Justice Center Decisions Called Into Question

Three Albany County court rulings handed down by different judges over the past seven months could have an effect on how abuse and neglect in special needs facilities are prosecuted across New York State. Each of these cases dismissed charges and questioned the authority of the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. The Justice Center, which is a state agency created by lawmakers in 2013, investigates and prosecutes cases involving particularly vulnerable victims, including those who are developmentally disabled or struggling with addiction. Attorney Barry Covert, who represents clients investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Center, spoke to WGRZ about these rulings and what the next steps could be in Justice Center cases. Watch the video below and access the full story on the WGRZ website.

Challenges to convictions could be made

According to WGRZ, the Justice Center has jurisdiction over state-run or state-licensed facilities. They often deal with cases that local district attorneys’ offices are not equipped to take on. The special prosecutors at the Justice Center are not elected and, WGRZ reports, this is the main reason that the Albany County judges ruled that they must work with their local district attorney or the State Attorney General’s Office. Mr. Covert told WGRZ that these rulings could prompt defense attorneys to challenge previous convictions obtained by the Justice Center’s prosecutors. “I would think those lawyers will want to look to see whether they can reopen the cases as having been brought by a prosecutor who never had the jurisdiction to bring the case,” he said, “and indicate that, because the prosecutor never had any jurisdiction over the case, that the case should be a nullity and therefore it should be dismissed.”

Mr. Covert went on to say that these defense attorneys would have a strong argument. “I would not be surprised to see courts overturn or reopen prior convictions and overturn them based on the fact that prosecutors had no jurisdiction to prosecute the case,” he explained.

About Barry N. Covert

Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.