New York state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris is introducing a bill aimed to increase the transparency of New York's criminal courts following a report that shows a very small percentage of criminal court decisions are published, the senator announced Monday.

The report, from Reinvent Albany, and co-authored by Scrutinize, said at least 94% of written criminal court decisions in New York are not published and calls for decisions to be published online to improve public accountability.

The report also found that in New York, criminal court judges decide whether or not to publish their decisions in criminal cases, and of judges who published at least one decision a year, the average number of published decisions was two to three decisions a year. 

The report recommends that, under the bill Gianaris is introducing, judges would be able to submit transcripts of oral rulings in lieu of written decisions, mandate publication of decisions when they resolve a legal issue raised in a written motion or decide a pre-trial hearing and require the Office of Court Administration to make all written criminal court decisions authored in the past 15 years publicly available.

“New Yorkers deserve a court system that is transparent and accountable. The gravity of these decisions warrants greater openness and my new proposal will ensure the rights of everyone in our legal system are protected and judges' records are clear for the public to see," Gianaris, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“The public and their elected representatives cannot hold criminal court judges and the judicial branch accountable without seeing their decisions," Rachael Fauss, senior policy advisor a Reinvent Albany, said in a statement. "This lack of transparency not only hampers voters’ ability to assess judicial candidates, but also undermines legislative oversight of criminal law reforms. It’s high time for full disclosure of New York criminal court decisions, making sure that our state’s judiciary is at least as transparent as other branches of government.”


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