Breaking News and Updates
Indigent Defense Seeks Funding Increase to Fill Gap, NYLJ, Sept. 29, 2014
Public Defenders Throughout the State Average Nearly Double the Recommended Caseload, Legal Aid Society News, Sept. 26, 2014
Holder Backs Suit in New York Faulting Legal Service for Poor, NY Times, Sept. 25, 2014
Report Sees Wide Gap in Resources for Indigent Defense, NYLJ, Sept. 25, 2014
Defender: Prosecution Has Unfair Edge in Trials, Oneida Daily Dispatch, Sept. 18, 2014
NYCLU Report on Public Defense Provides Fuel for Trial, NYLJ, Sept. 18, 2014
NYSDA: New Initiatives, Continuing Advocacy and Assistance
This is NYSDA's forty-seventh year of working to improve the quality and scope of public defense representation across New York State. The year has seen new and reinvigorated initiatives along with a continuation of time-honored services.
The Veteran's Defense Program (VDP) came into being in April. Almost immediately, the VDP began advocating for legislation to divert from the criminal justice system individuals whose involvement in the court system may be related to their military service. This work will continue when the Legislature returns. Meanwhile, the VDP staff will be offering backup services to public defense lawyers and others to assist justice-involved veterans in criminal and family court cases.
NYSDA completed the 2014 Defender Institute Basic Trial Skills Program on June 13th. BTSP retains the client-centered approach that has brought it recognition while honing new approaches to best help lawyers going into court twenty-seven years after the Program debuted. The Association offers a range of other Continuing Legal Education programs as well.
Through its website, newsletter, and other communications media and publications, NYSDA offers a variety of information to lawyers, clients, and others. A yearly summary of actions and activities is available in our annual reports. Information about public defense issues is available on our website, drawn from a variety of sources, such as the new National Association for Public Defense.
Settle Hurrell-Harring, Create a Statewide, Independent Public Defense System
NYSDA continues to advocate for settlement of a pending lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring v State of New York et al, in a way that leads New York into creation of a statewide, fully and adequately state funded public defense system headed by an Independent Public Defense Commission.
Budget Testimony, SOJ Highlight Need for Broad Public Defense Reform
The call for public defense reform continued at a budget hearing on Feb. 5, 2014, NYSDA Executive Director Jonathan E. Gradess urged legislators "to call on the Governor to settle Hurrell-Harring in a way that will create a public defense system that brings measurable results to clients." Gradess's written testimony and live remarks are available on the Assembly website. The Association also issued a press release about the testimony.
In the 2014 State of the Judiciary address,
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman included a section on public defense, subtitled "FULFILLING THE PROMISE OF GIDEON." In it, the Chief Judge noted that variations in county funding have led to unsustainable caseloads and "a patchwork system in which the quality of legal representation in [public defense] cases can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction." He called for "adopting and funding caseload limits in all of the state's 62 counties" as an immediate step that would be a major breakthrough in solving the state's public defense crisis and would "make our state a national leader in providing this vitally important service." This followed his observation that ultimately, ensuring quality representation may require "a full state takeover of the cost and regulation."
On June 14, 2013, NYSDA received a 2013 Outstanding Achievements in Promoting Standards of Excellence in Mandated Representation Award from the New York State Bar Association Committee to Ensure Quality of Mandated Representation. As noted here, NYSDA views the much-appreciated award as recognition not just of past work but of continuing commitment to quality public defense services.
NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services
The purpose of the Office of Indigent Legal Services ("Office") is "to monitor, study and make efforts to improve the quality of services provided pursuant to article eighteen-B of the county law." Executive Law Article 30, Section 832(1). The Office does not provide legal assistance or lawyer referrals to individuals. Rather, it operates under the direction and pursuant to policies established by the Board to assist county governments and indigent legal services providers in the exercise of their responsibility under County Law Article 18-B to provide the effective assistance of counsel to those persons who are legally entitled to counsel, but cannot afford to hire an attorney. For more information about the Office, click here