Philosophy, Law and Politics

Is the Mandatory Reporting of Convictions to Relevant Agencies Necessary for Fairness and Justice in Our Courts?

Adequate diligence and complete information are necessary for fair and sound decisions by judges, in both civil and criminal matters. Might States benefit from an enhanced requirement that criminal convictions of licensed professionals, for both  lesser and more severe offenses, be reported to the State agency governing the defendant’s profession?

A measure before the New York State Legislature, Assembly (A11057-A) and Senate (S8909-A), would amend the New York education law to require reporting to the governing  New York State Education Department the criminal convictions and determinations of professional misconduct of persons licensed by the Education Department.  The District Attorney for each county within the State of New York would be required to report each conviction of a licensee to the Professional Conduct Officer of the Education Department. The licensee is similarly bound by an obligation of self-reporting. The licensee must self-report criminal convictions to the Education Department. The licensee is also required to report determinations of professional misconduct to the Education Department, regardless of jurisdiction.

A statutory system of fair reporting and due information provides those governed, such as those licensed by the New York Education Department, with both an incentive for proper professional conduct and a deterrence of nonprofessional conduct, before any ill deed is done. Professional codes provide learning within one’s professional disciple throughout one’s career, long after one’s formal academic training. And, a system of fair reporting insures that employers and the courts make fair, adequate and just determinations.

In founding the first American newspaper,  Publick Occurrences, first  sold in Boston on September 25, 1960, Benjamin Harris stated in his prospectus:

“That something may be done toward the Curing, or at least the Charming of that Spirit of Lying, which prevails amongst us, wherefore nothing shall be entered, but what we have reason to believe is true, repairing to the best fountains for our Information. And when there appears any material mistake in anything that is collected, it shall be corrected in the next. Moreover, the Publisher of these Occurrences is willing to engage, that whereas, there are many False Reports, maliciously made, and spread among us, if any well-minded  person will be at the pains to trace any such false Report, so far as to find out and Convict the First Raiser of it, he will in this Paper (unless just Advice be given to the contrary) expose the Name of such Person, as A malicious Raiser of a false Report. It is suppos’d that none will dislike this Proposal, but such as intend to be guilty of so villainous a Crime.”

Neither the public nor the courts benefit from acting upon an absence of information. And, no one subject to a mandatory reporting requirement benefits if deprived of the rehabilitative purpose of ostensibly putative measures by inadequate information.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

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