December 1, 2020
We respond to your inquiry (20-122) about a proposed new procedure for handling uniform traffic tickets in your town court. Specifically, you ask if you may (1) schedule the prosecution to come in first to review the tickets and “essentially fil[e] a written plea offer with the Court” by writing the plea offer on the ticket and signing it and then (2) on a later date, advise defendants that the ADA “has filed with the Court a written plea offer as follows.” As part of this procedure, you would also provide a disclaimer advising defendants that the court “is not acting as an agent or as a part of the District Attorney’s office or on behalf of the People,” and explain all options available to the defendant. You further ask if you may use this same approach for unrepresented defendants on cases involving violations or misdemeanor charges.
Notwithstanding the proposed disclaimers, this two-step procedure would place the court in the position of improperly serving as an intermediary for the prosecution, as it relies on the court to convey the prosecution’s plea offer to the defendant. It is therefore impermissible.
Enclosed for your review are Opinions 19-168, 19-163, 14-12, 10-196, 10-177, and 10-113.
Very truly yours,
Hon. Margaret Walsh
Justice of the Supreme Court
Hon. Lillian Wan
Acting Justice of the Supreme Court