The Special Litigation Unit

The Special Litigation Unit (SLU) engages in law reform through an active litigation and legislative practice to protect the rights of clients of the Criminal Practice. It also regularly advises and supports the attorneys of the Criminal Practice on a wide variety of subjects, particularly those that present novel or difficult issues.

The Unit’s litigation practice includes class action litigation designed to remedy systemic problems in the criminal justice system. In the 1990s, SLU litigated the case that created the right to have a judge review a criminal charge within twenty four hours of an arrest. The SLU has litigated class actions in Federal Court regarding the rights of people who have their automobiles taken by the City of New York to have a hearing to challenge the impoundments, the right of mentally ill individuals to have their sentences computed correctly by the Department of Correction, and the right of sex offenders to have a fair hearing to accurately determinate their risk to society.

Current class action litigation projects include an effort to prevent the installation of cameras into the attorney client interview booths at the Staten Island Courthouse, a case that challenges the use of “Residential Treatment Facilities” to incarcerate sex offenders beyond their proper release dates and a case that seeks to protect those who photograph the police from unlawful arrest. See below for a more complete list of class action and other litigation filed on behalf of individuals.

Legislative advocacy is another important function of the SLU. The Unit played a crucial role in the enactment of Rockefeller Drug law Reform. Current reform projects include discovery, gravity knives, speedy trial, criminal records accuracy and sentencing.

In addition to the daily advice and support function, SLU produces weekly Case Summaries, which contain summaries and analysis of recent court decisions. The Case Summaries, which have been published since 1988, are indexed by topic and available online to busy trial attorneys in need of a fast legal research resource.