The number of prosecutors fleeing the city’s district attorneys offices has spiraled in the wake of criminal justice reforms that have created what one ex-top prosecutor called “insanity.”
Sixty five assistant district attorneys, or about 12 percent of the staff, have resigned so far this year from Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s office, up from about 44 through the end of March. During all of 2021, 97 ADAs quit.
The situation is nearly the same in the office of Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, where 67 of some 500 prosecutors, or about 13 percent, have also called it quits as of June 17. Another three resigned on Thursday, according to a source. That is compared to 84 who left in all of 2020 and 94 last year.
In the Bronx, 59 prosecutors have walked from January through May. Reps from the Queens and Staten Island DA offices did not respond to requests for data.
When Bragg took the helm of the Manhattan office in January, at least nine lawyers quit in the first two weeks, The Post revealed.
Some were spurred to leave, sources said, by Bragg’s soft-on-crime approach which he outlined in a “Day One” memo directing ADAs to not seek prison sentences for many criminals and to downgrade some felonies to misdemeanors.
But sources said state criminal justice reforms are now playing a greater role in pushing out staffers.
New discovery requirements adopted by the state in 2019 are forcing lawyers to turn over reams of material to the defense and to do so under time constraints.
“It’s crippling. It’s crippling our lawyers,” said Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, a former veteran Manhattan ADA and trial division chief who famously prosecuted Harvey Weinstein, and won a 2016 conviction in the 1979 kidnapping and murder of Soho’s Etan Patz.
“You become a file clerk rather than a trial lawyer.”
Illuzzi-Orbon said for a case that might involve allegations of wrongdoing at a protest, bodycam video from every officer who was at the event might have to be produced.
“It’s insanity,” she said. “Most of it is completely irrelevant and not germane in any way to the issues of the case.”
She added that if cases take too long, they get tossed. “There are tons of cases getting dismissed,” she said.
Illuzzi-Orbon, who is now a fellow with the Manhattan Institute, said she left Bragg’s office in January because she knew he would want to put his own hires in place.
In March testimony to the City Council, Bragg said that because of the unprecedented evidentiary demands, “we’ve experienced record attrition, as our ADAs burned out and sought less demanding jobs for more money.”
Bronx DA Darcel Clark told the Council in March that those who left her office have “cited the responsibilities of discovery, managing the backlog of cases, and increased night and weekend shifts among their main reasons for leaving the office.”
Bragg’s office said that it expected to have at least 85 new ADAs in place by the end of September.
In Brooklyn, prosecutors are moving up the ranks to take on felony cases more quickly because of the staffing shortage, a source said.
“Of course it is going to affect the handling of cases, when you have an inexperienced lawyers trying cases,” said a source.
Melissa Klein, Larry Celona