- Joined Apr 24, 2008
and guess what...my name ends up in the paper
[h1]Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson fears 'chaos' as court merger kayoed[/h1]
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson plans to seek a stay that would stop a parade of cons from flooding the courts with motions to get their old cases cleared.
Thousands of misdemeanor convictions in the Bronx are in doubt after an appeals court ruled that the merger of the borough's Criminal and Supreme courts was unconstitutional.
Prosecutors immediately vowed to appeal Tuesday's decision by the Appellate Division, the state's second-highest court.
"Today's decision ... will likely lead to chaos, at least in the short term," Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said.
He planned to seek a stay that would stop a parade of cons from flooding the courts with motions to get their old cases cleared.
His office also was working to adjourn pending cases until there was a final resolution.
He called the timing of the decision bizarre since another challenge to the merger is already before the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.
Then-Chief Judge Judith Kaye merged the Bronx Criminal and Supreme courts in 2004, hoping to streamline clogged courtrooms.
Represented by Legal Aid, Edgar Correa - a Bronx man sentenced to 15 days after a second-degree harassment conviction - challenged the move.
The Appellate Division said that only the state Legislature - not Kaye - had the authority to merge the courts.
That meant the judge who sentenced Correa didn't actually have the right to do so and the conviction was thrown out.
One appellate judge, in a dissenting opinion, suggested an avalanche could follow.
Justice Rolando Acosta said his fellow justices demonstrated "unbridled judicial activism" that "effectively upends tens of thousands of misdemeanor convictions."
And that, he said, could wreak "havoc not only in Bronx County, but numerous courtrooms across the state."
Even before yesterday's ruling, the merged courthouse had its detractors, with judges arguing it would create problems rather than solve them.
Last October, the Daily News highlighted the backlog of cases afflicting the Bronx court system. The merger had led to a 42% drop in the number of felony trials in five years.
State court officials acknowledged last fall that the merger was far from perfect and pledged to assign more judges to the Bronx.
can they do this?