Patrick Muncie, 212-966-5161
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York (NYC PBA) today called on the New York City Bar Association to immediately rescind an April 30th report related to police personnel records due to conflicts of interests that clearly run afoul of the association’s ethical guidelines.
In a letter from PBA President Patrick J. Lynch to City Bar President John S. Kiernan, the PBA demonstrates that the two authors of the report — relating to New York Civil Rights Law 50-a which protects police personnel records — currently are involved in litigation over the statute on behalf of the Legal Aid Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The report is therefore in direct conflict with the City Bar’s standards governing the issuance of reports. The City Bar’s Handbook mandates that those working on reports “take special care to safeguard the reputation of the City Bar and their committees for integrity and objectivity.”
A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.
NYC PBA President Patrick J, Lynch said:
"This tainted report is a serious black eye for the City Bar Association and its reputation for integrity and objectivity. The authors have engaged in clear ethical misconduct by failing to recuse themselves or to even note their obvious conflicts of interest. They have co-opted the City Bar into putting its stamp on a report full of mischaracterizations, omissions, and biases to support their own anti-police legal agenda, making a mockery of the organization’s standards of objectivity. The report sets a dangerous precedent that threatens to upend the city’s legal firmament. The only solution is for the City Bar to rescind this report and reprimand the authors for their unethical behavior.”
According to the PBA’s letter, “given their CRL § 50-a lawsuits, the drafters of the report are plainly not ‘objective.’ The Report was issued under the names of Civil Rights Committee Chair Philip Desgranges and Member Cynthia Conti-Cook. Ms. Conti-Cook is a senior attorney in Legal Aid’s Special Litigation Unit and has personally represented Legal Aid in numerous recent legal challenges to CRL § 50-a…Moreover, Ms. Conti-Cook is regularly quoted in media articles relating to CRL § 50-a and police personnel records. For example, in connection with a CRL § 50-a lawsuit filed earlier this year, she denigrated the 24,000 police officers that keep her and this City safe as nothing more than perpetrators of ‘abhorrent acts of abuse.’…Mr. Desgranges is a Senior Staff Attorney at the NYCLU, which is the plaintiff in a CRL § 50-a case currently pending before the New York Court of Appeals…Mr. Desgranges’ direct supervisors—Arthur Eisenberg and Chris Dunn—are representing the NYCLU in this ongoing litigation.”
The PBA letter continues by providing evidence that “the City Bar’s Handbook confirms that interested members like Ms. Conti-Cook and Mr. Desgranges have absolutely no business drafting or approving reports. Specifically, the Handbook states that: “There may be occasions when a member has such an immediate, direct interest in a particular set of issues that the perception of his or her involvement in any committee report or action involving these issues will compromise the integrity of the process…In such instances, a member must always disclose his or her activity to the committee, and as appropriate, recuse himself or herself from discussion, research, drafting and/or approval of any report or statement touching these issues.”
According to the PBA’s analysis, as stated in the letter, the report makes none of these disclosures nor does it attempt to clarify the direct conflict: “The Report does not state the employers of Ms. Conti-Cook and Mr. Desgranges. It does not state that Ms. Conti-Cook’s employer has a CRL § 50-a case currently pending before the First Department. It does not state that Mr. Desgranges’s employer currently has a CRL § 50-a case pending before the Court of Appeals. It does not state that Ms. Conti-Cook is the lawyer personally handling numerous challenges to CRL § 50-a. It does not state that Ms. Conti-Cook and Mr. Desgranges’ colleagues are the most outspoken critics of the statute.” The letter also points out that the City Bar President, John Kiernan, recused himself from simply reviewing the report due to his law firm’s involvement in a CRL 50-a matter, while the authors were left to work on the report unabated.
The letter concludes by highlighting some of the many mischaracterizations, omissions, and biases related to CRL 50-a that were included in the final report. Such action by the authors is a transparent effort to try to influence their own legal cases. “Citizens of New York City and beyond should be able to rely on the City Bar’s claim that in preparing its reports, ‘integrity’ and ‘objectivity’ are paramount. For the reasons set forth above, we believe those standards have not been met in the preparation and issuance of this Report and respectfully request that the City Bar immediately rescind the Report.”