Litigation Training Unit
Most training for legal staff is provided by the Office’s Litigation Training Unit, which has been certified by the Continuing Legal Education Board of the New York State Office of Court Administration as an Accredited Provider of continuing legal education in New York. This privilege and responsibility is particularly significant since both newly recruited and experienced attorneys are required to obtain specified amounts of continuing legal education credit on an ongoing basis to qualify for registration as an attorney admitted to practice in the state.
The unit provides six basic progressive training programs to newly admitted assistant district attorneys (ADAs). The first program is the Orientation Training Program which includes training in professional ethics and a range of technical skills, such as interviewing witnesses, evaluating evidence to charge defendants appropriately, proper disclosure to the defense, preparing accusatory instruments, plea negotiations, making a proper record and appropriate courtroom behavior and demeanor. Fifty-one assistant district attorneys participated in initial training in 2006. This training includes lectures, and other observations of courtroom proceedings followed by discussions with faculty.
The second program is Motion Practice (Level I). Participants in this program are drilled in case and witness preparation and learn about all stages of a trial, from jury selection to jury charge. In 2005, this training was provided to 64 assistant district attorneys who prosecute misdemeanor charges.
The third program is Suppression Hearings (Level I). This program covers basic procedure and skills of suppression hearings. In 2006, this training was provided to 43 assistant district attorneys who prosecute misdemeanor charges.
The fourth program is the Misdemeanor Trial Training Program. Participants in this program are drilled in case and witness preparation and learn about all stages of a trial, from jury selection to jury charge. In 2006, this training was provided to 46 assistant district attorneys who prosecute misdemeanor charges.
The fifth program is the Grand Jury Training Program. Upon assignment to the Intake Bureau or to a felony caseload in one of the specialized bureaus, ADAs attend lectures regarding grand jury practice. Forty-eight ADAs received grand jury training in 2006.
The sixth program is the Felony Trial Training Program. This program combines lecture, demonstration, discussion and performance workshops to help build trial preparation skills and courtroom technique and to guide participants through the difficult process of trying a felony case. Each participant utilizes an actual trial folder which infuses the exercise with an extraordinary degree of realism. In 2006, the unit provided training in felony trial advocacy to 36 assistant district attorneys assigned to felony caseloads.
Special Topics Training Programs
In addition to these initial programs, the Litigation Training Unit conducts additional continuing legal education programs. These programs are selected based on input from bureau chiefs and are designed to reflect current needs and developing trends in prosecution. These programs address general legal topics and are designed for all attorneys, both newly admitted and experienced.
Twenty programs were offered in 2006: So You’re A Lawyer, Can You Be Happy? Challenges Facing Legal Professionals; Power Up your Drug Case With Powerpoint; Is Prosecutorial Misconduct During Summations Inevitable?; Intimate Partner Sexual Assault: Prevalence, Characteristics and Effects; Terrorism Awareness – A Professional and Personal Responsibility; Consular Notification and Access / Diplomatic and Consular Immunity; From Cold Case to Conviction; Understanding Mitochondrial DNA Testing and its Utility for Criminal Casework at the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; Forensic Analysis & Reconstruction Unit: Case Studies in Crime Scene Reconstruction; Probation: Legal Overview & Conditions; eJusticeNY Training; NY Court of Appeals 2005 Criminal Law Roundup; Communicating with Children: Strategies & Tips for Interviewing & Examining Child Witnesses to Crimes; Competency, EED, The Insanity Defense and What Happens Next – A Prosecutor’s Guide; Owner Give-Up Insurance Fraud; Preparing for the Psychiatric Defense at the Earliest Stages of the Prosecution; The Application of Low Copy Number DNA Testing to Forensic Casework; Child Abuse/Sex Crimes Law Update; DWI: The New Laws of 2006; and DWI: How to do the Jury Trial.
The Co-Counsel Program
Close supervision is particularly beneficial when assistant district attorneys start trying low-level felony cases and when they "graduate" to trying homicides. Therefore, the Bronx District Attorney has developed a "second-seat" (or "co-counsel") policy that requires a "junior" assistant, one trying his or her first case (or first homicide) in any felony trial bureau, to first sit as "co-counsel" through a veteran prosecutor's trial. A veteran will then sit as co-counsel for the junior assistant trying his or her first case. If a particular junior assistant requires further second-seating, it will be provided. Some "junior" assistants are actually veterans trying their first homicide case, and the increased level of difficulty makes the assignment of a veteran homicide prosecutor as co-counsel appropriate.
New Police Officer Training
In 2005 the Bronx District Attorney’s Office began a training program for newly appointed police officers in Bronx county. The training is provided to officers after they have had four-to-six months of street experience and covers basic legal issues (e.g., citizen/police encounters and laws governing identification and statements), proper procedures when responding to domestic violence incidence, and Complaint Room policies and procedures (including how to complete supporting depositions). The training is provided by the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Court Bureau, the Deputy Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau, and the Deputy Chief in charge of Arraignments and Complaint Room. The Office receives cooperation and support from the NYPD Patrol Borough Bronx Commanding Officer and the Borough Training Officer, who provides coordination and assigns officers to attend the training.
Depending on the size of the Police Academy graduating class, there are three to four training sessions per year. In 2006 there were three sessions, each with 90 - 100 officers per class. These training sessions have resulted in marked improvement in new officers’ paperwork, particularly in completing supporting depositions and in articulation of the facts of the case to establish probable cause to justify the arrest. The officers rate the training very highly and have requested that “refresher” courses be offered every six months.
Joint Training Program with the NYPD
The BXDA/NYPD Joint Training Program is a monthly program conducted in the Litigation Training Unit of the Office of the Bronx District Attorney. The faculty is comprised of experienced attorneys and NYPD training personnel designated to teach specific topics. During each session approximately 30 uniformed members of the New York City Police Department are trained together with approximately ten assistant district attorneys and detective investigators.
The experience level of the police and attorneys vary. There are usually two patrol officers per precinct and two Bronx Task Force officers, plus officers from specialized units and a Precinct Training Sergeant. The attorneys are from various prosecution bureaus and usually have one to two-and- one-half years of experience.
The purpose of the program is to educate and promote an open discussion on criminal law and procedural issues and to keep communication open between the two law enforcement agencies. This will help both agencies serve the public and the criminal justice system.
The basic core of program topics is (1) New York Law, including search and seizure, identification evidence and statement evidence, (2) Police Perspectives (3) Complaint Room Dismissals, (4) Domestic Violence Issues, (5) DNA Collection, and (6) Case Preparation and Presentation.
The New York State District Attorneys Association's Training Committee, in conjunction with the New York State Prosecutors Training Institute (NYPTI), conducts their annual Metropolitan Regional Training Program on topics that prosecutors throughout New York State have identified as essential to the training of assistant district attorneys. Prosecutors from every county in New York State are invited to attend this program. In 2006, forty-six assistant district attorneys from this Office attended. NYPTI also sponsored: Investigating and Prosecuting Auto Theft and Insurance Fraud; Updating Megan’s Law; Prosecuting Medicaid Fraud; Financial Crimes Prosecution; and Utilizing Electronic Surveillance and Obtaining Stored Electronic Communications: Legal, Practical and Technological Concerns.
Assistant district attorneys also attend the NYPTI Summer College for District Attorneys at Syracuse University College of Law where various continuing education courses are offered. The courses offered in 2006 included: Making Crime Pay: An Introduction to Forfeiture; NYS Children’s Justice Task Force Forensic Interviewing Best Practices; Special Issues in Special Victim Prosecution; Gangs of NY; Homicide – Keys to Conviction; Prosecuting Crimes in the Cyber Age; Handling Jury Issues, Payne and Crawford on Appeal; and The 7 Habits for highly Effective Law Enforcement Professionals.
Assistant district attorneys also served as instructors in various courses conducted by NYPTI.
Other conferences attended by support and legal staff in 2006 included: NY State Police Sex Offense Seminar; National Institute on the Prosecution of Domestic Violence; How to Defend a Misnomer Warrant Arrest Case (NYC Law Dept.); Tracing Hidden Assets, Money Laundering Techniques and A Guide to Federal and State Asset Forfeiture; 12th Annual Violent Gang Information Sharing Conference (Magloclan); Properly Handling the Animal Cruelty Case (DCJS, Office of Public Safety); Elder Abuse (Fordham University); Domestic Violence Conference (APRI); Domestic Violence and Firearms: A National Summit for Community Safety (US Dept. of Justice); Shaken Baby Syndrome Conference (National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome); Working With Yahoo! In Online Child Exploitation Investigations (Yahoo, NYS Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, NYS Attorney General’s Office, NYS Police); and Economic Crime Summit (National White Collar Crime Center).
In 2006, assistant district attorneys also attended conferences hosted by the National College of District Attorneys (NCDA) and its National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina. Assistant district attorneys enrolled or served as instructors in various courses at the College.