This lawsuit seeks access to the judicial opinions in NYPD trials of police misconduct allegations already substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the independent oversight agency responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct. Though the NYPD trials are open to the public, the Department refuses to disclose the written judicial opinions that decide the outcomes of those trials. The opinions show the NYPD's legal and factual basis for its ruling concerning CCRB-substantiated misconduct complaints. They include a summary of trial testimony, factual findings and legal conclusions supporting the determination of an officer's guilt and the appropriate penalty.
In August 2011, the NYCLU filed a request under the state Freedom of Information Law seeking copies of all opinions from NYPD trials of CCRB-substantiated misconduct complaints since January 2001. The NYPD denied the entire request. After the NYCLU filed an administrative appeal of the blanket denial, the NYPD agreed to release redacted copies of the trial dispositions, which show the court's finding of guilt or innocence and recommended disciplinary action. The Department still refused to turn over the judicial opinions.
The NYCLU filed the lawsuit on April 13, 2012. After the CCRB substantiates a misconduct complaint, the case is referred to the NYPD, which assumes responsibility for it. The Department can simply drop the case, negotiate a plea with the officer, or prosecute the case in its Trial Room, an adjudicatory forum within the NYPD. In the relatively few number of cases that go to the Trial Room, the NYPD's hearing process closely resembles a conventional trial. After the public hearing is concluded, the judge issues a written opinion. Commissioner Kelly reviews the opinion before making a final decision in the case.
State Supreme Court, New York County, Index No. 12-102436 (direct)