this past year, but we remained determined to find better ways to deliver justice, ensure access for the most vulnerable among us and uphold the core values of our noble profession,” Lippman said.