Justice reform advocates vow to hold Katz accountable

Borough President Melinda Katz claims victory last night in the Queens District Attorney race.  Eagle  photo by Jonathan Sperling.

Borough President Melinda Katz claims victory last night in the Queens District Attorney race. Eagle photo by Jonathan Sperling.

By Victoria Merlino

A day after Borough President Melinda Katz clinched the election for Queens District Attorney, criminal justice reform advocates said they plan to hold her accountable to her lofty justice reform commitments.

In a letter, The Legal Aid Society urged Katz to stick to her campaign promises and abolish cash bail, establish a conviction review unit, stop prosecuting low-level offenses like marijuana possession and work to ban Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from making arrests in or around courthouses. 

Legal Aid also called on Katz to implement discovery reform, stop prosecuting victims of human trafficking and reverse what Legal Aid calls a “punitive approach” to law enforcement that they say disproportionately affects black and Latinx New Yorkers. 

“The Queens District Attorney’s Office has lagged behind other boroughs in implementing progressive policies to address the racial disparities in prosecutions,” Legal Aid wrote in their letter. 

“This is an opportunity for you, as a progressive prosecutor, to redress the prosecutorial mistakes of the past that have exacerbated inequality in the borough, and to create an enduring positive impact on the lives of Queens residents,” the letter continued.

Organizers from the Queens for DA Accountability coalition, which formed in January to push justice reform measures in the Democratic primary, also said they would work to ensure Katz upholds her commitments.

“In our efforts to build a stronger Queens community, we look forward to holding DA Katz accountable to the many promises she made during the campaign including, but not limited to, eliminating prosecutions for sex work and marijuana, making data publicly available and ending the use of cash bail,” the coalition said in a starement.

Katz did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. She won the DA election after capturing nearly 75 percent of the vote and pledged to implement her reform agenda during her victory speech Tuesday.

“We know that there is a better Queens ahead of us,” Katz said. “We know that together we will end cash bail. We know that together, we will protect workers and make our worksites safe for our workers out there. We know that together, we will protect immigrant rights, and make sure that we don’t have ICE agents in a court of law and in our courtrooms, because that’s not how you get justice.”