David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
Date: March 26, 2001
|Appellate Division First Department Committee on the Representation of the Poor Calls for Restructuring of the Ways Governmentally Funded Legal Representation is Provided to the Poor in New York|
|New York - Presiding Justice Joseph P. Sullivan of the Appellate
Division First Department today released the Report filed by the Court's
Committee on the Representation of the Poor in the First Judicial Department.
Established pursuant to a June 1999 order to examine the quality of governmentally
funded legal representation of the poor, the Committee based its Report
upon an exhaustive 16-month investigation of the legal representation provided
to criminal defendants and litigants in Family Court proceedings. In its
Report to the Court the Committee unanimously concludes that New York's
system for providing counsel to the poor is "outmoded, underfunded, overburdened
and organizationally chaotic" and deprives New York's poor of the "meaningful
and effective" representation they are guaranteed under New York law and
the New York State Constitution. The Committee calls upon the New York
State Legislature, the City of New York and the Unified Court System to
restructure the system by which the poor are provided with counsel. While
joining the numerous voices that have called for an increase in the statutory
$25 and $40 an hour rates paid to the individual lawyers who accept assignments
to cases through the Assigned Counsel Plan, the Committee believes that
other steps are necessary.
Among the Committee's recommendations for restructuring are:
Commenting on the Report, Presiding Justice Sullivan said, "It has been more than 35 years since the current Plan for providing legal counsel to the poor has been examined. During that time pressures from the expansion of the right to counsel, increasing caseloads and declining numbers of lawyers available to handle the cases have converged to the detriment of the legal process itself. The Court is indebted to the Committee and especially its Chairman, Klaus Eppler, Esq., for undertaking this inquiry and for identifying the actions to be taken to improve the quality of representation in the First Department."
Mr. Eppler observed, "The lack of resources and support for lawyers providing governmentally funded legal services to the poor has devastating impact on large numbers of children and poor adults - on the thousands of children kept too long in foster care, on many victims of domestic violence, on poor parents who are facing termination of parental rights, as well as on others including those accused of crimes. There is truly a crisis in the representation of the poor."
In addition to Mr. Eppler, the members of the Committee are: Bruce Hubbard, Esq. John J. Kenney, Esq., Robert J. McGuire, Esq., Joseph J. Milano, Esq., Eve S. Plotkin, Esq., Jose Rodriguez, Esq., Fern Schair, Esq., Peter L. Zimroth, Esq. The Report is available at the Appellate Division, First Department Clerk's Office, 27 Madison Avenue, N.Y., N.Y., or through the Office of Court Administration Communications Office, 212-428-2500.