Breaking News

Longtime Leader of Public Defense Group Reflects on Struggles to Improve Defendants' Rights, NYLJ, July 13, 2017

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Finds State Sex Offender Registration Law Punitive and Thus Unconstitutional to Apply Retroactively, Sentencing Law and Policy, July 19, 2017

Bail Rules Merit Review, Albany Times Union, July 18, 2017

Defendants Can’t Be Jailed Solely Because of Inability to Post Bail, Judge Says, NY Times, July 17, 2017

Houston Police End Use of Drug Tests That Helped Produce Wrongful Convictions, Pro Public, July 14, 2017

The Whole Truth: Richard A. Leo on Why Innocent People Confess to Crimes, The Sun, July 2017

What Fire Litigators Need to Know in 2017, SciTech Lawyer, Summer 2017


O'Brien to Take the Lead at NYSDA. On April 28, 2017, the Board of Directors selected Managing Attorney Charles F. O'Brien to replace Executor Director Jonathan E. Gradess, who is retiring later this year. Charlie, who has been at NYSDA's Backup Center for over 30 years and is thoroughly acquainted with every aspect of the Association's work, will be taking the helm at a critical time for public defense in New York State. The historic Hurrell-Harring settlement is in its second year of implementation; those settlement reforms were expanded statewide in the recently-passed state budget; a host of other changes are occurring that will affect public defense; and the need for further transformations in the justice system continues. NYSDA needs a leader well-versed in New York's public defense issues, well-respected both within NYSDA and by those in the disparate entities with which the Backup Center works, and committed to client-centered representation. Charlie possesses all these essential qualifications and many others, as noted in this news release. Congratulations, Charlie!


Celebrating State Funding of Public Defense Improvements. Justice Equality groups gave a Legacy Plaque to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at an April 28 news conference in New York City for his leadership role in securing historic public defense reform. Awards were also given by the Children’ Defense Fund for passing the Raise the Age bill, which changes how justice-involved youth are dealt with. NYSDA Executive Director Jonathan E. Gradess, sent this comment: " We commend Speaker Carl E. Heastie and Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol for their leadership role in for working through the thorns to find the roses of quality and defender independence, forging an agreement that improves the quality of the public defense system while reducing the burden on local taxpayers. This transformational reform provides a foundation of justice equality in our public defense system and conforms to national standards by maintaining independent oversight by the Office of Indigent Legal Services.” NYSDA is among over 200 organizations and counties in the Justice Equality campaign, which seeks full state funding for public defense. Participants in the event included: Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, who received a NYSDA Service of Justice Award in 2016 for introducing the Justice Equality Bill that passed but was vetoed and continues to press for public defense reform; Mark Williams, President of the Chief Defenders Association of New York; Justine Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society's the Criminal Practice; and NYSDA's Organizing Coordinator, Anne Rabe. (See news release and photograph.)

NYSDA Helps Improve the Quality of Representation Provided to Parents in Family Court. NYSDA’s Backup Center offers services to lawyers representing parents or other adults in family law matters in which a right to counsel exists. Information on family law issues is included in NYSDA publications such as the REPORT and News Picks from NYSDA Staff. Training events relevant to this practice are also offered; check the training schedule for new CLE offerings as they are added. For information and assistance, contact Family Court Staff Attorney Lucy McCarthy at the Backup Center, at 518-465-3524 or




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