Is a tidy illustration of the ongoing failure of the courts and the legal profession to properly do their jobs. It’s also – and always was – more than a little ironic to place a law requiring secrecy of
stasi police officer records in the chapter dubbed “civil rights law”.
One would think this was not in the least complicated, because in fact it is not complicated. There is a constitutional right to confront the witnesses against you in a criminal trial under the 6th amendment. How often are at least some of those witnesses police officers? Practically always.
The state – in this case New York – passes a law – in this case 50-A of the Civil Rights Law – that prevents criminal defendants from obtaining evidence with which to confront the police officer witnesses against them.
Constitutional rights trump statutes.
Very, very simple. And unarguably correct.
How have the courts actually ruled?
When prosecutors fail to disclose evidence of police misconduct defense counsel is beholden to the unconstitutional requirements of CRL 50-a in order to obtain access to these records. The police department actively opposes access to disciplinary records and the courts routinely deny defense counsels’ requests. As a result, police officers in New York are granted a special privacy right that no other professional or civilian witness is granted.
From a 2018 Report to the New York State Senate on the subject of repealing New York Civil Rights Law 50-A. Emphasis supplied.
This is not the rule of law. It was not the rule of law when the courts just basically lied so they wouldn’t have to cross the organized police. And it’s not the rule of law when the legislature does the courts’ job for them after the threat of widespread violence from rioting. Rather, it is a flagrant example of the absence of the rule of law.
We don’t understand why the courts and the legal profession are not coming in for a lot more criticism in view of what is now happening in the US. We should be so embarrassed. We should apologize to our fellow citizens, who are now effectively cleaning up after us.
Scott Greenfield’s take is a little different. We think he’s too easy on the judges and the courts. But we’ve thought that from the beginning.