Chief judge Lawrence H. Cooke fourth annual state constitutional commentary symposium: wrongful convictions: understanding and addressing criminal injustice.

AuthorLippman, Jonathan


Thank you, Professor Bonventre, for that lovely introduction. It has been a delight to work with you on this symposium. I want to recognize and applaud all the great work you have done over the years to shine a scholarly spotlight on the Court of Appeals. As a recent New York Times cover article made so clear, the Court occupies a very influential place in our state, deciding legal questions that shape the law and affect the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

Dean Guernsey, I want to thank you and the members of the law review for having us all here today at this fabulous law school and for hosting the fourth annual Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke State Constitutional Symposium, which is named after one of the great chief judges in Court of Appeals history.

Chief Judge Cooke believed very strongly that the justice system should work to ensure fairness and justice for all persons regardless of their background or status. As a jurist he was an early and vigorous proponent of the state constitution as providing greater protection to the rights and liberties of New Yorkers, particularly in areas such as the right to counsel. And as a leader and overseer of the court system, he was a strong chief judge who introduced modern management principles to a tradition-bound judicial system that was facing dramatic increases and changes in its dockets. He was a champion for equal justice and treatment for women and for opening the courtroom to the press. These and many other accomplishments only begin to sum up the legacy of a chief judge who was truly ahead of his day.

I was so pleased to receive Professor Bonventre's invitation to participate in this symposium because it not only honors someone for whom I have such great admiration but also focuses on an issue of special interest to me.

At last year's Court of Appeals Law Day celebration I announced the formation of the Justice Task Force, co-chaired by my Court of Appeals colleague, Theodore Jones, Jr., and Westchester County District Attorney, Janet DiFiore. The Justice Task Force is a permanent, independent group of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, legislators, police officials, scientists, and others who are working to review documented exonerations in order to isolate the systemic factors that lead to wrongful convictions and recommend specific reforms to strengthen the accuracy and reliability of our state's criminal justice system.

There are many public and private entities focused on this problem around the country, most notably the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School, which has done extraordinary work to help overturn wrongful convictions and sensitize the public. There are also executive branch task forces and bar association committees working on this issue, including the New York State Bar Association, which issued a terrific, comprehensive report last year.

But in no other state has the judiciary itself, as an institution, established a permanent, multi-disciplinary entity to address the systemic causes of...

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