NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A6202C
SPONSOR: Fahy (MS)
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the county law, the executive law and the state finance
law, in relation to indigent defense services
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
To ensure that all persons accused of crimes in New York are able to
receive effective legal representation whether or not they have the
ability to pay for a lawyer by establishing a system of direct state
funding at the requisite adequate level to eliminate the geographic
disparity in representation.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section 1: provides legislative findings and declaration.
Section 2: amends Section 722-e of the County law to require the State
to reimburse, over a seven year four year phase in period, counties and
cities in which a county is wholly located the full amount of expenses
of counsel services for indigent legal defendants.
Section 3: "Subdivision 3 of section 832 of the executive law, as added
by section 1 of part E of chapter 56 of the laws of 2010, is amended and
a new paragraph (o) is added to read as follows: (o) to adopt, promul-
gate, amend or rescind rules and regulations to carry out the provisions
of this section, including to (i) ensure the presence of counsel at the
first appearance of any eligible defendant charged with a crime, (ii)
establish caseload/workload regulations for attorneys providing mandated
representation that allow for meaningful and effective assistance of
counsel, and (iii) improve the quality of mandated representation."
Section 4: makes technical amendments to paragraph (1) and (m) of
Section 832 of the Executive Law and adds a new paragraph (n) to subdi-
vision 3 of section 832 of the Executive Law granting the office of
Indigent Legal Services the power to approve reimbursement to counties
to provide indigent legal services.
Section 5: amends subdivision 3 of section 98-b of the state finance
law, a amended by part E of chapter 56 of the laws of 2010
Section 6: effective date
The state has just recently settled a lawsuit with five counties -
Suffolk, Washington, Ontario, Onondaga, and Schuyler - in which the
settlement calls for the Office of Indigent Legal Services to be in
charge of the public defense operations in the five counties. This would
be the first time in New York that a statewide entity will be responsi-
ble for legal representation of all indigent criminal defendants. Coun-
ties statewide are currently responsible for funding indigent legal
services by federal mandate but adherence is uneven and dependent on a
particular county's ability or inability to properly fund the program.
Many counties have no system for supervising caseloads or quality, no
staffing formula to ensure an appropriate number of public defenders,
and no standard ensuring comparable compensation for defenders.
My legislation would amend the law to provide for the state to take over
full funding of the program in 2023, and relieve all counties of this
financial strain. As the Governor noted during the State of Opportunity
agenda, local governments have been struggling while the state's
finances have generally improved. Now is the time for the state to rein-
vest in its counties and relieve the counties of this unfunded mandate.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
To be determined.