Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lawsuit Challenging Public Defense Deficiencies Reinstated

The lawsuit against the State and five counties for the unconstitutional deficiencies in New York's public defense system just cleared a major hurdle. A majority of the Court of Appeals rejected arguments that the case should be thrown out!

The Court of Appeals was closely divided in Hurrell-Harring v the State of New York, with three judges joining Chief Judge Lippman's decision and two joining a dissent by Judge Piggott.

The decision is a major step in the journey to obtain judicial relief from the ongoing, unconstitutional public defense crisis that has been repeatedly documented and decried. And, as many, including several former Court of Appeals judges, have noted previously in op-eds and elsewhere, the suit provides an opportunity and incentive for the State to resolve that crisis now.

The Court of Appeals decision provides new momentum for reform. The Campaign congratulates the New York Civil Liberties Union, cooperating counsel Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, and the amici curiae, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers et al*; The Fund for Modern Courts; 62 former prosecutors signing the Brennan Center's brief prepared with Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP; The Legal Aid Society; the New York State Defenders Association; and the Innocence Project.

*Other organizations signing the NACDL brief included: New York State Bar Association, New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, New York County Lawyers' Association, Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University School of Law, Jacob Burns Center for Ethics in the Practice of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Criminal Justice Center at Pace University School of Law, Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality at CUNY School of Law, and 40 New York State Law Professors.

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