dan quart

Dan Quart, a life-long New Yorker who grew up in Washington Heights, has represented the 73rd district in the NY State Assembly for the past ten years.  While his district is predominantly white and socioeconomically homogeneous, he became a leading voice for reforms in the criminal punishment system, including in efforts to decriminalize conduct that specifically targets BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ community.  He championed bail and discovery reform, the repeal of the gravity knife statute and served on the Committee on Correction. Consistent with his legislative record, he has made decarceration the central tenant of his campaign. Quart has represented low-income clients in Midtown Community Court and in parole revocation hearings. These experiences have shaped his worldview, resulting in a platform that centers a reduction in both prosecution and incarceration as it seeks to redefine public safety.  

Quart’s detailed knowledge of the interplay between the power of the legislature to change statutory schemes, the funding power of the city government in regards to police and prosecutions, and the broad discretionary power of the District Attorney is unique among the candidates.  As District Attorney, he would use his platform to continue to advocate for reforms, guided by his experience as a legislator and knowledge of funding streams and the politics behind them, and to redefine public safety and reverse the harms of mass incarceration. 

In our interview, Quart came prepared with statistics and plans on how he would divert cases out of criminal court and provide support and services to those in need.  During his interview, he often expanded upon the decarceral premises of our questions, citing a plan that went steps further, and he defined success as “decarceration and [by] reducing the footprint both of the office and our footprint over and above mostly [of the] Black and brown men who by the numbers are in our courtrooms.”  Quart wove an analysis of disproportionate racial impact into almost every answer and consistently demonstrated a commitment to eradicate prosecutions stemming from race-based stops. He understood the adversarial nature of the system, and raised constitutional and moral concerns about surveillance tactics and the rights of the accused.  He is deeply critical of Vance and, despite being an outsider, seems to have a detailed blueprint for how to revamp the office, redefine public safety, and reduce the harm caused by the current system. He demonstrated an understanding of the power and limits of the office and presented a viable plan to implement his decarceral goals while remaining transparent and accountable to Manhattan residents, particularly those who have been most adversely affected by Vance. 

We believe that, among the candidates, his vision for this borough and proven decarceral track record in the State Assembly, is one that would do the least amount of harm to Black and brown and low-income communities.   

 

Defunding the DA and Prosecutorial Accountability

 

Dan Quart describes the current culture of Vance’s office in one word: hubris. To take on that culture he will staff his office with personnel that share his vision. Quart is running a campaign where his positions for reform are clear; to him, depriving a person of their liberty is the most awesome power of the government, and if assistants are not following protocols and not doing their jobs, they will be terminated.  

If elected he hopes to redefine public safety and measures his success by decarceration of county jails and state correctional facilities rather than by conviction rates. A strong believer in tracking data and making it available to the public, he is committed to changing tactics if his policies are not reducing incarceration. Quart’s legislative record on bail reform, gravity knife legislation, sex work decriminalization, and surveillance demonstrates his long-standing commitment to decarceration.   

He also hopes to shrink the DA’s footprint by reducing the volume of cases and declining to prosecute cases that have no bearing on public safety. He has committed to not requesting more money from the city council. While he has not committed to a specific budget reduction, he suspects that he does not need a budget over $100 million(the current budget is $169 million) or the current staffing levels. He has been publicly critical of Vance for asking for more money to implement discovery reforms. 

While Quart has committed to a reduction in certain prosecutions, he does call for an increase in prosecutions of sex crimes, vehicular violence, cyber crimes, and white collar crimes. It must be noted that this has the potential to increase incarceration, and in regards to vehicular crimes, to criminalize accidental conduct. Quart seems to recognize this inconsistency and has said that his office would “embrace and work to expand restorative justice initiatives, such as the Center of Court Innovation’s Driver Accountability Program.”

 

Rubric Category: Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

Defunding the DA candidate positions

Combating Systemic Racism

Quart unequivocally believes that the prosecutor’s office exacerbates the existing racially disproportionate arrest practices of the NYPD. He has committed to declining to prosecute these cases in hopes of combating the racism that exists in the criminal punishment system. He cited many examples of racial disparities in policing and prosecution, including Vance’s gravity knife prosecutions. The data and stories of those prosecutions motivated Quart to lead the Assembly in removal of the gravity knife statute so abused by Vance. Quart will no doubt continue to employ statistics as he has planned, not to affirm his policies, but to continuously evaluate whether they are resulting in decarceration and ending race-based policing and prosecution.  

Quart has been critical of Vance’s use of conspiracy charges against Black and brown men in NYCHA housing. He has been an outspoken critic of the NYPD gang database, calling it nothing more than “Stop and Frisk” by a different name, and would continue to discredit and disavow it upon his election as DA. Quart is also critical of other surveillance technology including Palantir, a big data firm that works with police and Vance’s office, to surveil communities and mine social media accounts and other digital information in order to cobble together gang conspiracy charges. Quart pledged never to prosecute based on association, but only on alleged criminal conduct supported by actual evidence, and to immediately end Vance’s contract with Palantir. 

 

Rubric Category:  Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

combating racism candidate positions

 

Policing the Police

policing the police logo

 

 

Quart has never shied away from holding the NYPD accountable. He led the charge to force Vance to end his insidious practice of empowering in-house NYPD lawyers to act as prosecutors in cases of mass arrest during protests and marches.

Quart supports calls to defund the police and believes that a reduction in the NYPD’s bloated, militarized budget is appropriate and necessary. He would use his platform to create a coalition with council members to reduce the budget with more oversight and accountability. While he understands the limits and role of the DA’s office, he is confident that he can help to build support a movement that would make meaningful cuts. 

Quart believes the NYPD should not be treated as a protected class of people, and he will hold them accountable by prosecuting them for criminal conduct. While he would not have a separate specialized unit to prosecute police, his office will maintain an independent relationship with police that allows for vigorous prosecution when necessary. Quart recognizes the prevalence of “testilying” and would refuse to use untrustworthy officers as witnesses. He would also call for their termination from the force.

He would reform the Early Case Assessment Bureau (ECAB), where complaints are first written, by ensuring that officer allegations are properly vetted, by immediately demanding and reviewing body camera footage, and by video-recording officer interviews to give to defense counsel. By revamping this unit, Quart hopes to ferret out officers engaging in bad practices and precincts that are making race-based, unconstitutional stops. While he acknowledged that suppression hearings should ideally serve as a check on law enforcement, he recognizes that because so few are held, they are not a good measure for accountability. As an additional check, he would use his power to decline to prosecute and would release decline-to-prosecute data to the public.  

 

Rubric Category:  Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

policing the police candidate positions

Abolishing Cash Bail Pretrial Detention

 

Dan Quart has been at the legislative forefront of ending cash bail in New York State and has made it a centerpiece of his campaign for District Attorney.  His Day 1 action would be to end cash bail. He believes that cash bail is immoral, if not unconstitutional, and that access to wealth should not determine access to liberty. He has publicly denounced Mayor DeBlasio and the NYPD for using fear mongering to roll back bail reform. As an assembly member, he voted against the rollbacks, and as District Attorney, he would use only risk of flight and physical threat to another person as factors to consider in release determinations.  He does not agree with the use of risk assessments and “dangerousness,” understanding their fundamental racial inequities. He would expand the recent reintroduction of preliminary hearings (a COVID-19 adaptation that is always available under our laws), offering an early opportunity for someone accused and incarcerated to test the evidence against them.

 

Rubric Category:  Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

abolishing cash bail candidate positions

Ending the Criminalization of Poverty, Mental Illness, and Substance Use

Quart is committed to providing people appropriate services so that they ultimately never return to court. He would use early intervention strategies involving existing nonprofits to provide social services and then decline to prosecute the arrest charges. He believes in removing cases that are a product of poverty, mental illness, or drug use, from the criminal punishment system. He would not require a guilty plea in order for the person accused to access services. Quart would work to reduce the number of court appearances during treatment so as not to break continuity of care, and he would not seek prison sentences for relapse, new drug use, or non-compliance stemming from mental illness or substance use. While he would not commit to declining to prosecute all felonies where the accused has a mental health diagnosis, his approach is still a significant improvement from Vance’s office.

Similarly, Quart would remove cases involving drug use from the courtroom. He co-sponsored legislation to legalize marijuana, is open to further legalization efforts, and supports safe injection sites. He would decline to prosecute simple possession of drugs and cease the practice of indicting police-observed sales of small amounts of drugs, instead charging that conduct as a misdemeanor. He supports legislation to dismantle the office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP), and he will recall the 57 District Attorneys from Manhattan assigned to that office.  

 

Rubric Category:  Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

ending the criminalization of poverty candidate positions

Support for Decarceral Outcomes and Sentencing

Unlike Vance, Quart will not charge misdemeanor conduct as a felony and when appropriate will avoid felony indictment if the charge would trigger the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences. He will employ serious, early scrutiny to police allegations of assault on an officer or resisting arrest. He will decline to prosecute when a resisting arrest allegation stems from an alleged offense he has committed to never prosecute. 

Quart would allow people charged with crimes to access ATI’s without requiring a plea up front and will not have a categorical bar to ATIs based on charge alone. This would include gun possession prosecutions, as Quart seeks to expand opportunities for non-carceral outcomes. He would take adverse immigration consequences into account during all plea negotiations, and if ultimately seeking incarceration, he would recommend the minimum sentence as mandated by law. He is interested in using restorative justice models in specific situations with community buy-in, but is mindful of the need to guard against the risk of self-incrimination in the restorative justice process

He believes that the goal of prosecution and punishment should be to reacclimate people to society as early as possible. He supports legislative action to repeal the predicate sentencing statutes (including mandatory and discretionary persistent statutes, New York’s “three strikes” equivalent) and mandatory minimums. He also supports legislative action to reduce maximums on sentences as currently allowed under the sentencing scheme.  Quart does find value in designating and charging an alleged crime as a hate crime when the evidence supports doing so. He believes it is important to make clear that the government regards as especially abhorrent conduct motivated by a desire to reinforce systemic oppression. However, he would not pursue the sentencing enhancements that accompany hate crime legislation. He does not believe in life sentences and would promote a sentencing cap of 20 years, no matter the charge.

 

Rubric Category: Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

support for decarceral outcomes candidate positions

Commitment to the Presumption of Innocence

Quart acknowledges that the sheer act of coming to court can be a burden for a person accused of a crime. He wants to address this burden by evaluating cases thoroughly and expeditiously in order to reduce the time that allegations are pending against a person and the number of times they must appear before a judge. He also believes in the fundamental principle of complete and early disclosure of all evidence gathered in support of a charge.  

While he would not commit to a total ban on the use of “Molineaux” evidence (evidence of prior bad acts unrelated to the charges) when cross-examining a person accused should they choose to testify, he does have a deep understanding of why such practice may be problematic. Similarly, he did not commit to a ban on the practice of using “Sandoval” evidence–that is, cross-examining an accused person on their prior convictions should they testify on their own behalf at trial.

Quart is aware and critical of the wide disparities among Vance’s trial bureaus which yield vastly different and tragic outcomes, and would address these disparities upon taking office. He challenged Vance’s use of scientifically unreliable evidence such as bite marks and Vance’s practice of requesting reverse search warrants (judge-approved orders demanding that tech firms provide all the information on users in a certain geographic area at a certain time). He does not believe in a “trial tax” and therefore would not and would therefore not request a longer sentence after trial than he would have offered if the person had pled guilty”

 

Rubric Category:  Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

presumption of innocence candidate positions

 

Correcting Past Harms

 

Dan Quart envisions an independent, well-resourced conviction integrity unit that would not be staffed with career prosecutors and would not only review past convictions by judge or jury but also review sentences resulting from guilty pleas.  He would review convictions and sentences for offenses that his office no longer prosecutes and for alleged “gang” prosecutions.  

He has long been an advocate for early release from parole and co-sponsored the Elder Parole Act, Less is More NY, and Fair and Timely Parole Bills.  He supports clemency for people incarcerated for the oft-criticized felony murder statute, and would advocate for legislation that would repeal the statute. He would use his platform as Manhattan District Attorney to advocate for a rehaul of parole and probation, including advocating for reduced terms. 

Quart committed to not requiring waivers of appeal as a condition of a plea agreement, and he would not oppose excessive sentencing arguments on appeal. He also committed to not raising the issue of preservation to block appellate review of any issue that could reasonably have affected the fairness of the proceeding in the lower court, including prosecutorial misconduct. He would, however, continue to raise harmless error, a technical argument that enables appellate judges to affirm convictions where they find that a legal error could not have affected the jury’s determination of guilt.

 

Rubric Category:  Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office

correcting past harms candidate positions