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Benchmarks: Journal of the New York State Unified Court System

Winter 2006

Interim Report Recommends Statewide Indigent Defense Office

The constitutional right of a poor person charged with a crime to obtain effective counsel in New York remains "high in theory, but low in fulfillment," and some form of statewide oversight of indigent defense services is needed, an interim report released in December states.

The report of the Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services, co-chaired by Burton Roberts, former Bronx Administrative Judge, and Professor William Hellerstein of Brooklyn Law School, outlines the continuing crisis in indigent defense. "There has never been a time in New York's history when the poor, as a class, have been afforded the legal representation essential to a proper defense," according to the commission. Members found no statewide standard defining "adequate" services, and many public defender offices cited a chronic lack of resources.

Commission members found that a statewide office is essential to both the independence of an indigent defense system and the ability to provide a consistently high level of representation. New York is one of only six states with no statewide responsibility or oversight in this area. The report recommends an indigent defense commission that would appoint a chief defender and regional defenders, with local offices created as needed.

The commission concluded that state funding was critical. "That will ensure that there is in place a system that meets the highest standards of legal representation and professionalism and that the right of the effective assistance of counsel for an indigent defendant does not turn on the mere happenstance of geographic location or the adequacy of local fiscal resources."

The Spangenberg Group, a nationally-recognized research and consulting company that focuses on improving indigent defense systems, did extensive field investigation for the commission. A final report is due this spring.

For the report and more information,
visit: www.nycourts.gov/ip/indigentdefense-commission/index.shtml.

Winter 2006 PDF Format
HTML Version:

State of the Judiciary Judicial Elections Report Summary Jury Trials Indigent Defense Services Multi-Hat Judge Matrimonial Commission Solo & Small Firm Practice Office of Self-Represented National Adoption Day Court Reporters Listening Conference Construction Update Historic Courthouses and Trials Did You Know? Judicial Institute Calendar UCS Katrina Fund Update Black History Month

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Web page updated: September 1, 2006 - www.NYCOURTS.gov