NYS Defenders Association Leadership to Change Hands

Charles F. O'Brien to Replace Retiring Executive Director Jonathan E. Gradess

ALBANY, NY (05/01/2017) (readMedia)-- The New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) Board of Directors has selected NYSDA Managing Attorney Charles F. O'Brien to replace Jonathan E. Gradess upon his retirement later this year. Gradess has been Executive Director of the Association since 1978.

"This change in leadership comes at a critical time for public defense in New York State and for NYSDA," said Board President Edward J. Nowak. "We need someone who has been involved in on-going reform efforts that are now coming to fruition, someone who is known and deeply respected by those of us within NYSDA and also by individuals and entities that NYSDA works closely with. Charlie meets these criteria and many more."

Gradess also praised the choice of O'Brien to succeed him. "I cannot think of another person who has been a greater help to me for all these years than Charlie O'Brien. His own quiet competent manner will assure NYSDA's client-centered approach well into the future and I congratulate our Board for a terrific choice and the naming of a number one mensch to replace me."

William Leahy, Director of the NYS Indigent Legal Services Office (ILS), which is the implementing authority for the historic Hurrell-Harring settlement reached two years ago, has worked with O'Brien and applauded his selection. "Charlie's tremendous knowledge and commitment are a major component of what NYSDA brings to our joint efforts," Leahy said. "The expertise NYSDA has developed over decades concerning public defense in New York State is vitally important to the continuing improvement of public defense in New York State, and Charlie embodies that."

The Hurrell-Harring settlement reforms were expanded statewide in the recently-passed state budget. That, along with a host of other changes occurring in the justice system, makes NYSDA's services to public defense providers, counties, and other government officials, more important than ever. "Charlie deals with a lot of 'nuts and bolts' issues that help defenders do their job," said Jay Coleman, NYSDA's Client Coordinator and Chair of NYSDA's Client Advisory Board. "And at the same time he is committed to client-centered representation. I feel that NYSDA continues to be in good hands."

O'Brien himself focused on the work of the Association, which was formed in 1967, when commenting on his role going forward: "As we celebrate NYSDA's 50th Anniversary of improving public defense services, as Executive Director, I hope to expand on its critical work as we begin our next 50 years."

The bio of O'Brien on the Board and Staff page of NYSDA's website states that he: manages the organization's continuing legal education programs and criminal defense training, and directs much of the day-to-day work of the Backup Center. He is Managing Editor of the Backup Center REPORT and directs the implementation of NYSDA's Public Defense Case Management System. He has served on numerous criminal law and public defense service committees, and currently serves on the Indigent Defense Organization Oversight Committee, Appellate Division, First Department; Office of Court Administration Advisory Committee on E-Filing in Criminal Court; and Advisory Group for the NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services. The NYS Bar Association honored his work with a 2011 Award for Outstanding Achievements in Promoting Standards of Excellence in Quality Mandated Representation.