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Date: December 14, 2023

Introduction: In a landmark decision, which has been long overdue, New York’s highest court has provided crucial clarity on the intersection of discovery obligations and the right to a speedy trial, as outlined in the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). This ruling, concerning the case of Michael Bay, offers significant insights for defendants and practitioners in New York’s criminal justice system.

Background of the Case: In 2019, New York State enacted substantial reforms in criminal discovery, mandating more comprehensive and prompt disclosure by the prosecution (People). Central to these reforms was the requirement for the prosecution to file a Certificate of Compliance (COC) confirming adherence to these new disclosure obligations.

The Case of Michael Bay: Michael Bay’s case, which originated with a charge of harassment in the second degree, put these new requirements to the test. After his arraignment, the prosecution filed a COC, asserting readiness for trial. However, the defense soon discovered that crucial discovery materials, including a police report and a 911 call recording, were not disclosed. Bay’s defense argued that the prosecution’s COC was improperly filed and that their declaration of trial readiness was illusory, violating CPL 30.30’s speedy trial requirements.

The Court’s Analysis and Decision: The Court meticulously analyzed the interplay between CPL articles 245 and 30.30, focusing on the prosecution’s due diligence in discovery. It underscored that a COC must be based on diligent and reasonable efforts to uncover all relevant materials before being filed. The Court found that in Bay’s case, the prosecution had not exercised due diligence in its discovery process before filing the COC. As a result, the Court deemed the COC and the prosecution’s statement of trial readiness as illusory.

Implications of the Ruling: This ruling highlights several key aspects:

  1. Due Diligence in Discovery: The prosecution must exercise due diligence in identifying all mandatory discovery items before filing a COC.
  2. Speedy Trial Rights: The Court reinforced the non-negotiable nature of a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, as outlined in CPL 30.30.
  3. No Requirement for Demonstrating Prejudice: The Court clarified that a defendant does not need to show prejudice to seek dismissal on speedy trial grounds when the prosecution fails to meet discovery obligations.

Conclusion: The Court’s decision in Bay’s case reaffirms the importance of the 2019 discovery reforms and their intended impact on the fairness and efficiency of criminal trials in New York. It sends a clear message about the necessity for the prosecution to fully comply with discovery obligations, ensuring that defendants’ rights to a fair and speedy trial are upheld.