Court Rejects Special Prosecutor Provision In People With Special Needs Act

In a recent decision, the New York Court of Appeals—New York’s highest state court—threw out part of a 2012 state law relating to persons with disabilities.

The Court held that the 2012 Protection of People with Special Needs Act violated the New York State Constitution by creating a statewide special prosecutor to work on crimes against disabled individuals. The court ruled that the 2012 law was “‘an unconstitutional delegation of core prosecutorial authority away from the county district attorney [to] an unelected appointee of the governor.’” The law provided for the appointment of a special prosecutor to prosecute crimes involving abuse or neglect of the Protection of People with Special Needs Act. The Court’s decision was unanimous.

At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we don’t particularly care whether cases involving abuse or neglect of the disabled are prosecuted by a statewide special prosecutor or whether they are instead prosecuted by district attorneys. So long as the persons responsible for these despicable crimes receive justice, the identity of the prosecutor is beside the point. Now that the special prosecutor has been held unconstitutional, it is hoped that district attorneys across the state will pick up the slack and ensure that vulnerable disabled persons receive legal protection.