By Jessica Coombs, Albany Government Law Review
All fifty states and the District of Columbia have Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies in place to investigate reports of elder abuse and provide vulnerable individuals and victims of abuse with protective services and treatment. APS was created by law to assist in the protection of impaired adults age eighteen and over. Nearly every county has its own APS unit which is maintained by that county’s Department of Social Services. In New York, APS units offer numerous services including investigation and assessment of the adult’s needs, advocacy and case management, legal interventions, counseling for the victim and their family, and emergency living arrangements.
The services provided by APS have the potential to help many victims; however, they are not implicated until APS has been notified of a potential case. The lack of a mandated reporting system in the state of New York hinders APS’s ability to help victims who may not be able to seek help themselves. “Mandatory reporting statutes require individuals to report certain injuries or cases of abuse or neglect to law enforcement, social services, and/or a regulatory agency.” Every jurisdiction has different statutes regarding which types of abuse must be reported, and who is required to report the abuse. New York has no such mandatory reporting requirement.
By Kristin Keehan, Albany Government Law Review
Under Brady, a prosecutor’s failure to provide material, exculpatory evidence to the defense is a violation of due process. This famous ruling is commonly known as “The Brady Rule.” The ruling from Brady has been further embodied in the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3.8(b): Special Responsibilities of Prosecutors and Other Government Lawyers:
b. A prosecutor or other government lawyer in criminal litigation shall make timely disclosure to counsel for the defendant or to a defendant who has no counsel of the existence of evidence or information known to the prosecutor or other government lawyer that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense, or reduce the sentence, except when relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of a tribunal.
The failure to provide evidence that could be deemed to be Brady material can result in mistrials, reversal on appeal, and/or professional sanctions. However, the damage done to a criminal defendant is usually the cause of irreparable harm.
The thirst for a “win” in court has led to more and more Brady violations. In 2003, a man by the name of Edgar Rivas was convicted of conspiracy to possess more than five kilograms of cocaine while he was aboard the foreign freighter the Antwerpen arriving in the United States. The day before trial was to begin, the Government’s main witness admitted to carrying onto the Antwerpen the cocaine that was found in Rivas’s cabin. The Government, however, failed to disclose this information to the defense, and Rivas was convicted. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found the Government’s actions to be in violation of the Brady Rule, vacated the judgment, and ordered a new trial. The only reason that Rivas’s defense counsel ever found out about the Brady violation was through a Government translator who approached defense counsel after the trial. Unfortunately, Mr. Rivas is just one of many who suffer at the hands of prosecutors who wish to conceal evidence from the defense. According to Marvin Schecter, “the slow trickle of uncovered Brady violations spawned by DNA exonerations has become a steady, flowing stream of egregious cases.” Schecter believes that the violating of Brady is “something that is learned and taught.” Though such claims have been ardently denied, the reaction to legislation to keep such Brady violations at bay signals that Schecter’s assertion might not be as outlandish as some claim.
By Kelly Hendricken, Albany Government Law Review
Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a Moreland Act Commission to investigate the response of New York’s power utility companies to Superstorm Sandy. This now established Moreland Commission on Utility and Storm Preparation came after a firestorm of complaints in the wake of the weeks it took for many residents in the Long Island and New York City areas to regain power after the tragedy and devastation of Superstorm Sandy. The Commission has already made some recommendations, which are sure to create much change after this particular public outcry for better regulation and more sanctions for the power companies in charge of restoring power after the widespread damage caused by Superstorm Sandy that left hundreds of thousands of people in New York without power. It is important to understand both the authority the Commission has and the power of its recommendations because of the widespread change this will impose on New Yorkers in the future. The legislative recommendations that are about to be made will change the utilities regulation in New York State, hopefully for the better.
By Heath Hardman, Albany Government Law Review
The fields of social science and psychology continue to make advances in human understanding, and courts sometimes make use of this information. But how can attorneys broaden their access to this information when representing victims of domestic violence? One way is by requesting that a court take judicial notice of certain legislative facts concerning domestic violence. While an attorney can support this request by citing scholarly sources, the court, in its discretion, need not grant the request. Citing legislative materials, such as sponsor’s memos, letters and statements of support, and bill jackets may increase an attorney’s chances of moving a court to take judicial notice of a legislative fact. After all, if the legislature cites the fact as part of its justification in enacting a law, and the court is required to enforce the law, surely the fact is compelling. Indeed, some courts have in fact cited the legislature’s reliance on certain facts when taking judicial notice of legislative facts or relying on them for decision making.