By Gina Martinez
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) is the new chairman of the Committee on the Justice System, which will oversee criminal and civil justice in New York City.
The committee’s jurisdiction includes that of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, of which Lancman previously was the chairman. It also includes all publicly funded criminal defense and civil legal service organizations, the five district attorneys and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
Lancman said he plans on building on the accomplishments of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services. As chairman, he tackled ICE enforcement activity in the courts, legal services available to low-wage workers, the process of mayoral judicial appointments, bail reform and the speedy-trial crisis.
“An equitable and efficient justice system is the cornerstone of civil society, and now more than ever New York City’s criminal and civil legal system deserves close scrutiny and serious reform,” the councilman said. “As chair of the Committee on the Justice System, I look forward to working with the mayor, our district attorneys, public defenders and civil legal services providers, and the Office of Court Administration to make our justice system fairer, more transparent, more efficient and more accountable.”
Lancman said there are many issues in the criminal justice system, from all who enter the system, how they’re treated from the moment charges are filed and what opportunities are available when they leave the system. Now that the committee oversees the city’s DA offices and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Lancman said, it will be able to drill down on those issues and effect change.
Lancman said the committee plans first to look closely at the prosecution of marijuana possession. He said the mayor’s office claimed prosecution has remained the same and not gone up, but the councilman pointed out one exception in Jamaica’s 105th Precinct, which he said has the most marijuana possession prosecutions in the city.
“I definitely want to know why the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the DAs are still prosecuting a very high number of marijuana possession cases,” he said. “These are not people selling; they are usually people who are stopped and are caught possessing small quantities of marijuana.
“The mayor’s office announced they would prosecute cases as violations instead of misdemeanors, and that makes a huge difference, because violations are not even a crime. There have been a lot of people who agree we spend an awful lot of resources for something that doesn’t warrant it.”
Lancman was also named to the Finance Committee, the Land Use Committee and its Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, which reviews and makes recommendations on modifications to New York City zoning regulations, changes in zoning districts, and resolutions authorizing the city to make franchise agreements.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart