Dear Messrs Cuomo, Skelos, Klein, Silver, Kolb, Lentol, Nozzolio, Bonacic, and Ms. Stewart-Cousins and Weinstein:
Our groups write to call on the Legislature to schedule joint open public hearings of the two houses’ Codes and Judiciary Committees to hear testimony and consider proposals to reform the grand jury and criminal justice system. We strongly urge you to immediately publicly announce a schedule that provides for sufficient advanced notice for such hearings in locations throughout the state during January, beginning as soon as possible after the New Year.
As the demonstrations taking place in New York City, Albany and other locations in our state show, there is a crisis of public confidence in the fair workings of our criminal justice system following the grand jury decision regarding the death of Eric Garner. Press reports indicate that various legislative proposals reforming the grand jury system are likely to be introduced shortly. Governor Cuomo has called for a “soup to nuts” review of the grand jury and criminal justice system. Discussions regarding such reforms are long overdue.
This important topic cries out for a broad and open discussion between elected leaders, members of the Legislature, advocates, and the public. Public interest in this topic is at a fever pitch, both from those who advocate for specific reforms and those who believe no reforms are necessary. The gravity of the issue requires an approach that goes beyond the usual behind closed doors negotiation process.
In order to address the public’s desire for change and to gain public trust and support, any review and resulting legislative action or inaction must take place in full public view with myriad opportunities for the public to be heard and participate. What should be avoided at all costs is a grand jury-like commission or legislative procedure operating in secrecy with limited public input.
We look forward to working with you to ensure that open public hearings are orderly and successful in eliciting testimony from diverse and representative members of the public.
Margaret Fung, Executive Director
Asian American Legal Defense Education Fund
Vincent Warren, Executive Director
Center for Constitutional Rights
Dick Dadey, Executive Director
Susan Lerner, Executive Director
Common Cause NY
Sondra Youdelman, Executive Director
Community Voices Heard
Jose Calderon, President
Juan Cartagena, President
Latino Justice PRLDEF
Dr. Hazel Dukes, President
NAACP New York State Conference
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director
New York Civil Liberties Union
Steven Choi, Executive Director
New York Immigration Coalition
Jennifer Flynn, Executive Director
Jacqueline Ebanks, Executive Director
Women’s City Club of New York
cc (email): John Czajka, Terence O’Leary, Alfonso David
cc (email): Committee Counsels & Chiefs of Staff
Office: Common Cause New York
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.