ALBANY – New York’s top court ruled Tuesday that a law creating a special prosecutor to investigate abuse of people with disabilities in state-licensed facilities is unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeals’ 5-0 is a blow to the "Justice Center" bureaucracy established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators in 2012.

The court said the law illegally takes away prosecutorial authority from county district attorneys. In doing so, the court dismissed a series of indictments brought by the Justice Center.

"We recognize that this well-intentioned legislation was aimed at protecting a particularly vulnerable class of victims. But we cannot rewrite a statute in order to save it," Judge Michael Garcia wrote for the court. "Accordingly, we hold the provisions of (the law) creating a special prosecutor with authority concurrent of the district attorneys to be unconstitutional."

Cuomo and state legislators created the Justice Center in 2012, following thousands of reports of neglect or abuse of people with disabilities in state-regulated facilities.

The center monitors people who receives care from six state agencies or licensed non-profits. It tracks and maintains a database of cases of abuse and a registry of abusive employees.

But the law establishing it also created a special prosecutor to pursue criminal cases – and this is where it ran into constitutional problems, the Court of Appeals determined.

The law said the special prosecutor could "exercise all the powers and perform all the duties" that the district attorney "would be authorized or required to exercise or perform," the judges wrote.

That’s not permitted, the court said. It agreed with lawyers seeking to dismiss the indictments who said granting such authority is an "impermissible attempt to delegate prosecutorial authority to an unelected official from the Justice Center and is therefore facially unconstitutional."

A Cuomo aide said the administration is reviewing the decision and considering further action.

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