Jonathan E. Gradess 1947 - 2019 Only two years after his retirement as NYSDA’s Executive Director, a job he defined and refined during his decades-long tenure as the first person to hold the position, Jonathan E. Gradress died on Oct. 2, 2019. Jonathan’s achievements, including those noted in an abundance of awards that included NYSDA’s 2017 Service of Justice Award and those listed on NYSDA’s Accomplishments page, live on. More importantly, his legacy—of devotion to clients and justice, expressed in his advocacy for systemic change and for individual people—continues. It dwells in the hearts, memories, and actions of all those he helped and inspired.

A celebration of Jonathan’s life was held on Thursday, October 10th, at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. Remarks by several people, including Senior Staff Attorney Charlie O'Brien, were presented. An obituary is available here.

Jonathan E. Gradess

John Turi Steps into NYSDA Presidency as Ed Nowak Steps Away. Edward J. Nowak, a member of NYSDA's Board of Directors for 39 years and its President for 29 of them, received an outpouring of appreciation at the Annual Conference, where his resignation was announced. Nowak continued as President for over a decade after retiring as the Monroe County Public Defender; the Association deeply appreciates his dedication. His successor, Rensselaer County Public Defender John Turi, has been on the Board since 2015. NYSDA is grateful for his willingness to take on this role!

NYSDA Fall CLE News. NYSDA’s post-Labor Day Continuing Legal Education (CLE) training events began with “Tactics and Techniques in DWI Defense,” cosponsored with the Onondaga County (OC) Bar Association and OC Assigned Counsel Program on September 6 in Syracuse. Among other offerings was “Criminal Appeals & Post-Conviction Practice II,” presented in conjunction with the Appellate Defender Council of the NYS Indigent Legal Services Office (ILS) on September 13 in Albany. Those attending this program had the opportunity to meet NYSDA’s newest CLE team member. New Training Manager and Operations Specialist Megan (Meegan) O’Toole works with the staff attorneys responsible for criminal and family court training programs and helps to improve and streamline training planning, outreach, and other processes.

For upcoming training programs, both NYSDA's and others', see the NY Statewide Public Defense Training Calendar.

Backup Center Now has a Legal Research Librarian. Rebecca Murphy recently joined the Backup Center in Albany. She provides legal research services to NYSDA's legal staff, increasing the efficiency with which they can provide direct defender services and policy analysis. She also manages the extensive print and electronic resources in the office and helps with the website and electronic publications.

Improving the Quality and Scope of Family Defense. NYSDA works in a variety of ways to improve public defense services for parents and other litigants who have a right to counsel in family matters. Most recently, public defense programs (defender and legal aid offices and assigned counsel programs) sent representatives to a NYSDA-hosted Convening in Albany on Oct. 3, 2019, to discuss what is needed to improve their ability to provide quality representation in Family Court. Earlier, in August, NYSDA presented testimony at the last of four ILS “Public Hearings on Financial Eligibility for Assignment of Counsel in Family Matters” announced in May. Written testimony is here, and video of oral testimony by Executive Director Susan C. Bryant and Family Court Staff Attorney Kimberley Bode is here (beginning at 47:13).

VDP Improves the Representation of Those Who Served. NYSDA's Veterans Defense Program (VDP) has helped hundreds of justice-involved veterans through consultation and assistance in their cases, and trained hundreds of public defense attorneys representing veterans in New York State’s criminal and family courts. Information about VDP is set out in the separate budget testimony offered in successfully seeking continued funding for the Program. NYSDA now operates VDP offices in two locations: Batavia (585-219-4862) and Central Islip, at Touro Law School (631-650-2331). VDP's Director is Gary Horton (, and Blair Hill ( and Sandra Cassidy ( are VDP Staff Attorneys.


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For NYSDA Training Programs, see the Statewide PD Training Calendar




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