Trowbridge v. DiFiore

On August 9, 2018, The Bronx Defenders along with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP and Morrison & Foerster, LLP secured a settlement in Trowbridge v. DiFiore on behalf of New Yorkers who are affected by systematic delays in the processing of misdemeanor cases in the Bronx. According to the terms of the agreement, the plaintiffs will monitor the court’s progress over the next four years to address ongoing concerns and ensure continued progress.

As part of the settlement, plaintiffs will have the option to re-open the litigation if defendants fail to remedy the violations sufficiently. During this time, the New York State Unified Court System and Office of Court Administration will be required to meet with stakeholders, share data with plaintiffs, and track cases where a person demands a trial.

Trowbridge v. DiFiore, formerly Trowbridge v. Cuomo, was filed on May 10, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of thousands of New Yorkers who are affected by systematic and endemic delays in the processing of misdemeanor cases in the Bronx. The suit argued that the administrators of New York State’s Unified Court System have failed to provide the constitutionally guaranteed rights to a speedy trial and due process to people charged with misdemeanors in the Bronx.

Since we filed the lawsuit, the defendants have made significant progress to clear the backlog and reduce the number of people in the Bronx being subjected to court delay. The number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than a year dropped from 2,378 to 513 and the number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than two years dropped from 538 to 64.

Nevertheless, there are still improvements to be made. New York’s speedy trial statute requires prosecutors to be ready for trial within 90 days of arraignment for Class A misdemeanors, 60 days for Class B misdemeanors, and 30 days for non-criminal violations. The few Bronx residents who do manage to exercise their right to trial wait on average 688 days for a non-jury trial and an astonishing 897 days for a jury trial. In 2015, a year that saw over 45,000 misdemeanor arraignments, there were only 98 misdemeanor trials in the Bronx.

As of the beginning of 2016, the average wait for a jury trial in the Bronx (827 days) was 99% higher than in Manhattan (414 days), 66% higher than in Brooklyn (496 days), and 48% higher than in Queens (558 days).

While our settlement is an encouraging first step, we recognize there continues to be outstanding disparities. We hope to ultimately see parity in the systemic delays in processing misdemeanors in the Bronx.

To learn more about our settlement in the Bronx, read our press release and see our factsheet.

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