NYSDA Veterans Defense Program: Defending Those Who Defended Us
The Veterans Defense Program provides training, support and legal assistance to engender zealous representation of veterans and service members involved in New York State criminal or family court matters. The VDP directly helps the most vulnerable of our veterans by assisting defense attorneys in providing justice to veterans with military-related mental health illnesses, such as PTSD, TBI or depression, and facilitating treatment to heal their wounds of war.
Hurrell-Harring Settlement: A Major Step on the Road to Justice
The historic settlement of Hurrell-Harring v. NY lawsuit overhauls New York’s public defense programs in five counties and lays the foundation for statewide reform of the broken public defense system. The State took responsibility for providing public defense for low-income people for the first time in over 50 years since the Supreme Court held that it is a state obligation. The NYCLU and Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP filed the class-action lawsuit against the State for public defense deficiencies in Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Suffolk, and Washington counties. The settlement plan announced in October 2014 is expected to be finalized soon.
NYSDA Executive Director Jonathan E. Gradess stated, “While it is a good beginning, the state’s job is not done until every person who cannot afford a lawyer in every county has access to a fair trial with a competent lawyer. The settlement begins to address serious problems in a quintet of counties, but there is an entire orchestra of 57 remaining counties without justice. For decades, hundreds of state policymakers and organizations, from former Chief Judge Judith Kaye to NYSDA and the New York State Bar Association, have called on the state to provide equal justice in every county with a statewide public defense system. The federal Department of Justice has weighed in as well; there should be no more delays.”
NYS Indigent Legal Services Office Ramps Up
The State’s Indigent Legal Services (ILS) Office will implement and monitor compliance with the Hurrell-Harring agreement. The first step is an infusion of money to the ILS so it can expand its services and fulfill numerous obligations on statewide standards and a step-by-step plan to improve public defense programs in the five counties. Governor Cuomo took the first step in the agreement by proposing budget increases for ILS in the Executive Budget for FY 2015-16. NYSDA is assisting the ILS Office while continuing work to improve public defense representation statewide. NYSDA is helping the remaining 57 counties to address deficiencies in their public defense systems and providing training and backup services to public defense lawyers in all the counties. See NYSDA 2014 Annual Report.
Immigrant Defense Support
NYSDA provides backup services for public defense attorneys on the intersection of immigration and criminal defense through support from the Immigrant Defense Project. NYSDA also works with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and Bar Associations at training events.