NYSBA legislative priorities are developed by the Committees on State Legislative Policy and Federal Legislative Priorities and reviewed by NYSBA member leadership. The Executive Committee approved the plan on November 1. Here are state legislative priorities for 2020:
Integrity of New York's justice system
An independent, well-functioning judicial system that is accessible to all is a bedrock principle of our democracy. The Governor and the Legislature must appropriate adequate resources, which should be wisely and clearly administered by the courts to ensure that they fulfill their essential role.
Reorganize the state court system
The state court system of 11 different trial courts has been described as "the most archaic and bizarrely convoluted" in the nation. Each of the 11 trial courts has its own filing system and administrative staff. NYSBA supports the amendment of antiquated provisions in our state Constitution to reorganize and modernize the system. NYSBA President Hank Greenberg delivered testimony to a joint legislative hearing on this matter on Nov. 13.
Reform statutory power of attorney
NYSBA has developed an affirmative legislative proposal to:
• Simplify the current power of attorney form;
• Prevent third parties from improperly refusing to accept a consumer's valid power of attorney;
• Provide protection for third parties who follow the process for accepting a power of attorney; and,
• Authorize language in the power of attorney form that substantially conforms with the statutory language, in order to prevent the form being invalidated because of harmless errors and resulting negative impacts on consumers.
Legal representation for persons in immigration matters
New York State should establish a right to counsel for immigrants facing deportation. In the face of increased and indiscriminate immigration enforcement by the federal government and given the complexities of our current immigration system, guaranteeing access to counsel is the only way to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to justice, equal protection, and due process under the law.
Permit attorneys admitted in New York to practice in the state without a residency or office
within the state
Judiciary Law Section 470 was enacted in its current form more than a century ago, following predecessor statutes dating from the Civil War era. A central concern at the time was the difficulty in serving documents attorneys not located in New York. The current statutory prohibition serves no purpose in today's global environment. Repeal of Section 470 would not create any significant difficulties arising from the lack of an attorney's physical office within the state.
Increase the rate of compensation for attorneys who provide mandated representation
The last increase in assigned counsel rates was in 2004, when rates went to $75 per hour regarding felonies and $60 per hour for representation of a person charged with a misdemeanor or lesser offence. After 16 years, these rates should be increased to prevent further exodus of practitioners from the assigned counsel program across the state. The resulting shortage of lawyers to represent indigent defendants undermines the constitutional mandate that everyone is entitled to legal representation in the criminal justice system.
Support for the legal profession
A core mission of the New York State Bar Association is to represent the interests of the legal profession. NYSBA will work to ensure that attorneys are able to protect their clients' interests and effectively engage in the practice of law.
For more information regarding NYSBA legislative priorities, visit nysba.org/NYSBAGovRelations.