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Historic Passage of Public Defense Mandate Relief Act: State Funding for All Public Defense Programs. At the end of the legislative session, the Senate and Assembly unanimously passed a bill requiring state funding of local public defense programs, with an incremental reimbursement process. NYSDA's news release lauded the long-awaited action and Executive Director Jonathan E. Gradess said: "Thanks to bipartisan support, New York has taken a step toward long-needed reform. When the Governor signs this bill, the State will move closer to fully meeting its constitutional and moral duty to ensure that effective public defense representation is provided in every court around New York State." NYSDA has long advocated for statewide funding and helped bring into being the Indigent Legal Services Office in 2010. "But this is something new," Gradess commented. "We've seen a county-led effort for this legislation from the beginning." The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the New York Association of Counties, the NYS Bar Association, and the national Sixth Amendment Center issued news releases and announcements about the bill's passage. The NYCLU and Schulte Roth & Zabel brought a lawsuit in 2007 challenging constitutional deficiencies in the State’s provision of public defense services. The settlement of that case in late 2014, Hurrell-Harring v State of New York, was a major impetus for the legislation. In testimony submitted regarding this year's state budget, NYSDA addressed the need for such legislation and other public defense improvements.

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NYSDA Board Endorses ILS Eligibility Criteria and Procedures and State Funding of Public Defense Including Compliance with All ILS standards. The Board of Directors passed two resolutions recently. One, passed on April 29, 2016, endorses the criteria and standards for determining eligibility when individuals apply for public defense representation; those standards were issued by the NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS) on April 4 after well-documented work by ILS to determine current practices, best practices, and needed reforms. The NYSDA Board found that implementation of the new eligibility standards "will improve the fairness and efficiency of eligibility determinations across the state, benefitting potential public defense clients, the judiciary, and justice[.]"

The second NYSDA Board resolution, passed on May 2, 2016, "supports the timely implementation of the State's responsibility" to fully fund county public defense programs including costs incurred by complying with ILS standards. All existing ILS standards, including the eligibility standards and the standards for trial level representation, appellate representation, and representation of parents in Family Court, can be found on the ILS website.

Justice-Involved Veterans Report: Learn about NYSDA’s Veterans Defense Program (VDP) which has assisted or trained nearly 1,000 veterans and public defenders representing veterans, by viewing the VDP Activities Report (PDF).

Save the Dates! Oct. 14-15, 2016: Families Matter Conference. Planning for the 2nd annual statewide conference for public defense attorneys providing parent representation in Family Court is well underway. As part of its Family Defense work, NYSDA is again co-sponsoring this major program to enhance the defense of people threatened with the loss of their parental right to raise their children. Make your Oct. 14 hotel reservation at this Albany Hilton event by calling 866-691-1183 with the conference code 1DEFEN. Cosponsors include the Indigent Legal Services Office and NYS Unified Court System Child Welfare Court Improvement Project.
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