A federal judge has ruled that New York City is no longer liable in civil suits against prosecutors. Judge Jack Weinstein's decision has major implications given the case of Jabbar Collins, who is suing the Brooklyn DA's office and the NYPD for $150 million after he served 15 years in prison on a wrongful murder conviction.
The Brooklyn DA's office is also investigating a raft of cases involving allegations of wrongful convictions and prosecutorial misconduct stemming from the late '80s and early '90s, many involving former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella. Presumably the state could be sued in any subsequent civil suits arising from these cases.
“We are talking tens and tens of millions of dollars going forward, at the least," a city official told DNAinfo. Though the City pays the salaries of the prosecutors, it has no influence in how cases are tried.
In his opinion, Weinstein wrote, “Given the District Attorney’s absolute independence with respect to decisions on procedures in prosecuting criminal cases, it seems strange to hold the City responsible for prosecutorial policy choices made by the district attorney."
While the ruling spares the City from payouts due to the DA's behavior, it is still liable for the NYPD. Last month taxpayers shelled out nearly $18 million to settle the unlawful arrests during the 2004 GOP convention (not to mention the $16 million the City spent in attorneys fees fighting the cases). In 2011 the City paid out $185 million to settle suits involving the NYPD, and roughly $154 million in 2012. Lawsuits against the police department have risen 63% in the last decade.