Public Disclosure of Grand Jury Evidence in New York

In People v. Cipolla (184 Misc 2d 880, 711 NYS2d 303 [Rensselaer County Ct 2000]), in ruling on an application by a newspaper publisher, the court permitted the public disclosure of certain grand jury evidence. The court did so, however, only after the grand jury targets had been tried and acquitted, and only after the grand jury evidence had been released for use by the defense in a federal civil lawsuit brought by the grand jury targets against others, including at least one public official, who allegedly created the allegedly corrupt evidence considered by the grand jury. In People v. Di Napoli, 35 AD2d 28, 31, 312 NYS2d 547 (1st Dept 1970), affd and quoted in 27 NY2d at 235-236), the court-permitted disclosure followed the conviction of those targets of the grand jury investigation who later objected to disclosure of the grand jury evidence (Di Napoli, 27 NY2d at 234-235). Moreover, in Di Napoli, the disclosure allowed by the Court was not to the public generally, but rather to the Public Service Commission, as an aid to its lawful investigation into the effects of bid-rigging (the subject of the grand jury investigation) upon the public's electricity rates (see id. at 233-235). The Court of Appeals in Di Napoli took great pains to point out that it was in no way sanctioning "any general disclosure or widespread publication of the minutes," but merely was authorizing the Public Service Commission staff to peruse the minutes to assist in its investigation and preparation for the public hearings, including for possible cross-examination of witnesses (id. at 237). Indeed, the Court of Appeals pointed out that it remained for anyone potentially prejudiced by the prospect of disclosure of particular grand jury evidence at the Public Service Commission hearing to make further court application to keep such evidence secret (id. at 238).