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,
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