Mayor-elect Eric Adams promised Wednesday that his judicial appointments overseeing criminal arraignments in the Big Apple will be far more willing to test the limits of the state’s controversial bail reform laws.
Adams made the promise during an appearance on “The View,” where he was repeatedly pressed on recent high profile cases where repeat offenders were returned to communities only to be quickly rearrested after allegedly committing yet another crime.
“I appoint criminal court judges and I’m going to be extremely clear: If you don’t understand that my city must be safe, and you can’t get caught up in the politics in this city,” Adams said on the ABC show.
“And you must make sure that those who pose an imminent threat to our city — they are not going to be placed back on my streets and back into my community,” he said.
When asked if he had the authority to do that as mayor, Adams doubled down: “That’s the power of appointing the right judges.”
As mayor, Adams has the power to appoint judges to city’s family court, small claims civil courts and misdemeanor criminal courts.
The misdemeanor criminal courts also frequently arraigns suspects in felony cases, setting bail and approving other key pre-trial motions.
Additionally, those lower court judges serve as a key feeder system for future appointees to the state-run Supreme Court, where felony cases go to trial.
Adams also pivoted on his long-standing criticisms of bail reform during his sit down on the program — arguing that after discussing the law with its chief sponsor, Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn), he now believes its highly publicized troubles stem from how judges are interpreting it.
“It’s not the bill – the judges,” Adams said.
“They’re not actually putting bail on where they could put bail on,” he continued. “You can’t have someone arrested with a gun on Monday and then out on the street on Tuesday.”
Judges and law enforcement officials have sharply criticized the 2020 law, blaming it for the spike in crime seen in New York City and other parts of the state even as shootings and other violent crime rates jumped nationally.
The measure nixed bail requirements for all non-violent crimes and results that do not result in “serious injury” — including hate crimes — and prohibited judges from remanding suspects in those cases, too.
Members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn bitterly complained that the law hamstrung cops amid a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in late 2019 and early 2020.
Advocates of the overhaul point out that many of the suspects in the cases cited by critics actually made bail and would have been released regardless of the reforms.
Recently, NYPD officials highlighted the tragic shooting of a 13-year-old school boy in The Bronx, arguing the suspected triggerman should have remained in jail as he awaited trial in a 2019 shooting.
However, records show the suspect made bail before the reforms took effect. And, under the reform, illegal weapons possession remains a crime where judges can set bail.
State lawmakers included the bail overhaul in the state’s mammoth and must-pass budget bills in 2019, ending a years-long fight that gained national prominence after the tragic death of Kalief Browder.
Browder committed suicide after spending three years on Rikers Island — including two years in solitary confinement — for allegedly stealing a backpack as a teenager, in a case that was later dismissed by The Bronx district attorney.
Advocates pointed to the case as a powerful example that local prosecutors were using bail requirements to jam poorer New Yorkers into accepting plea deals, while the wealthy could avoid the notorious Rikers Island complex and wait for their trial in the relative comfort of their homes.