Information Dismissal on Speedy Trial Grounds in New York

People v. Sibblies (22 NY3d 1174, 985 NYS2d 474, 8 NE3d 852 [2014]) dismissed an information on speedy trial grounds. There, the People filed a misdemeanor information on February 8, 2007. Fourteen days later, on February 22, they filed an off-calendar certificate of readiness (COR). On March 2, the People requested the medical records of the victim and, on March 28, at the next scheduled calendar call, announced that they were not ready for trial because they were "continuing to investigate" and were "awaiting medical records." The People filed a second COR on May 23, 2007, some 104 calendar days after the speedy trial period began to run. Both Supreme Court and the Appellate Division concluded that fewer than 90 chargeable days had elapsed; those courts excluded the 34-day period between the filing of the first COR and the March 28 declaration of unreadiness. (People v. Sibblies, 98 AD3d 458, 460, 949 NYS2d 685, 687 1st Dept 2012 since the People could have proceeded to trial without the medical records they requested post-COR, they "were plainly ready to present a prima facie case when they filed their certificate of readiness on February 22, (thus) that certificate was not illusory".) The Court of Appeals, however, unanimously reversed. All six judges who participated agreed that this 34-day period should have been charged to the People, although there was no single rationale behind the reversal. A three-Judge opinion authored by Chief Judge Lippman "would have held" that, where the People "file an off-calendar certificate of readiness and subsequently declare at the next court appearance that they are not ready," the People "must demonstrate that some exceptional fact or circumstance arose after their declaration of readiness so as to render them presently not ready for trial," using the definition of "exceptional fact or circumstance" contained in CPL 30.30 (3) (b). (22 NY3d at 1178.) But, if "the People cannot demonstrate an exceptional fact or circumstance, then the People should be considered not to have been ready when they filed the off-calendar certificate, and the time between the filing and the following appearance cannot be excluded and should be charged to them." (Id.) The Lippman opinion would have represented a major change in existing speedy trial practice. Judge Graffeo's three-Judge concurrence, by contrast, turned on "narrower" grounds, relying instead on--and merely applying--long established speedy trial principles. A prosecutor's statement of readiness is presumptively "truthful and accurate." (Id. at 1180-1181.) However, that presumption may be rebutted by proof that the readiness statement "did not accurately reflect the People's position." (Id. at 1181.) Where such proof exists, the statement of readiness is "illusory." (Id.) The Graffeo opinion noted that this standard was met in that particular case, since "the prosecutor gave no explanation for the change in circumstances between the initial statement of readiness and the subsequent admission that the People were not ready to proceed without the medical records." (Id.) Given this, the People's initial COR "did not accurately reflect the People's position" and was indeed illusory. (Id.)