The "pilot program" was announced, with much fanfare, through a press-release from the New York State Court Administration, and a combined press-conference of the Broome County Sheriff and the Chief Administrative Judge of the 6th Judicial District Molly Fitzgerald.
The problem with this "program" is - that it ENTIRELY lacks legitimacy under the current New York law.
1. Criminal procedure is bound to statutory and constitutional law, not "arrangements" by court administrations
An arraignment in a criminal proceeding is a creature of statute in New York. How arraignments are to be held is determined not by courts, but by an entirely different branch of the government - the State Legislature.
And, even though the press release of the New York State Court Administration did feebly mention some "state law" that supports the "pilot program", the "state legislation" in question is no more than a budgetary provision given to the New York State Court Administration to implement measures to satisfy a SETTLEMENT IN A LAWSUIT for violation of indigent defendants' right to counsel.
That is not the same as giving the Judiciary Branch a sudden right to legislate and change Criminal Procedure law, the statutory law of the State of New York, as to when, where and how arraignments in criminal proceedings are to be held.
Illustrative in this respect is the opinion of Judge Veronica Gordon, a Town of Union judge who is not an attorney:
Press & Sun Bulletin out of Binghamton, NY cited the opinion of this clueless judge who hailed arraignments in jail and claimed that it is ok to do arraignments for ALL municipalities within the 6th Judicial District for arrests that happened over the weekends or at night (and you bet, once you heard about the "convenience" and "cost savings", the police will make sure, more, if not all arrests, will be happening this way) - because after that arraignment the cases will be supposedly FARMED OUT (her words, not mine) to the appropriate courts where defendants should have been arraigned in the first place.
- showed an empty "courtroom" in the Broome County Jail; at the same time claiming that
- it is a new program, but that
- 14 arraignments already happened in that program.
- for the public not to see that the criminal defendant was beaten up during the arrest (happens ALL the time, especially to minority defendants); or tortured with too-tight plastic handcuffs eating into his/her wrists, or mistreated in any other way (starved, brought through frosty weather in inadequate clothes, barefoot etc.) - and cameras will not be allowed into jail to document the defendant's injuries, as it can be done outside a courtroom;
- for indigent bail bond witnesses not to be able to appear at the "centralized" location in the jail;
- for prosecutors to be able to obtain from the bought wholesale (one-for-all-defendants) assigned counsel (which may raise MAJOR conflict of interest problems, by the way):
- waiver of defendants' right for a felony hearing - or a immediate free release from jail without bail or bond;
- waiver of defendants' speedy trial rights; and
- presence of defendants' "counsel" at the time the prosecutor announces readiness for trial - which will later prevent the defendant from claiming such readiness was never properly announced (which would have happened if the defendant does not have counsel, and a one-for-all counsel is as good as have NO COUNSEL, or worse, a counsel who will surely sell you out for the personal benefit of being assigned to that "graveyard shift").
And I thought - maybe, just maybe, they WILL allow members of the public into those arraignments, conducted at the office of prosecution's witnesses - which is BAD, BAD, BAD already.
But they did not.
Not even journalists.
They only allowed - even journalists - to see only an empty room.
Without the judge, without prosecutors, without defense attorneys, without defendants - and certainly without the public.
Only an empty JAIL room, with a locking door. Positioned as a "courtroom" of an unknown jurisdiction.
So - it IS bad.