October 21, 2014: Statement from New York State Bar Association on Hurrell-Harring Settlement

New York State Bar President-elect David P. Miranda of Albany (Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti) issued the following statement on the Hurrell-Harring settlement announced today:

“Today’s settlement is welcome.  It affects criminal defendants in Ontario, Onondaga, Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington counties. 

“The State Bar Association has called for creation of a statewide, state-funded indigent defense system since 2007.” 

Background on State Bar Association Position

In 2006, the New York State Bar Association created a Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services to examine the state’s county-based indigent defense system. 
The system was established in New York in 1965 in response to Gideon. In that landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have a constitutional obligation to provide an attorney to felony defendants if defendants are not able to afford one.  

The commission concluded in 2007 that there is “a crisis in the delivery of defense services to the indigent throughout New York State and that the right to the effective assistance of counsel, guaranteed by both the federal and state constitutions, is not being provided to a large portion of those who are entitled to it.”  

The problems that existed throughout the system included excessive caseloads for defense attorneys, the inability to hire full-time attorneys, lack of adequate support staff and lack of adequate training. 

To address this alarming and on-going crisis, the commission recommended, and the State Bar supported, the restructuring of the delivery of indigent defense services. In particular, the State Bar called for creating an independent statewide, state-funded system with an independent indigent defense commission with broad powers to adopt standards, evaluate existing programs and service providers, and generally supervise the operation of New York's public defense system.  

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Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs
Lbang-jensen@nysba.org
518-487-5530