All data is current as of 2013, unless otherwise noted.
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How the right to counsel is administered and structured
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: executive
The state of New York has delegated to its counties the responsibility for providing right to counsel services at the trial level.
The Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS) is a state agency of the executive branch, overseen by a nine-member Indigent Legal Services Board. The Board is appointed by diverse authorities. The chief justice serves a chairman of the Board with the Governor appointing other members based on recommendations by: President of the Senate; the Speaker of the Assembly, the New York State Bar Association; state association of counties (2); and, the Chief Justice (judge or retired judge). The Governor also appoints one attorney and one other person of his choosing.
ILS has limited authority to assist the state’s county-based indigent defense systems to improve the quality of services provided. It does so primarily through funding assistance grants to counties.
How the right to counsel is funded
Percentage of state funding: 20%
Percentage of local funding: 80%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
State/county funding split does not include state money for juvenile representation in delinquency and family court matters, civil commitment of all kinds, and many, though not all, sex offender registration appeals.
Counties and towns bear almost all of the obligation for funding right to counsel services, so there is no consistency in the level of funding provided across the state.
The methods used to provide public counsel
There is no consistency from one county to the next in the methods used to provide right to counsel services. The level of quality delivered varies dramatically across the state, with numerous recent reports finding services in general to be substandard, if not altogether unconstitutional.
New York Constitution, art. I, § 6
New York County Law, art. 18-A, §§ 716 through 721 (county public defender), and art. 18-B, §§ 722 through 722-F (representation in family & surrogate court matters)
New York Executive Law, art. 30, §§ 832 through 833 (state indigent legal services)
New York Family Court Act, §§ 241 through 249-B (attorneys for children in family court proceedings), and §§ 261 through 262 (attorneys for adults in family court proceedings)
New York State Finance Law, § 98-B (state indigent legal services fund)
Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff, augmented by communications with the Office of Indigent Legal Services.