In New York state, citizens’ freedom is being put in jeopardy by part time, lack-luster public defenders. The right to an attorney is a basic right that should help people through the court system, however these lawyers are not giving their clients enough time or energy. Most people are showing up to their court dates without having seen their appointed public defender once. The five New York state counties that are fighting for better public defenders for the poor have finally won their argument with the state and are receiving “new funding and oversight to help the five counties upgrade the quality of legal representation” that people deserve.
They were able to win their fight owing to testimony of defendants regarding their “overworked and poorly prepared” public defenders. The new regulations for the public defenders require them to meet with their clients after being assigned to them, access to confidential rooms to meet and talk about the case, as well as better training. However continuing problems include caseloads that are too high, and a budget that does not allow for any more public defenders.
This story was not talked about in corporate media, however there were several articles posted in the mid-2000s talking about the need for reform. These articles deplored New York public defenders, however no solutions had been discussed until this article. While the problem is not completely solved, there is still progress being made thanks to the diligence of these five New York counties looking out for their citizens.
Source: Tracy Frisch, “Equal Before the Law? New York Counties Face Push to Upgrade Public Defender System,” Truthout, September 9, 2015, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32702-equal-before-the-law-new-york-counties-face-push-to-upgrade-public-defender-system.
Student Researcher: Rachel Nair (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Napoleon Reyes (Sonoma State University)