Final State Budget Adopts Key Access to Justice Provisions and Criminal Justice Reform Supported by the New York City Bar

The final New York State Executive Budget enacted earlier this week makes laudable progress in the areas of access to justice and criminal justice reform and includes a number of items supported in the City Bar’s State Legislative Agenda. The adopted budget provides funding for indigent legal services, immigrant legal aid and civil legal services.  The City Bar supported the expansion of funding for indigent legal services, and while not as broad as initially proposed, the program established in the budget will ensure that New York provides fair and equal right to counsel in criminal defense cases. The budget also adopts the Judiciary’s proposed budget in full, which will provide much needed capital improvements to the court system and a boost to civil legal services funding.  We applaud this demonstration of support for our Judiciary.  It sends an important message to New Yorkers, and to the rest of the country, that New York State is committed to a fair justice system where a person’s access to meaningful and effective counsel does not depend on his or her economic status or place of residence within the State.

New York also made a much needed and welcome change to how it handles youth in the criminal justice system by raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old. This has been a priority for the City Bar for several years and was applauded by our President, John Kiernan.

Coupled together, these budget provisions will allow New York to move forward to a smarter, fairer and more effective justice system.