Bill Proposed for More Grand Jury Supervision by N.Y. Judges

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has made a proposal that would require judges to be more active in supervising grand juries for cases involving police being accused of death or injury to civilians.

The judge also proposed materials and testimonies be disclosed for proceedings in which no bill is returned against police, so the reasoning for the decision can be more clear.

Lippman says cases where grand jurors have not indicted officers have undermined trust and confidence in our justice system from the public, setting the perception that prosecutors and police work together so often that police prosecutions aren’t handled fairly and with enough neutrality.

The law requires New York judges to provide grand juries with initial legal instructions and will sometimes provide ruling for legal issues, but they are not required to be present in the courtroom during proceedings. If Lippman’s proposed bill goes through, judges would then be required to physically sit in the room with the grand jury to question witnesses, request more witnesses be called, and provide legal instructions before grand jurors decide to indict an officer or not.

According to Lippman at the New York Court of Appeals’ annual address about the state of New York courts before bar leader, lawyers, and around 150 judges, the change would put the grand jury’s responsibility in its place, with the court, and remove negative ideas about processes of the grand jury in these public interest cases.