June 13, 2017: Two Legislators and Others Honored By State Bar Committee for Ensuring Quality Mandated Legal Representation to the Poor

Monroe County Public Defender Timothy P. Donaher, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, Senator John DeFrancisco and the New York Office of Indigent Legal Services were among those honored with awards by the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Mandated Representation.

“These tireless advocates have gone above and beyond in helping the poor have a voice in their respective communities,” said Andrew Kossover of New Paltz (Kossover Law Offices), chair of the Committee on Mandated Representation. “It is a privilege to recognize the efforts of our deserving honorees.”

The awards were presented June 9 at the State Bar Center in Albany.

Denison Ray Award (three recipients):

Timothy P. Donaher
Donaher has been Monroe County Public Defender since 2008. In 2014, Donaher implemented a Counsel at First Appearance program, putting two attorneys on call 12 hours a day. By 2015, the program expanded to 24 hours a day, making Monroe County the first outside of the New York City area to provide counsel at first appearance for all indigent defendants.

Nancy Farrell and Amanda McHenry
Supervising Attorney Farrell and Assistant Supervising Attorney McHenry of the Hiscock Legal Aid Society in Syracuse represent parents in custody removal proceedings where children often end up placed into foster care. Called the “Removal Watch” project, their efforts in these cases have averted unnecessary removals with alternative plans, such as placement with a relative.

Peter Wolk
Wolk is a senior staff attorney and a member of the Special Litigation Unit for the New York County Defender Services. For the past 25 years, he has taught at Cardozo Law School’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program. This year, he was chosen to serve as a representative of the defense bar on the Office of Court Administration’s statewide task force on orders of protection.

The award is named for Denison Ray, a career legal activist who led legal services programs in New York and other states. The award recognizes attorneys who exemplify the highest level of professionalism in providing zealous representation to indigent clients in criminal proceedings.

2017 Award for Promoting Excellence in Mandated Representation (three recipients):

Thomas Klein and Antoinette Costanzo
Klein and Costanzo are both public defenders at the Legal Aid Society. During his 35-year career there, Klein served in such roles as a trial attorney, supervisor, director of litigation, co-head of the Manhattan office and senior homicide attorney. Costanzo has been a staff attorney there for 25 years. Together they train attorneys on trial skills for various public defender organizations.

New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services
Created by statute in 2001, Indigent Legal Services assists counties by distributing funds with the goal of promoting improvement in the quality of legal representation. Counties have used the funds for a variety of purposes, including hiring additional staff to reduce caseloads, improving access to incarceration alternatives and enhancing attorney training.

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy and Senator John DeFrancisco
Assemblymember Fahy of Albany and Senator DeFrancisco of Syracuse co-sponsored indigent legal services reform, known as the “Justice Equality Act.” It aimed to shift the cost of indigent legal services from counties to the state. The bill unanimously passed both houses of the Legislature, but was vetoed by the governor on the last day of 2016.

The Promoting Excellence in Mandated Representation Awards recognize individual attorneys or organizations that have demonstrated consistent adherence to the highest professional standards in providing mandated representation, engaged in innovative efforts to improve the overall quality of mandated representation or has promoted steps by the Legislature, executive branch or judiciary to ensure the provision of high-quality, mandated representation.

Photographs of award recipients are available upon request.

The 72,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Christian Nolan
Senior Writer
cnolan@nysba.org
518/487-5536