The Legal Aid Society Praises Chief Judge Lippman’s Bail Reforms

The Legal Aid Society issued a statement praising Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s bail reforms announced this morning.

“We are extremely encouraged by Chief Judge Lippman's announcement today regarding bail reform,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice. “ For years, the Chief Judge has been a leader in creating fairness and equality in the criminal justice system. As the primary public defender in New York City representing over 200,000 indigent people, we see the devastating effects that bail and pretrial detention create in the lives of our clients and families. For many of our clients, bail as low as five hundred dollars is unaffordable and forces people to plead guilty to escape the horrors of Rikers Island and return to their families. “

New York Law Journal
Lippman Announces Initiatives on Bail Reform
October 1, 2015
By Andrew Denney

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman unveiled a set of reforms to New York's bail system Thursday, including a pilot electronic supervision program for Manhattan Criminal Court, new review procedures for setting bail and promotion of alternative forms of bail.

As part of the initiative, one judge in each of New York City's five boroughs will be assigned to conduct de novo review of bail amounts for misdemeanor defendants that automatically will be triggered if the defendants cannot make bail.

"With the reforms announced today, we will make major strides in overhauling our broken system of bail," Lippman said. "Reforming the institution of bail in New York will go a long way toward ensuring that our justice system not only protects the public safety, but also is fair and just for each and every New Yorker, rich and poor alike."

According to a release from the Office of Court Administration, the bail review judges will have more time than arraignment judges to consider bail determinations, and defense attorneys will be able to present a "more accurate" client record to the court.

OCA will issue new rules to require regular judicial review of bail amounts in felony cases. Judges will hold status conferences to evaluate the viability of prosecutors' cases and potentially change defendants' bail statuses.

The pilot electronic supervision program will be limited to misdemeanor cases where defendants are unable to post bail and do not involve domestic violence, assault and sexual offenses.

The average cost of detention in New York City is $100,000 annually, according to the OCA, which is "drastically" more than it costs to keep tabs on defendants through electronic monitoring.

State statutes allow judges to use seven different types of bail, but in practice, judges only use two: cash bail and insurance company bail bonds. To encourage judges to tap a wider array of bail types, including payment by credit cards, the court system will enhance training for judges and clerks.

The initiatives, which Lippman described in remarks at a forum hosted in Manhattan by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, will be implemented within the constraints of existing statutes.

In early 2013, Lippman called for top-to-bottom reforms of the state's bail system that require changing state law, including creating a statutory presumption of release for defendants without bail in cases where judges find they do not pose a flight risk or a danger to public safety, and granting judges the authority to impose a range of pretrial release conditions.

But the proposals have failed to pass the Legislature.

About 14 percent of people arraigned in New York City, or about 45,500, are sent to jail because they cannot make bail, according to city officials. More than half of those remain incarcerated until their cases are deposed.