The new President of the New York State Bar Association Bernice Leber, noting that the number of criminal convictions overturned in New York State is undermining public confidence in the justice system, recently announced the creation of a Task Force on Wrongful Convictions. The task force will study the systemic, procedural and statutory causes that contribute to wrongful convictions and propose solutions to this growing problem, and will begin work immediately.
The Task Force on Wrongful Convictions will conduct an analysis of cases in New York State that have led to wrongful convictions, hold a series of hearings to provide for input from communities around the state and study the system-wide rules, procedures and statutes that may contribute to wrongful convictions.
Among the many issues under review will be current legal remedies available to the wrongfully convicted, including the adequacy of compensation. Following the hearings and fact-finding period that embody the public education aspects of the study, the Task Force will develop a platform of regulatory, legislative, statutory and procedural reforms to prevent further miscarriages of justice, and to assure that the guilty are convicted as well. The Task Force on Wrongful Convictions is expected to issue a final report in April 2009.
In the Bar Associations press release, NYSBA President Leber is quoted: For each wrongful conviction that surfaces, how many others are still unfairly resolved? Ensuring the fair administration of justice must be the number one priority in our criminal justice system. As leaders of the profession, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect the innocent and make sure men and women are not punished not even for even one day for crimes they did not commit. That so many distinguished New Yorkers have agreed to serve on the Task Force speaks to the importance of our mission.
The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, the Associations programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.
The Bar Association placed an obituary for Tim Russert in today’s New York Times. Apropos of the Bar Association’s highest purpose as exemplified by its Task Force on Wrongful Convictions, the obituary said of Mr. Russert, “…first and foremost a journalist but also a lawyer who did not forget his roots.
A Buffalo native and law school graduate, Mr. Russert elevated public discourse in America through his passion for government, the law and the public good. He inspired others and set a standard for excellence that all of us – whether lawyers, politicians or journalists can hold as a model.” At a private funeral service, at the request of Tim Russert’s son, Luke, presumptive presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain sat next to each other. At the end of the service the two embraced. At a later more public memorial service, Bruce Springsteen performed an acoustic version of “Thunder Road” on a large screen via satellite from Cologne, Germany.
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