Opinion: 99-157

December 9, 1999

Digest: It is not improper for a judge (1) to send a copy of the decision and order dismissing an indictment to the victims of the crimes alleged and (2) to notify crime victims of their right to speak at sentencing.

Rule:  22 NYCRR 100.2(A); 129.1-5;
           129.3(a)(1); 129.3(b).


            A County Court judge asks whether it is improper to send a copy of the court's decision and order to the alleged victims in a criminal case. In particular, the judge refers to two indictments charging rape, sodomy, sexual abuse and other related crimes, that had been dismissed because of a violation of the defendant's speedy trial rights. The judge is concerned that the victims were not adequately informed of the reason for the dismissal. The judge also asks whether it is permissible for the County Court to send a form letter to victims notifying them of their right to speak at sentencing.

            The Committee is of the opinion that it is not unethical for the judge to send the alleged victims of various crimes a copy of the decision and order dismissing an indictment. Indeed, it could readily be concluded that the sending to the victims of a crime a public document which is dispositive of a case and which explains why an indictment was dismissed, may well promote "public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." 22 NYCRR 100.2(A). We caution, however, that the transmittal must not be accompanied by any comment.

            As to notifying crime victims of the date of sentencing or of their right to speak at sentencing, we direct the judge's attention to Part 129 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator (22 NYCRR 129.1-5), entitled Fair Treatment Standards for Crime Victims, which imposes upon the court the duty of providing information to crime victims (22 NYCRR 129.3[a][1]) and consideration of the views of victims of various felonies at time of sentence. 22 NYCRR 129.3(b). Such provisions, requiring an active judicial involvement in relation to crime victims, dispose of possible ethical concerns in this regard.