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The Criminal Defendant Handbook

The Criminal Defendant Handbook Forward

by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye,
New York Court of Appeals.


The Handbook Acknowledgments and Dedication


Hon. Judith S. Kaye
Chief Judge
New York Court of Appeals





In 1993, the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, presided over a complex criminal case involving eighteen defendants, all of whom required interpreters. Having ordered the governments to provide defendants with Spanish translations of numerous documents so each would be better able to understand and participate in the proceedings, Judge Weinstein observed:


[ I ]t would be useful to provide for those not familiar with the American legal system a short primer in the federal criminal legal system. Such a pamphlet could indicate briefly such matters as how our criminal justice system operates and what it means to waive an indictment or plead guilty; what are the elements of a trial; and what are the roles of grand and petty juries, attorneys, judges and magistrate judges. It would not be a comprehensive statement of rights. The various Metropolitan Area bar associations could cooperate in providing such a pamphlet to be translated into some of the languages routinely used in this court.


United States v. Mosquera, et al., 816 F. Supp. 168, 177 (E.D.N.Y. 1993).


Shortly thereafter, a Joint Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the New York County Lawyers' Association was formed to respond to this call. This volume is the fruits of their labors. I suspect Judge Weinstein will forgive their focus on the State system, in which the vast majority of criminal cases are adjudicated.

The criminal justice system is complex and, for those who stand accused, often frightening. The fear and confusion are compounded for defendants with limited command of English, of whom there are large numbers in New York State. Fairness demands that everyone who enters the system understand the nature of the proceedings, and this pamphlet will contribute substantially to achieving this goal. A succinct explanation of the entire criminal process, from arrest to appeal, it does a superb job of making a complicated system clear. In producing it, the Joint Committee has performed a service of enormous value to the courts, the bar and the public.

Thanks are due to Judge Weinstein for inspiring this important effort; to all the members of the Joint Committee, whose hard work and dedication brought the project to fruition; to Barbara Jaffe, Esq., the Joint Committee Chair, who led the venture with expertise and distinction; and to Alan Rothstein, Counsel to the Executive Secretary of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York , who helped coordinate the enterprise. 

Hon. Judith S. Kaye
Chief Judge, New York Court of Appeals

^ To Top


The Joint Committee which prepared this Handbook is made up of members of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (Special Committee on Public Service and Education and the Committee on Criminal Courts) and New York County Lawyers' Association (Criminal Justice Section): Barbara Jaffe, Esq., Chair of the Joint Committee; Hon. Douglas S. Wong, Judge, New York City Criminal Court; Hon. Patricia Nunez, Judge, New York City Criminal Court; Neil Checkman, Esq.; Michael Gerber, Esq.; Edward Hamlin, Esq.; and William Knisley, Esq.

We wish to acknowledge the invaluable assistance rendered by Hon. Ann Pfau, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Management and Support; Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives; Ronald Y. Younkins, Esq., Executive Assistant to Judge Pfau; Deborah Kaplan, Principal Court Attorney to Justice Newton; Patricia Henry, Counsel to Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Administrative Judge, New York City Criminal Court; Hon. Barry A. Cozier; Alan Rothstein, General Counsel, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York; Maria L. Imperial, Executive Director, City Bar Fund; Elena Ajayi, Grants Manager, City Bar Fund; and John Macaulay, Esq., Managing Attorney, and Akira Arroyo, Program Coordinator, the Robert B. McKay Community Outreach Law Program, Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Also providing assistance and advice were Klaus Eppler, Esq., past President, New York County Lawyers' Association; Irwin Davison, Esq., former Executive Director, New York County Lawyers' Association; Hon. Ruth Pickholz and Norman L. Reimer, Esq., former Co-Chairs, Criminal Justice Section, New York County Lawyers' Association; Patrick Dugan, Esq., Chief, Rackets Bureau, New York County District Attorney's Office; Hon. Barbara S. Jones; Hon. Charles Tejada; Hon. James Yates; Robert M. Baum, Esq., former Attorney-in-Charge, The Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Division; Katherine N. Lapp, Esq., Director of Criminal Justice Services of the State of New York; Joyce B. David, Esq.; Daniel Alessandrino, Deputy Chief Clerk V; Norma Meacham, former Director of Human Resources, Office of Court Administration, State of New York; Barry Sullivan, Principal Court Analyst; Margarita Martinez, Senior Court Interpreter; and William Clark, Chief Court Attorney, New York City Criminal Court.

We would also like to recognize Carolyne Byrne and Helena Coronado, volunteers for the Robert B. McKay Community Outreach Law Program, who were responsible for translating the guide from English to Spanish.

The Chinese language version of the Handbook was made possible through a generous grant from the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, C. Virginia Fields. It was translated by John Lau and validated by Guanrong Shen.

The French version was made possible through the generous donation of time by translators Trudie Marmorek and Raynold Abellard and validators Barbara Grcevic and Gerald Lebovits.

The Korean version was generously donated by the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York, through its President, Helen Kim, and member Chanwoo Lee.

The Russian version was made possible through the generous donation of time by translator Albert Federov and validators Tatiana Perez and Erena Baybik.



The Joint Committee dedicates this handbook to Hon. Jack B. Weinstein, United States District Judge, E.D.N.Y., who inspired this project.


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New York Criminal Lawyer

Estelle Roond

has been in private pratice for over 25 years. She has fought for the rights of thousands of clients who have found themselves in situations just like yours.

Estelle Roond has achieved thousands of favorable Criminal Arrest Dispositions for her clients.

Estelle Roond is a Vice-President of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. She has held this office for over 15 years.