Well, Lippman keeps saying everywhere that we'd better close the door of our courts if we cannot bridge the justice gap - and the doors of the courts remain open, while the gap is not even close to be bridged, as Lippman acknowledges in that same State of the Judiciary 2015 address.
Now Lippman is saying "without trust there can be no justice" while public trust in all branches of the government, including the judiciary, is now at "all time low" according to the latest public opinion polls.
So, apparently, it is just some vacuum-filler words that our Chief Judge felt obligated to throw around in his State of Judiciary 2015 address about the non-existent "public trust" in the judiciary.
Jonathan Lippman indicates that the "rifts" between "some communities" and the government may be bridged by "working together" to deal with "low-level crimes", and "together" meaning between the "communities", the courts, the prosecutors and the probation departments.
Forgive my skepticism, but my experience as a defense attorney (including communication with prosecutors) prevents me from believing in this idyllic situation without seeing hard facts, reports and numbers - and none were provided in the State of the Judiciary 2015 address by Judge Lippman.
First of all, it is the prosecutor's job to prosecute crimes and not to "mend rifts with the communities". If a prosecutor does his or her job, there should be no rifts.
The same refers to probation.
In my experience though, prosecutors are aggressively overcharging crimes to exert pleas, habitually withhold exculpatory evidence and habitually bluff about availability of support for often unsupportable charges.
As to probation, long time ago a "friendly" prosecutor admitted in private that the probation is the fastest way to prison, and it is better to call probation officers "violators", because that's what they seek to do - not to rehabilitate people convicted of crimes, but to violate them and pack them off to jail/prison.
That's not the law. The law designed probation as a rehabilitative alternative to incarceration. But that's how probation now works, in a large number of cases suggesting policy and collusion between probation and prosecutors.
And prosecutors wholeheartedly support such a policy, because it makes their job to pack of people to jail so much easier.
In probation violation proceedings, unlike the original criminal proceedings, hearsay is admissible, and acts of third parties are counted against the probationer toward violation of probation (think a bottle of wine belonging to your partner in your fridge at home that your probation officer found).
Probation has been known to violate people for most ridiculous of reasons, such as - taking a freezing animal, like a kitten, from out of the cold where, let's say, for a convicted sex offender, there is a condition prohibiting having pets (on the theory that ANY sex offender, including, obviously, those who are themselves under age or in a 16-22.5 situation, where the boyfriend is slightly above the 4-year age difference that can serve as an affirmative defense to a "statutory rape" charge).
Probation officers attempt to violate people for curfew for being in an ER and unconscious and failing to report to the probation officer being in an ER within 24 hours of getting there, whether the injured person can physically do it or not.
Lippman suggested to "bridge the rift" by "alternatives" to incarceration such as "drug treatment courts".
This alternative looks this way:
- First, the criminal defendants' right to remain silent in the criminal proceedings is compromised from the very beginning of the criminal proceeding, as a matter of court policy; and
- Then, drug courts violate that already convicted individual for failure to abide by the drug treatment at a very high rate and make drug court another "fast lane to prison", without the benefit of full constitutional protections at trial.
Remember, 49% of the 9 bln dollars New York spend on incarceration each year goes to post-conviction incarceration, including probation violations.
So, between judges who pledged to be "tough on crime" and can be best described not as "neutral arbiters", but as "convictors", and prosecutors who forgot long time ago their constitutional "dual" role to be tough on crime but at the same time fair to everyone involved in the criminal justice process, including the accused, and the probation officers who should better be described as "violators" rather than rehabilitators,
With that said, maybe, my skepticism will be defeated in the future by the success story of the Brownsville Community Center announced by Lippman. Maybe we will not learn in the future that the Center is yet another business venture of the "Ol' Boy's Club" and has nothing to do with the declared purposes.
Only future will show.
Until and unless I see real results of success of such pilot "community centers" claiming that they "re-engineered" response to anything, and provide alternatives to incarceration, job training etc., I will hold my breath as to any celebrations for opening such centers.