New York Governor Should Support Independent Oversight of Indigent Defense – ABA President

By Eamon J Jawatin | Mar 07, 2017 05:02 AM EST

ABA President Linda Klein has approached New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to bolster an independent statewide indigent-defense system.

Klein highlighted the ABA's 10 Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System in a letter dated Feb. 24, which lays out benchmarks for indigent defense system. Based on the letter, she notes that the first principal of the indigent defense system should be free from political impact, and managed by a nonpartisan board as opposed to the political branches of government.

Cuomo, a Democrat, filled in as attorney general for the state from 2006 to 2010 prior of becoming the governor. He vetoed a bill in December that would have conceded state funding to destitute defense in every New York county, staged in more than several years. According to Klein, Cuomo's veto message incorporated a demand for more gubernatorial control over the nature of public defense.  

Klein stated that over the long haul, proper administration would shield New York's public defense system from political weights.

""Having been created for the purpose of ensuring independence from political pressure, the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services lends itself to proper oversight," she wrote.

Currently, indigent defense in New York is largely supported by counties - five counties were excluded since they were part of a 2014 settlement in Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York. The county level financing system has been generally reprimanded for neglecting to satisfactorily fund indigent defense. A 2006 report from the New York State Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services called it "severely dysfunctional" and unequipped for giving viable help of counsel.

 According to The New York Times, defendants in some counties are in prison for months before they seek for lawyers, and some public defenders have handle up to 700 cases at once.  

The system is also unpopular with counties, some of which routinely struggle to discover the financing for public defenders. The new bill vetoed by Cuomo passed both houses of the New York legislature unanimously.

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