March 13, 1997
Digest: A judge may not assume the role of notifying all police officers, in their capacity as potential prosecution witnesses, of the dates of trials in which they may be called to testify.
Rules: 22 NYCRR 100.1 and 100.2; UJCA 2019-a
A town justice has been requested to notify each complainant police officer (via computer mail message) as well as the Assistant District Attorney and the defendant of the date for trial of a vehicle and traffic offense. The Assistant District Attorney prosecutes all vehicle and traffic offenses (including traffic infractions) in the inquirer’s court.
Because the District Attorney’s office prosecutes all vehicle and traffic offenses in this court, the complainant police officer is solely a witness for the prosecution. It is the function of the prosecutor to prepare a case for trial, which includes arranging for the appearance of witnesses who would be testifying for the prosecution. By notifying potential witnesses for the prosecution, in every instance, whenever a vehicle and traffic trial date has been set, a judge would be providing an additional service to the prosecution that is not available to the defense. This additional service would tend to derogate from the independence of the judiciary and could impair public confidence in its integrity and impartiality. 22 NYCRR 100.1 and 100.2.
Town Court records are public. UJCA 2019-a. Individual police officers are free to inquire and be told when and if a trial date has been set for any case in which they may be involved. It would, however, be improper for a judge gratuitously to notify all complainant police officers, in their capacity as potential prosecution witnesses, of the dates of trials in which they may be called to testify.