On February 9, 2021, the Bar Association of Erie County’s Board of Directors voted to support adoption of Buffalo’s proposed Right to Know Law, the latest in a series of police reform measures considered by its Board of Directors at the request of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (“MBAWNY”) Criminal Justice Reform Task Force. The proposed Right to Know Law, an initiative to amend the Buffalo City Code and Charter, provides the public with notice of the reasons behind encounters with the Buffalo Police Department and is designed to increase transparency in police practices. Other reform measures recently supported by the Association include the following:
- Adoption of a new legal standard resulting from a police officer’s failure to maintain and activate a body camera.
- Administrative review and redesign of the Buffalo Police Department arrest and charging process.
- Enhancement of civilian review powers over the Buffalo Police Department.
- The holding of police disciplinary hearings in public with appropriate procedural safeguards.
- Support for Cariol’s Law, which addresses the duty of an officer to intervene in circumstances of another officer’s misconduct..
- Support of Mayor Brown’s Executive Order 2020-001, ending car searches based on smell/possession of marijuana.
The Bar Association also named three attorneys to the MBAWNY’s Criminal Justice Task Force: Jennifer Leonardi, Partner, Barclay Damon; Anna Marie Richmond, Principal, Law Offices of Anna Marie Richmond; and Robert Brucato, Senior Appellate Counsel, Counsel Press.
“We applaud the work and leadership of the MBAWNY and look forward to a continued dialogue with the MBAWNY to help advance justice and much needed reform in the law,” said BAEC President Oliver C. Young.
President Young further stated that “in keeping with the sensibility that swept the nation last summer, the death of George Floyd truly galvanized many of our lawyers to address criminal justice reform with unprecedented urgency.” That sentiment resulted not only in the Board’s commitment to assessing reform measures but also to significant bolstering of education and awareness in the legal community of social justice issues.
According to BAEC Vice President Hugh M. Russ III, the commitment to educating lawyers and the public will be ongoing. Russ stated, “As attorneys and members of this Association, we have a unique duty to raise awareness and to facilitate needed change. The BAEC’s mission calls us to do this work, and I am confident we can help make a difference in this community.”
With more than 3,000 members, the BAEC is a not-for-profit professional association founded in 1887 to advance the administration of justice through programs and services for the legal profession and the public. The Association’s members practice in many different areas of law in the private and public and nonprofit sectors serving clients with various and diverse legal needs.