The Appeals and Special Litigation Division is comprised of the Appeals Bureau, the FOIL and Civil Litigation Unit, the LEOW Unit, and a recently-created Immigration Specialist position.
The Appeals Bureau is responsible for all the Office’s post-conviction litigation at both the state and federal level and serves as a legal department and research center for all Assistant District Attorneys within the Office. The bulk of the work in the Appeals Bureau involves defending trial convictions in the Appellate Division, Second Department.
The Appeals Bureau is staffed with seasoned appellate attorneys adept at identifying trial and legal issues, as well as at serving as advisers to trial counsel and acting as advocates for the Office's legal positions in the handling of its appellate cases.
Additionally, this bureau is staffed with junior assistants who are assigned on a temporary basis to hone their legal research and writing skills and to enhance their base of legal knowledge. These assistants participate in a structured training program specifically tailored to the needs of the Appeals Bureau and the handling of appellate work. Each junior assistant is also paired with a senior assistant who supervises and edits all written work. The bureau also regularly schedules moot courts to give assistants experience giving oral arguments.
A significant function of the Appeals Bureau is to respond to motions to seal convictions pursuant to section 160.59 of the Criminal Procedure Law that allows for sealing of 10-year-old, non-violent convictions under certain circumstances. The public can find information on how to make an application to seal a case on the website of the Office of Court Administration.
For more information, email Appeals@queensda.org or call 718.286.6227.
Freedom Of Information (FOIL) and Civil Litigation Unit
Within the Appeals Bureau, there is the FOIL Unit and the Civil Litigation Unit. Our FOIL Unit handles all Freedom of Information Law requests. In 2020 alone, the FOIL Unit responded to approximately 300 requests. This office regularly provides members of the public and press with thousands of pages of documents. The Civil Litigation Unit responds to inter-agency and law enforcement requests for records on specific cases, as well as subpoenas for records or testimony in civil lawsuits.
Queens DA Melinda Katz established a specialty prosecutor with the title of Immigration Specialist within her first year in office. The Immigration Specialist, who operates within the Appeals and Special Litigation Division, is charged with serving the immigrant community specifically related to criminal prosecution. A broad range of criminal convictions may trigger severe immigration consequences for noncitizen defendants, such as removal from the United States and denial of other benefits. The Immigration Specialist serves as an office-wide resource and primarily helps Assistant District Attorneys navigate through plea options and assist in framing dispositions that will prevent unwanted immigration consequences. Since the creation of the position in April 2020, the Immigration Specialist has been involved in more than 30 dispositions.
For more information, email the Office of Immigrant Affairs at OIA@queensda.org or call 718.286.6690.
Law Enforcement Officer Witness (LEOW) Unit
The LEOW Unit, within the Appeals and Special Litigation Division, is devoted to complying with the District Attorney’s obligation to disclose evidence of alleged misconduct by members of law enforcement agencies who will become prosecution witnesses. The District Attorney has a legal and ethical obligation to inform defense lawyers of any misconduct witnesses may have committed in the past that could have an impact on the credibility of the witness’s testimony.
The LEOW Unit gathers information from various sources, such as the New York City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division and the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The relevant information is disclosed in a letter and provided to the assigned prosecutor for disclosure to the defense. The LEOW Unit is supervised by experienced prosecutors who also provide legal advice and guidance to the office’s trial prosecutors in meeting their disclosure obligations and preparing such matters for litigation.
For more information, email LEOW@queensda.org.