April 23, 2009
Some relief will be coming to New York State public defenders. Hidden deep in the State’s budget is a provision to cap the amount of cases public defenders will see in any given year. The resolution is aimed at addressing the longstanding gripe public defenders have had with the legal system, particularly in New York. Recent reports suggest a public defender can see as many as 592 cases a year or 103 at the same time. Lawyers have argued that this directly impacts their ability to represent their client to the best of their ability.
There is catch: The law will only apply to attorneys defending the indigent, not all lawyers in defense cases. Legal Aid organizations are looking to eventually expand the law to be more inclusive but in the meantime, this appears to be an important victory. ““This is so important to all of us in the justice system,” said Judge Lippman, who was instrumental in ensuring the legislation’s passage. “This affects what judges do in the courtroom every day. We can’t do our jobs unless you have the two key players — the prosecution and the defense — on a level playing field.”
To read the full NY Times article, click here.