FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|Michael T. Elliott
Los Angeles County Bar Association
|Miriam Aroni Krinsky
Los Angeles County Bar Association
April 22, 2003, 9AM
3rd Floor Board Room, Los Angeles County Bar Association
261 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 300
Los Angeles April 22, 2003
In the aftermath of the Los Angeles Police Department Rampart scandal, a Los Angeles County Bar Association Blue Ribbon Task Force has concluded that prosecutive and law enforcement agencies need to implement improved procedures for gathering and tracking information relating to police officers whose honesty and truthfulness may be in question.
That conclusion is among the more than thirty recommendations for policy, procedural and statutory reforms to California’s criminal justice system contained in the detailed Task Force report. The report will be distributed and discussed at a 9AM press conference on April 22, 2003, to be held in the third floor Board Room of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, 261 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 300.
The Task Force, chaired by United States District Court Judge Audrey Collins, was comprised of 24 members -- including distinguished former prosecutors, criminal defense practitioners, judges, academicians, and community leaders. The group’s report is the culmination of nearly two years work and many hours of information gathering that included interviews with judges, prosecutors and practitioners, testimony before the Task Force by leaders of all parts of the justice system, and questionnaires sent out to more than 1,000 prosecutors, judges and defense counsel.
The Task Force recommendations are designed to inhibit police abuse through a better early-warning system. Association President Miriam Aroni Krinsky notes that the group’s recommendations, “while not foolproof or exhaustive, will help ensure the integrity of criminal convictions and reaffirm the public's confidence in our system of justice.”
Some of the Task Force recommendations include:
- Reform of preliminary hearing procedures to bring about greater use of essential percipient witness testimony;
- Enhanced prosecutorial practices to ensure timely and thorough production of exculpatory information;
- Plea-taking only after appropriate defense investigation and preparation, and a full understanding by the defendant of the consequences of a guilty plea;
- The creation of automated law enforcement databases to track citizen complaints and other personnel records for at least ten years;
- Reform of statutory and procedural provisions governing access to police personnel records in response to so-called “Pitchess” motions; and
- A broad and clear standard for referral by judges and others of witness credibility issues to prosecutorial offices for further investigation.
Association President Krinsky explained that the Task Force was created to “fill a void” and “examine critical aspects of the state criminal justice system that no prior group had sought to review in the wake of the unfortunate Rampart incident.” Rather than focus on the practices of the Police Department -- the primary concern of the Rampart Independent Review Panel and other studies -- the Task Force was formed to study the policies and practices employed by the institutional components of the State of California's adversarial criminal justice system, including the courts, prosecutorial offices, and defense counsel.
Task Force Chair Hon. Audrey Collins notes that the group’s report “is the culmination of approximately 21 months of hard work and seeks to address deficiencies in California's criminal justice system that became evident after the Rampart events.”
“The Task Force hopes that these recommendations will be considered by all parts of our state's criminal justice system as new procedures and reforms are crafted to address the host of concerns raised by the Rampart scandal,” Collins explained.
Click here for the report. (PDF document)
The Los Angeles County Bar Association is the largest metropolitan voluntary bar association in the nation with a membership of more than 24,000 attorneys. The Association is extensively engaged in advancing the administration of justice, and meeting the professional needs of the legal community. For more information on the Association, visit www.lacba.org.