As public safety remains a major focus of budget negotiations, Albany County District Attorney David Soares says he was uninvited by the state legislature from testifying at a public hearing on bail reform.

Soares has been an outspoken critic of criminal justice changes championed by the legislature.

Last month, the state legislature held a rare public hearing to review the data on criminal justice reforms that lawmakers passed the last several years.

The Democrat was prepared to testify at the Jan. 30 hearing, when his organization, The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, or DAASNY, got a call from state Senate staff asking him not to come.

What You Need To Know

  • Albany County District Attorney David Soares says state Senate Democrats asked him not to speak at a hearing last month

  • The Jan. 30 hearing in Albany focused on criminal justice changes, including bail reform

  • Soares has been critical of criminal justice reforms championed by Democrats in the state legislature

“Well, we took the weekend to prepare,” Soares said in an interview. “To get our statements and remarks and proposals for the legislative fixes. And I believe at the 10th hour, because it was 10 p.m. the night before I was supposed to testify, DAASNY was contacted by representatives of the legislature and asked for anyone but Soares.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Democratic Majority in the Senate said they “invited the District Attorneys Association of New York and their President testified at our hearing.”

But the president of DAASNY backed up Soares account. In a statement, Anthony Jordan — the district attorney for Washington County — said: “The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York hopes that our legislature will include the perspective and expertise of New York State’s prosecutors in ongoing examination of laws related to the criminal justice system.”

One of the big takeaways from the hearing was that some Democrats embraced the idea of mandatory training for judges on bail and other reforms rather than tweaking the laws themselves.

“This idea, that people gathered together in 2017 and continue to spot out terrible policy after terribly policy, and determine that the way to solve this problem is to retrain judges, who’ve been sitting on the bench, and who are among our most brightest people in our criminal justice system, it is a combination of arrogance and ignorance,” Soares said.

Soares says had he been permitted to testify, he would have gladly shared his view on criminal justice changes.

“We felt this need to place virtue over pragmatism, and we engaged in these reforms, and here we are. And we have had enough time now to see exactly how this experiment is going,” Soares said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has been supportive of making further changes to bail, but so far she is being met with fierce resistance from Democrats in the legislature, making it unclear if she will get the changes she is seeking.