Contact: Andrew Rush
Director, Media Services & Public Affairs
arush@nysba.org
518/487-5530

July 2, 2007

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR REFORMING ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR LOW INCOME NEW YORKERS

Association's Governing Body Approves Vital Report at June House of Delegates Meeting

Cooperstown, NY - The New York State Bar Association's House of Delegates today approved a resolution urging New York State to dramatically enhance legal services for low income people in criminal matters. The approved resolution embraces a comprehensive report presented by the Association's Special Committee to Ensure Quality of Mandated Representation on this crucial issue. The committee studied the matter over the past year and conducted an in-depth examination of a report by Chief Judge Judith Kaye's Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense before issuing the report. The vote by the House of Delegates to approve the resolution means that the report is the official position of the New York State Bar Association.

The approved report acknowledges a number of failings in the current system of public defense highlighted in the Kaye Commission report, including a lack of meaningful independence from improper influences, inadequate funding resources, unmanageable caseloads, and a lack of oversight and enforcement of quality standards. It endorses the Kaye Commission findings that New York needs an indigent defense commission that is free of political influence, requires clear statewide standards, a reduction of excessive caseloads, and a new a system for statewide funding.

"The Bar Association has long advocated improving this splintered, inefficient system that has proven inadequate to best serve those who cannot afford to seek the justice for which they are entitled," State Bar Association President Kate Madigan, Binghamton (Levene Gouldin & Thompson LLP), said. "True to our tradition of fighting for those who are often left with little recourse, the Bar Association proudly takes a firm position in support of justice for all, without regard to socioeconomic status or income."

In March the special committee held a forum with more than 100 attorneys featuring a panel discussion of distinguished, experienced legal professionals and remarks from Chief Judge Kaye. The panelists, among the foremost experts in their field, agreed that a successful system would require independence as well as statewide funding and standards. 

Vincent E. Doyle III, Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo), Chairman of the Special Committee to Ensure Quality of Mandated Representation said, "The position we have taken today sends a strong message to legislators, the governor and the public that the Bar Association and New York lawyers are committed to ensure equality in the legal system. The fine attorneys throughout the state who represent the poor in criminal cases must be given the resources they need, and the respect they deserve. "

Reforming the process for indigent defense requires the approval of the State Legislature and the Governor.  The approved resolution calls upon the Association to actively promote such legislation to enact these reforms.

The 72,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation.  Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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