People v. Cooper, 00853-2020

CourtNew York County Court
Writing for the CourtSusan M. Eagan, J.
Citation143 N.Y.S.3d 805,71 Misc.3d 559
Docket Number00853-2020
Decision Date23 February 2021
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of New York v. Desean COOPER, Defendant.

71 Misc.3d 559
143 N.Y.S.3d 805

The PEOPLE of the State of New York
v.
Desean COOPER, Defendant.

00853-2020

County Court, New York, Erie County.

Decided on February 23, 2021


143 N.Y.S.3d 807

HON. JOHN J. FLYNN, Erie County District Attorney, Sean B. Bunny, Esq., Appearing for the People

Brittanylee Penberthy, Esq., Appearing for the Defendant

Susan M. Eagan, J.

71 Misc.3d 560

This case raises issues surrounding the People's discovery obligations relating to police disciplinary records, what must be disclosed, and to what extent, if any, the disclosure of police disciplinary records impacts the People's ability to effectively enter a declaration of readiness.

The defendant was arraigned before this court on December 1, 2020 on an indictment charging Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, in violation of Penal Law 265.03(3) and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, in violation of Penal Law 265.02(3). The People did not file a certificate of compliance at that time. At a pretrial conference on December 16, 2020, the People attempted to file a certificate of compliance and declare ready. The defense objected on the basis that they had not received all the police disciplinary records as it relates to the six officers involved in the case and what they had received was a summary card that was two years old. The People responded they had provided the defense with what they had physically received from the Buffalo Police Department (BPD), acknowledged the existence of other disciplinary records that had not yet been turned over but argued that they had a "flow of information" established with the Buffalo Police and that satisfied their discovery obligation. The Court did not accept the People's declaration of readiness pending a resolution of this issue, adjourned the matter and asked the parties to further explore this issue, consistent with CPL 245.35(1). The matter was adjourned until January, at the People's request.

On January 6, 2021, the People indicated that they had not received any further records from BPD, they reasserted their readiness, arguing that the records sought were administrative records that were not in the People's physical possession, and reiterated their position that they had established a flow

71 Misc.3d 561

of information and were in compliance with their discovery obligations. The Defense continued their objections. It was not clear to the Court as to what efforts had been made to resolve the issue. Given the novel nature of this question, the Court asked the parties to provide written submissions concerning their arguments.

On February 3, 2021, during oral argument, the Defense argued that under CPL 245.20 (1)(k) and the repeal of Civil Rights Law 50-a the People are required to provide the defense with the police disciplinary records as automatic discovery and cannot affectively declare ready until those records are provided. Additionally, the Defense noted that the People are required to provide more than a summary of the records.

The People argued that their discovery obligations are limited to the subject matter of this case including their obligation as it relates to impeachment material and disciplinary records. By extrapolation, if any police disciplinary record did not relate to the subject matter of this case it was not discoverable. They reiterated their position that if there is other impeachment material that's contained in the disciplinary records that they are not in physical possession of, they are not deemed to be in possession of it until they actually have it, as long as they are maintaining

143 N.Y.S.3d 808

the flow of information under 245.55(1). The People then described the "flow of information" that they have been working to establish with all law enforcement agencies in the County and especially BPD. Acknowledging that while BPD had provided disciplinary records for 50 officers in the department, they had not been fully responsive to the People's requests as it relates to the department as a whole and this case in particular, the People asked the court to exercise its authority to assist them in complying with their discovery obligations by issuing an order directing BPD to provide the records. Further, the People argue that "invalidating" their declaration of readiness is unwarranted since the Defendant has not shown any prejudice.

NY Civil Rights Law 50-a

As enacted in 1976, NY Civil Rights Law 50-a, made all police, among other public officers, personnel records confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer, except as may have been mandated by lawful court order. One of the purported purposes

71 Misc.3d 562

at the time of its enactment was "to prevent criminal defense attorneys from using these records in cross-examinations of police witnesses during criminal prosecutions" (2019 NY S.B. 8496). Effective June 12, 2020, the Legislature repealed Civil Rights Law 50-a. The Legislature's purpose in repealing 50-a was the belief that enactment and subsequent application since 1976 served to undermine the public policy goals of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), ( Public Officers Law 84 - 89 ), of "mak[ing] government agencies and their employees accountable to the public" (2019 NY S.B. 8496). FOIL "is rooted in a presumption favoring access to all agency records, .... The theory is that ‘public records belong to the public.’ " ( Schenectady Police Benev. Ass'n v. City of Schenectady , 2020 WL 7978093, at 3 [N.Y. Sup. Ct. Dec. 29, 2020] ). By repealing 50-a the Legislature made police personnel records public records open to inspection and review by the public, individually and collectively ( Public Officer's Law 84 ).

While doing so, the Legislature further modified FOIL to include specific definitions of what type of records are considered disciplinary records and added protections to prevent the release of sensitive or private information. In relevant part, Public Officers Law 86 defines the following terms;

6. "Law enforcement disciplinary records" means any record created in furtherance of a law enforcement disciplinary proceeding, including, but not limited to: (a) the complaints, allegations, and charges against an employee; (b) the name of the employee complained of or charged; (c) the transcript of any disciplinary trial or hearing, including any exhibits introduced at such trial or hearing; (d) the disposition of any disciplinary proceeding; and (e) the final written opinion or memorandum supporting the disposition and discipline imposed including the agency's complete factual findings and its analysis of the conduct and appropriate discipline of the covered employee.

7. "Law enforcement disciplinary proceeding" means the commencement of any investigation and

71 Misc.3d 563

any subsequent hearing or disciplinary action conducted by a law enforcement agency.

8. "Law enforcement agency" means a police agency or department of the state or any political subdivision thereof, including authorities or agencies maintaining police forces of individuals defined as police officers in section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law, a sheriff's department, the department of corrections and community supervision, a local department of correction, a local probation department, a fire department, or force of individuals employed

143 N.Y.S.3d 809

as firefighters or firefighter/paramedics.

9. "Technical infraction" means a minor rule violation by a person employed by a law enforcement agency as defined in this section as a police officer, peace officer, or firefighter or firefighter/paramedic, solely related to the enforcement of administrative departmental rules that (a) do not involve interactions with members of the public, (b) are not of public concern, and (c) are not otherwise connected to such person's investigative, enforcement, training, supervision, or reporting responsibilities.

Section 89 of the Public Officers Law limits disclosure of personal information such as medical or credit histories, home addresses, personal phone numbers, emails, social security numbers, the use of employee assistance programs, mental health services, substance abuse services and any technical infractions, as that term is defined above. Pursuant to Public Officers Law § 87(4-b), such...

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31 practice notes
  • People v. Pennant, 2021-21277
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • October 15, 2021
    ...see also, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, Inc. v. Brown, 69 Misc.3d 998 [Sup Ct, Erie County October 9, 2020])." People v. Cooper, 71 Misc.3d 559, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 (Co. Ct. Erie Co. 2021); See also: People v. Perez, 71 Misc.3d 1214 (A), 144 N.Y.S.3d 332 (Crim. Ct. Bronx Co. 2021) Thi......
  • People v. Salters, 2021-50800
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • August 20, 2021
    ...see also, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, Inc. v. Brown, 69 Misc.3d 998 [Sup Ct, Erie County October 9, 2020])." People v. Cooper, 71 Misc.3d 559, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 (Co. Ct. Erie Co. 2021); See also: People v. Perez, 71 Misc.3d 1214 (A), 144 N.Y.S.3d 332 (Crim. Ct. Bronx Co. 2021) Thi......
  • People v. Salters, Docket No. CR-027513-19NA
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • August 20, 2021
    ...also, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, Inc. v. Brown, 69 Misc 3d 998 [Sup Ct, Erie County October 9, 2020] )." People v. Cooper , 71 Misc 3d 559, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 (Co. Ct. Erie Co. 2021) ; See also : People v. Perez , 71 Misc 3d 1214(A), 144 N.Y.S.3d 332 (Crim. Ct. Bronx Co. 2021) Thi......
  • People v. Edwards, Docket No. CR-003469-21NY
    • United States
    • New York Criminal Court
    • October 8, 2021
    ...S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 (1972) (see People v. Cooper , 71 Misc. 3d 559, 566, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 [County Ct., Erie County 2021] ; Porter , 71 Misc. 3d at 190, 142 N.Y.S.3d 703 ; William C. Donnino, Practice Comme......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • People v. Pennant, 2021-21277
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • October 15, 2021
    ...see also, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, Inc. v. Brown, 69 Misc.3d 998 [Sup Ct, Erie County October 9, 2020])." People v. Cooper, 71 Misc.3d 559, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 (Co. Ct. Erie Co. 2021); See also: People v. Perez, 71 Misc.3d 1214 (A), 144 N.Y.S.3d 332 (Crim. Ct. Bronx Co. 2021) Thi......
  • People v. Salters, 2021-50800
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • August 20, 2021
    ...see also, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, Inc. v. Brown, 69 Misc.3d 998 [Sup Ct, Erie County October 9, 2020])." People v. Cooper, 71 Misc.3d 559, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 (Co. Ct. Erie Co. 2021); See also: People v. Perez, 71 Misc.3d 1214 (A), 144 N.Y.S.3d 332 (Crim. Ct. Bronx Co. 2021) Thi......
  • People v. Salters, Docket No. CR-027513-19NA
    • United States
    • New York District Court
    • August 20, 2021
    ...also, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, Inc. v. Brown, 69 Misc 3d 998 [Sup Ct, Erie County October 9, 2020] )." People v. Cooper , 71 Misc 3d 559, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 (Co. Ct. Erie Co. 2021) ; See also : People v. Perez , 71 Misc 3d 1214(A), 144 N.Y.S.3d 332 (Crim. Ct. Bronx Co. 2021) Thi......
  • People v. Edwards, Docket No. CR-003469-21NY
    • United States
    • New York Criminal Court
    • October 8, 2021
    ...S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 (1972) (see People v. Cooper , 71 Misc. 3d 559, 566, 143 N.Y.S.3d 805 [County Ct., Erie County 2021] ; Porter , 71 Misc. 3d at 190, 142 N.Y.S.3d 703 ; William C. Donnino, Practice Comme......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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