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Accomplishments & Awards
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NYSDA has accomplished much in its efforts to improve New York's public defense system and the quality of representation. Here are examples of the many recognitions received for the work and achievements of the Association and its staff.

  • Jay Coleman, NYSDA Client Coordinator, received the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Client Contribution Award in 2015.
  • Gary A. Horton, Director, NYSDA Veterans Defense Program received the Genesee County Bar Association Unsung Hero Award in 2014.
  • NYSDA received the 2013 Outstanding Achievements in Promoting Standards of Excellence in Mandated Representation Award from the New York State Bar Association. The award recognized NYSDA’s "innovative efforts to improve the overall quality of mandated representation" and its work to promote "steps by the legislative, executive and judiciary to ensure the provision of high quality mandated representation."
  • Susan Bryant, NYSDA Staff Attorney, received the Genesee County Public Defenders Office Kevin M. Andersen Award in 2012.
  • Darryl King, NYSDA Client Advisory Board member, received the Citizens Against Recidivism Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
  • NYSDA’s Defender Institute Basic Trial Skills Program received the endorsement of the New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities for "enhancing the competence and racial sensitivity of public defenders and hopes that it will become a model for similar programs across the state and nation," in 1991 and again in 2011.
  • Charles F. O'Brien, NYSDA Managing Attorney, received the New York State Bar Association Award for Outstanding Achievements in Promoting Standards of Excellence in Mandated Representation in 2011.
  • Joanne Macri, NYSDA Criminal Defense Immigration Project Director, received the New York State Bar Association Outstanding Contribution to Criminal Law Education Award in 2011.
  • Manny Vargas, NYSDA Immigrant Defense Project Attorney, received the American Immigration Lawyers Association Jack Wasserman Memorial Award in 2007.
  • NYSDA’s Darlene Dollard, Project Manager for the Public Defense Case Management System, received the Center for Digital Government Best of New York Leadership Award for Demonstrated Excellence in IT Operations, Support & Service in 2006.
  • Alfred O'Connor, NYSDA Staff Attorney, received the New York State Bar Association Denison Ray Award for Criminal Defender Services in 2004.
  • Jonathan Gradess, NYSDA Executive Director, received the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Gideon Award in 2002.
  • Stephanie Batcheller, NYSDA Staff Attorney, received the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Presidential Commendation in 2002.
  • Manny Vargas, NYSDA Immigrant Defense Project Director, received the New York State Bar Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Delivery of Defense Services in New York State in 2002.
  • Manny Vargas, NYSDA Immigrant Defense Project Director, received the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Presidential Commendation in 2002.
  • Manny Vargas, NYSDA Immigrant Defense Project Director, received the New York Attorney General Award for Distinguished Public Service in the Legal Profession in 2002.
  • Jonathan Gradess, NYSDA Executive Director, received the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy Distinguished Public Service Award in 1999.
  • NYSDA received the endorsement of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct in 1995, stating, "The New York State Defenders Association published an outstanding major study on the [eligibility] practice in each of New York's 62 counties vis-a-vis assigned counsel. The varying practices across the state with respect to assigned counsel require more serious attention of the type paid by the NYSDA in its 1994 report."
  • NYSDA's Defender Institute Basic Trial Skills Program is used as a model for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s national training program for public defense lawyers in 1993.
  • Jonathan Gradess, NYSDA Executive Director, receives the New York State Bar Association’s Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Delivery of Public Defense Services in 1991.
  • NYSDA received the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Improvement of Criminal Public Defense Practice in 1990.
  • NYSDA’s Defender Institute received the New York State Bar Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Criminal Law Education in 1989.
  • Jonathan Gradess, NYSDA Executive Director, received the New York State Bar Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Delivery of Defense Services in 1985.


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