**Information for Public Defenders on Coronavirus / COVID-19 **

In an effort to keep public defenders up to date on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the state court system, criminal and family law representation, jails and prisons, child protective services, and related matters, NYSDA has set up this informational resource.


Black Lives Matter to the New York State Defenders Association. NYSDA's statement in response to recent events and in full support of the defender and advocacy community, and action steps is available here.


NYSDA Supports Demands to End Racism, Do Justice. Advocates demanding fundamental change in law enforcement, the entire criminal legal system, and society as a whole have taken to the streets. Protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, the most recent in a devastatingly long line of Black people who have been killed or injured in police encounters, have spread worldwide. Having long worked to expose the racism inherent in the criminal and family court systems, and to ensure effective legal services to those unable to afford counsel, NYSDA supports these current movements. Our backup services are available to attorneys representing people arrested in protests. Just as we have provided information about Self-Care and Helping Others during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be making available materials to address trauma arising from civil unrest as well as from ongoing racism. We seek to affirm by our actions that Black lives matter.


Backup Center and VDP: Continuing, Modifying Services While Working Remotely. NYSDA sends best wishes to all defenders, clients, and others during the continuing COVID-19 outbreak. Working remotely, staff of the Backup Center and the Veterans Defense Program (VDP) continue to provide information and encouragement in a variety of ways. The reorganized  coronavirus webpages contain a wealth of information and are updated frequently. Editions of our e-newsletter, News Picks from NYSDA Staff, also supply updated information. The Backup Center’s legal staff is responding to attorneys' inquiries received through our  contact form, email (, or voicemail (518-465-3524), and the Public Defense Case Management System (PDCMS) specialists and VDP are also available, as noted below.

Those who contact the Backup Center regarding family defense should specifically ask that their inquiry be forwarded to Family Court Staff Attorney Kim Bode. Kim can also be reached by email at

Please direct PDCMS inquiries to (518) 465-3524, Option 3, or

NYSDA’s Veterans Defense Program (VDP) can be reached using the contact information available at the VDP program's  home page.


NYSDA Offering CLE via Webinars. With in-person continuing legal education (CLE) training events canceled or postponed for the foreseeable future, NYSDA has begun offering training via webinars, as noted at the NY Statewide Public Defense Training Calendar, above. We will provide updates about future in-person CLE programs as more information becomes available about the re-opening of the state and changes to the current restrictions on in-person gatherings. Questions about CLE programs should be directed to our Training Manager, Megan O’Toole, at


Budget News of Interest to Defenders. The state budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 passed in the midst of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. Public defense appropriations remained largely static, and the increase in funding for the Hurrell-Harring expansion was included. However, the Legislature included a large caveat , giving the Director of the Division of the Budget authority to make certain decisions during the year, including withholding of some or all appropriations to respond to direct or indirect economic effects of the pandemic. NYSDA thanks the legislators who supported public defense funding, including appropriations for the Backup Center and the Veterans Defense Program.

The budget legislation also included a number of substantive bills, including erosions of the bail and discovery reforms passed in 2019. Information about those amendments can be found on the webpages for Bail Reform Implementation and Discovery Reform Implementation . As reflected on the Training Calendar above, NYSDA has scheduled a Discovery Practice Updates Webinar for April 29 and we will be announcing a webinar on the bail reform amendments soon. Also in the budget was a bill amending the Social Services Law to increase protections for people who become the subject of child protective services investigations. A brief summary of the protections—which unfortunately do not got into effect until Jan. 1, 2022—is included in the April 8 edition of News Picks.






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