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DA Gonzalez wants Kings County Criminal Bar Association’s help with Justice 2020 initiative

January 29, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, pictured left with Kings County Criminal Bar Association (KCCBA) President Michael Cibella, left members of KCCBA out of his Justice 2020 Initiative, but came to its recent meeting with a message — he still expects members of the group he has been affiliated with for approximately 20 years to continue to raise issues with him. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced his Justice 2020 Initiative this week which put together a 63-member committee that will come up with plans to improve the criminal justice system that can be put into place by the end of the year 2020.

None of those 63 members were from the Kings County Criminal Bar Association, which Gonzalez has been a member of for more than 20 years. However, Gonzalez showed up to Thursday’s annual KCCBA meeting with a message that he still expects KCCBA members to assist him as he unveils his progressive agenda.

“Nobody from the KCCBA is on the committee and that was done purposefully,” Gonzalez explained. “I wanted ideas from people who are not normally affiliated with the office, but I want all of you to know that I expect you to continue to reach out to me with ideas or things that you see going wrong. When you see things going wrong in the courtroom, I hope you bring it my attention.”

The Justice 2020 Committee is co-chaired by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Medgar Evers College President Rudy Crew. The rest of the committee is made up of criminal justice experts, reformers, members of the police department, some of the public defender organizations and formerly incarcerated people.

Gonzalez has always had a close relationship with KCCBA and was one of the earliest prosecutors in Brooklyn to join the group. During Thursday’s meeting he was among the board of directors who was sworn in for another term.

“This organization, besides supporting me during the campaign and when I was acting DA, has supported me throughout my career,” Gonzalez said. “Many of the people in this room are friends and have even been mentors.

“I think it’s important that I continue to have relationships with many people in the criminal justice system,” he continued. “While we have an adversarial system, we should be able to come together to discuss our issues, come to resolutions on cases that are fair and just, and when we have to try a case, we both put on our caps and do our best for our clients.”

Gonzalez also explained that he plans on announcing new reforms to the open-file discovery process. This program is expected to make it easier for defense attorneys to obtain evidence from prosecutors that could help their clients.

“We’re going to be at the forefront of a lot of the issues of criminal justice reform,” Gonzalez said.


Officers Re-Elected and New Board Members Added

During the KCCBA annual meeting on Thursday, officers were re-elected and new members were added to the board of directors and officially sworn in by Justice Matthew D’Emic, administrative judge of the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Criminal Term.

The re-elected slate of officers includes Michael Cibella as president, Christopher Wright as executive vice president, Arthur Aidala, Michael Hueston, Michael A. Millett and Estell J. Roond as vice presidents, Darren Fields as treasurer, and Susan Mitchell as secretary.

Doris Bergemann, Melissa Carvajal, Jonathan Fink and Alain Massena were added to the board of directors.


CLE Presentation on Pre-Disposition Diversion

Meredith Gray and Anthony Yost, of the New York Peace Institute were joined by assistant district attorney Michael Ryan, from the Brooklyn DA’s Office, for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar titled, “Pre-Disposition Diversion: Mediation and Conflict Coaching in Criminal Court.

The NY Peace Institute helps people avoid criminal records by offering meditations and other forms of conflict resolution in lieu of going to criminal court. KCCBA President Michael Cibella explained that this program is being used by the Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defender Services, but said that he would like to see more private defense practitioners taking advantage of it.

“The criminal justice system can’t solve everyone’s problems,” Cibella said. “Think about two neighbors, they know each other, their case could come to an end, but they’re still going to be living next to each other and still have to get along.

“That’s what this program is aimed towards — avoiding conflict in the future,” Cibella continued. “We’re also trying to help people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens to avoid having some dispute rise to the level of a criminal arrest and helping them to avoid this.”

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