BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said year to year, about 25% of all misdemeanor cases in Buffalo City Court are dismissed. But in 2020, that number changed dramatically.
"Of those 6,000 cases we had last year in 2020, only 351 were dismissed. That's 0.06%," Flynn said.
Flynn said thousands of cases are backing up because courts were closed due to COVID. Combine that with a new law enacted in 2019, he said his office has become overwhelmed.
"I have to give the defense attorney every single sheet of paper every body camera video, every test result, everything within 90 days or the speedy trial clock runs out," Flynn.
When that law was enacted, Flynn said he asked the Erie County Legislature for more manpower. He got 18 more bodies. But in 2020, the county faced budget cuts.
"I lost 13 of those jobs," Flynn said.
When courts reopened in October, Flynn said it wasn't physically possible for his office to meet the 90-day deadline.
"The deadline came and went because I just physically can't do it," Flynn said.
145 misdemeanors, low level, non-violent cases in which no victim was involved, were dismissed. There's likely more to come.
"I personally selected them. I personally selected them," Flynn said.
Flynn said he's bringing in a fresh set of eyes to help deal with the backlog in Buffalo City Court.
"I made like 14 personnel changes... The two in city court, the bureau chief and the assistant bureau chief were part of the 14," Flynn said.
The goal is to re-imagine a way to deal with the backlog and 90-day deadline.
"Is there a way we can manage better assuming I don't get my bodies back?" Flynn said.
Even with that change, Flynn said there's only two ways this problem will be completely resolved.
"They need to undo discovery being tied to the speedy trial clock for misdemeanors. If they're not willing to do that, then I need more bodies," Flynn said.
Flynn said he hopes money will be added to the federal stimulus bill for local governments, so if that money comes to fruition, he can possibly get his 13 bodies back.