NYCLU To Sue New York For “Systematic Failure” In Funding Public Defense Services For The Poor

September 17, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

The NYCLU released a report today detailing the dismal state of New York’s public defense system. The report focuses on five counties: Onondaga (Syracuse), Suffolk, Ontario, Schuyler and Washington. “In each of these counties, people too poor to afford private attorneys too often appear before judges without a lawyer by their side, or are forced to navigate the criminal justice system with a revolving cast of overworked attorneys unfamiliar with their cases,” reads the press release announcing the data.

The report’s statistics show that in Onondaga County “prosecutors received 35 times more public funds for investigation than public defense attorneys.” In other areas, public defenders take on as many as 420 felony cases a year — three times the recommended maximum number.

Next month, the NYCLU will go to court to sue the state for what they claim is a systematic failure to fund defense for the poor. The lawsuit was reinstated four years ago, after the Court of Appeals decided against those who said that these issues should be dealt with by “the Legislature or… case-by-case after convictions.”

“Our criminal justice system only works at producing the truth if both the prosecution and the defense are on equal footing. In much of New York State, the system is broken,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Corey Stoughton. “Until the state accepts responsibility for providing public defense, the deck will be stacked against poor New Yorkers who are too often denied justice and suffer the consequences.” (Photo: Wikipedia)