The Fourth Department's Assigned Counsel Program is committed to providing quality legal representation to individuals who are financially
unable to obtain their own counsel and are entitled to have counsel assigned to represent them on appeal. The right to assignment of counsel
on a particular appeal is governed by statute (see County Law § 722; Judiciary Law § 35; CPLR § 1101) and may not be authorized in a particular
case. Most assignments are made in criminal, Family Court, habeas corpus, or Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) cases, as well as certain
adoption and child custody cases from Supreme Court and Surrogate's Court.
Assignments of counsel are made in accordance with the specific assigned counsel plan adopted by the county in which the order or judgment appealed from was entered (see County Law § 722). Those plans may include representation by a Public Defender, private legal aid bureau or society, private attorneys participating in a bar association plan, or a conflict defender, or a combination thereof. Individuals cannot choose specific attorneys to represent them on appeal.
The goal of the Assigned Counsel Program is to ensure that individual parties to an appeal receive effective assistance of counsel and timely disposition of their appeals. Since 1987, the Fourth Department has established guidelines and database systems to monitor assigned appeals, which are reviewed regularly by members of the Court as well as legal and administrative staff members. In 1996, the Fourth Department implemented a training program for attorneys interested in accepting assignments to represent indigent appellants and developed sample forms for use by individuals and members of the bar.
The Assigned Counsel Program also serves as a resource for individuals and members of the bar who need assistance in taking an appeal or perfecting an assigned appeal.