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New York chief judge calls for state to take over public defender services

[JURIST] A commission headed by the chief judge of New York [JURIST news archive] has recommended that a permanent state commission be established to assume control of the state's indigent legal service systems to ensure that they meet the constitutional requirements for providing adequate representation. Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye [official profile] unveiled the final report [PDF text] of the New York Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services [official website]. The commission found that no uniform standard exists in the state to determine indigency and that funding for indigent defense systems is "grossly inadequate," causing great disparities in the legal services provided by rich and poor counties. The commission also concluded that most public defenders neglect collateral issues, such as immigration, that affect many defendants. The commission recommended a state-funded independent public defender system, noting that New York funds only $51 million of the estimated $323 million spent on indigent defense by its municipalities and counties.

Twenty-eight state legislatures have mandated that the public defender systems be state-run in order to comply with the constitutional requirements of US Supreme Court indigent counsel decisions such as Gideon v. Wainwright and Douglas v. California [opinion texts]. The New York Times has more.

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