NYSDA Budget Testimony for Backup Center and VDP Now Online. Executive Director Susan C. Bryant testified at a joint legislative hearing on the Public Protection Budget on Feb. 12, 2020. She outlined the funding needed for the Public Defense Backup Center's work supporting quality public defense services. Her written testimony, which also includes support of other public defense funding, is here. Her oral testimony is here (at 13:16:59 to 13:29:53).Two weeks earlier, Veterans Defense Program (VDP) Deputy Director Roy. M. Diehl testified at a joint hearing on the Human Services Budget about VDP's work assisting justice-involved veterans and the budget needed for that work to continue. The written VDP testimony is here, and oral testimony here (6:02 to 6:06:40).

Executive Budget: Good News/Bad News for Public Defense and Justice. The budget released by Governor Cuomo for Fiscal Year 2021 contains much good news and raises some concerns. Funding is included for the continuing statewide expansion of the Hurrell-Harring settlement provisions, and some increase was provided for the Office of Indigent Legal Services. Flat funding for some programs affecting public defense was included, specifically Aid to Defense (which was reduced last year) and the Loan Forgiveness Program. Funding for other programs, including NYSDA, are included but at much less than the amount appropriated last year. The State has provided funding for VDP since 2015, but no amount was included for VDP by the Executive. NYSDA is making its case for funding sufficient to maintain current services and address new issues, primarily the ongoing implementation of the pretrial services reforms. NYSDA appreciates that no curtailment of those reforms was included in the Article VII bills.

A number of "Article VII" bills included in the Governor's budget affect aspects of the justice system. NYSDA is reviewing the proposals.

Working for Pretrial Justice in 2020. The opening weeks of the year have seen a push by some prosecutors and law enforcement to roll back pretrial justice reforms before the reforms' implementation could be effectively evaluated. NYSDA's Backup Center has been working simultaneously to assist public defense lawyers in navigating the new procedures and to educate elected officials and the public about these reforms. Resources for lawyers are posted here. NYSDA provides individualized assistance to lawyers who contact the Backup Center via phone, email, and our contact form. Those inquiries also provide snapshots of how implementation is playing out across the state. That information informs the Association's continued work with other public defense groups and advocates to protect the reforms and ensure their full implementation.

CLE Planning for the Year is In Full Swing. The 34th Annual Metropolitan Trainer in New York City will be held on Mar. 7, 2020. Planning for that, for this year's Basic Trial Skills Program (June 14-19 in Saratoga Springs), and a variety of other training events is well underway. Check the NY Statewide Public Defense Training Calendar for NYSDA events as well as others.

Promoting Quality Family Defense. Training attorneys to provide quality representation to parents and others involved in family litigation is a key NYSDA function. "Family Court Practical Skills Article 10s = Session II" was the first event of the year. The third session of this Practical Skills series will be held on later in February.

NYSDA Family Court Staff Attorney Kimberly Bode ( not only works to ensure high-quality, affordable training for family court defenders, she also provides back up services to them. Such services include research assistance, consultation about specific legal issues, and expert referrals.

To ensure quality improvement in parental representation, Kim also works to help identify the needs of family defenders and ways to address them. Following up on a Convening of Chief Defenders/family defense providers from around the state last October, Kim will be sending out a survey to gather additional information before preparing a report on family defense needs. This project is funded in part by a grant from the New York Bar Foundation.

For information on past NYSDA public testimony and other efforts to improve parental representation, see NYSDA's Family Defense Resources webpage.

Continuing to Improve Representation of Military Veterans. NYSDA's Veterans Defense Program (VDP) offers a variety of services to improve the quality of representation received by military personnel and veterans in New York criminal and family courts statewide. VDP offers assistance statewide. More information about VDP’s services appears in its 2018-2019 Report. Contact VDP in Batavia (VDP Director Gary Horton and staff, 585-219-4862); at the NYSDA Backup Center in Albany (VDP Deputy Director Roy M. Diehl, 518-465-3524 x 38); and at Touro Law School (VDP Staff Attorney Blair Hill and staff, 631-650-2331).

Jonathan E. Gradess Honored In Memoriam. Among those honored at the New York State Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section luncheon during the recent Annual Meeting was NYSDA's Founding Executive Director. Jonathan E. Gradess was recognized In Memoriam for Outstanding Contribution to the Bar and the Community. His widow, Diane Geary, accepted the award with a moving tribute. She is pictured with Norman P. Effman, Chair of the Committee on Awards for the Criminal Justice Section and the Wyoming County Public Defender, who presented the award.

A list of others receiving awards can be found on this page of the State Bar's website.




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1/1/2020 » 12/31/2020
For NYSDA Training Programs, see the Statewide PD Training Calendar




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