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Criminal Court supervising judge issues guidance on handling cases post-arraignment

April 6, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The Kings County Criminal Court feels like it finally has a handle on conducting virtual arraignments, and on Friday its supervising judge, Hon. Michael Yavinsky, issued guidance on how the court expects to move forward at this point.

“The good news is that we had calendared hundreds of matters in our virtual all-purpose part (AP-V) prior to going 100 percent virtual in arraignments,” Supervising Judge Yavinsky said. “However, since we stopped having attorneys come into the courthouse, the issue of handling matters post-arraignment has become more of a challenge.”

Areas he wants to expand on in the future include actions by consent where no defendant is required, action on consent where a defendant’s presence is required and contested actions, and guilty pleas by affidavit.

“It is essentially John Quigley and I working with an available clerk on site and court officers,” Yavinsky said. “Defense attorneys have reached out to executive or supervisory members of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and, where there is consensus between both parties, a fixed number of the KCDA’s executives and supervisors have then emailed lists of cases to John Quigley and identified the agreed upon action they would like the court to take.”

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Yavinsky said that he is encouraging defense attorneys to reach out to assistant district attorneys if they feel that they can reach an agreement on a pending case. He added, though, that the court has a very limited staff right now, so he is asking that the DA’s Office put together a daily list of consented actions to present to the court.

Judge Yavinsky said that the court would like to help in cases where a defendant’s presence is required in court, but they are interested in taking a plea that will get them out of jail or resolve a time-sensitive issue. However, he said, such cases must be filed in writing with his office and they will determine if it can be calendared. 

On guilty pleas via affidavit, Judge Yavinsky said that law requires a defendant to be present in order to plead guilty, but that the court will accept these pleas provided they are deemed essential by the court, are consented upon by both the defense and prosecution, and they conform with CPLR 340.20 and CPLR 380.40(2).

“No pleas in writing will be accepted unless, A, it is approved by the Supervising Judge’s Office…, B, it is submitted with proof that it is being submitted on notice to, and with the consent of, your adversary and, C, it explicitly states that the defendant is hereby waiving their right to be prosecuted by an information and consents to be prosecuted upon a misdemeanor complaint as permitted under (the rules).”

Judge Yavinsky said the court is also open to suggestions on how it should proceed on cases where a defendant is unavailable, but his or her presence is necessary.

“I appreciate all of your patience as we evolve our virtual courthouse one step further out,” Yavinsky said. “This is certainly going to continue to be a collaborative process going forward, so all constructive suggestions are welcome.”

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