By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Nov 14 (Reuters) - The New York State Bar
Association has created a task force that will review the
state's criminal discovery statute and recommend reforms.
Seymour James, the president of the bar association, said on
Wednesday that Article 240 of the New York Criminal Procedure
Law is among the most restrictive discovery statutes in the
It sets "significant limitations on the material available
to the opposition in criminal cases," he said in a statement.
Reforms are needed to allow defense attorneys to better
assess cases and counsel defendants, James said.
The task force will be co-chaired by Acting Supreme Court
Justice Mark Dwyer and Peter Harvey of Patterson Belknap Webb &
A number of groups, including the Legal Aid Society and the
New York County Lawyers Association, have lobbied for more
liberal discovery rules, arguing that the current statute
prohibits defendants from adequately preparing for cases.
An expansive 2009 report by the Legal Aid Society found that
discovery reforms in other states, including California and New
Jersey, and some New York counties, including Brooklyn, have
resulted in speedier trials and helped avert wrongful
A bill introduced this year would repeal Article 240 and
replace it with a more liberal statute that provides for
automatic discovery. The measure defines automatic discovery as
"the disclosure to the defense by the prosecutor of relevant
information automatically and early on in the prosecutorial
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