2017 NYS Legislative Agenda: Support the full funding of indigent legal services

Support the full funding of indigent legal services

The right to counsel in criminal proceedings is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the New York Constitution and state law; and in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court held that states are required to provide counsel to any person charged with a crime who cannot afford a lawyer. However, New York’s County Law 18-B makes the 62 state counties responsible for providing indigent defense services, and has resulted in a patchwork of services that falls short of the constitutional mandate. The need for a unified approach to indigent defense has been shown in the findings of the 2004 Kaye Commission study on the effectiveness of indigent criminal defense services across the State and the 2014 settlement of Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York, which required that adequate criminal defense funding and quality standards be provided to five underfunded counties. The City Bar supports legislation that would require the state to reimburse every county for the full amount of its expenditures on indigent defense services and which would establish statewide standards and regulations for such representation.