Committee Reports

Letters to the New York City District Attorneys expressing support for New York City’s e-arraignment program

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Hon. Robert M. Morgenthau
District Attorney, New York County
One Hogan Place
New York, NY 10013

Dear District Attorney Morgenthau:

On behalf of the Criminal Justice Operations Committee of the New York City Bar Association, we write this letter to express our support for New York City’s upcoming e-arraignment program, which will, when brought to fruition, help all five boroughs in New York City meet the important 24 hour arraignment goals set forth in People ex rel. Maxian v. Brown, 164 A.D.2d 56 (1st Dept. 1990), aff’d, 77 N.Y.2d 422 (1991) by streamlining and automating the arrest-to-arraignment process and creating a comprehensive timestamp monitoring tool that will track the progress of the arraignment process from agency to agency. We strongly believe that with your cooperation, the e-arraignment program, which is currently under development and will shortly be piloted in the Bronx and Manhattan, will increase the transparency and accountability of arraignments on a wide-scale basis and add efficiency to the entire process.

As you may know, the e-arraignments concept builds on the simple and proven idea that technology and automation save time. The program as presently conceived will automate the paperwork that comes into the New York Police Department Breakdown Room, with the goal of reducing the time that it would otherwise take to print out and gather these documents separately. Next, e-arraignments will automate the Court Docketing and Initialization process. E-arraignments will also ultimately provide the capacity for electronic data sharing so that the District Attorneys’ Offices, CJA Administration and OCA Crims all receive pertinent arraignment information electronically.

Another important aspect of e-arraignments will be its comprehensive timestamp reporting system, which creates timestamps for every phase of the arraignment process. The timestamps will, we believe, prove to be an innovative method to determine which aspects of the arraignment process are prone to backlog and inefficiently and need to be improved. The timestamps are one way of ensuring agency accountability for each agency’s individual role in the arrest-to-arraignment process.

New York City has already invested over $15 million in the e-arraignment program and plans to spend tens of millions more to upgrade arrest-to-arraignment related court facilities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island over the next 3 years. While e-arraignment is still in its early stages and there are undoubtedly challenges that must be resolved along the way, there is no question that bringing arraignments into the 21st century can only increase the efficiency of an otherwise antiquated, uncoordinated and often frustrating process. E-arraignment will benefit not just the defendants and agencies involved in the process, but the entire criminal justice system.

We hope that all criminal justice agencies, including the NYPD, District Attorneys’ Offices, defense bar and the courts, recognize the importance of this program and work together to make e-arraignments a success.

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