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Larry Cunningham on New York's Speedy Trial Statute

In the Media
Thursday, April 14, 2016

When Adjounment Requests Are Critical
By Larry Cunningham
New York Law Journal

In an article on April 12, ("When Adjournment Requests Are Critical"), Joel Cohen provided his usual, thoughtful analysis on an important issue in criminal practice. This particular installment of his column focuses on the ethics of seeking adjournments. In passing, however, he laments the practice of state court prosecutors declaring themselves ready for trial at arraignment, something that Cohen describes as a "bold pronouncement" that "might seem … untruthful," a "reflexive[]" statement made when "[the prosecutor] is not the least bit ready," a "bluff," and a "dirty little secret." These charges against prosecutors are unwarranted in light of the case law."Readiness" under CPL § 30.30 is a term of art. A prosecutor can state ready for trial if (1) there is a converted accusatory instrument (an information (for a misdemeanor) or an indictment (for a felony)1, (2) there is a possibility of arraigning the defendant during the requisite time period,2 (3) the People have produced a defendant in their custody, and (4) the prosecutor has otherwise removed any legal impediments to trial.3 It requires a good faith statement of actual, present readiness.

However, as the Appellate Division, First Department held in People v. Dushain, "[N]either statute nor case law requires that the People have the ability to produce their witnesses instantaneously in order for a statement of readiness to be valid."4